Bolt retained his status as the world's fastest man, overcoming an imperfect start Sunday to blaze away from perhaps the best 100-meter field assembled at an Olympic start line. With cameras flashing and a delicious tension lifting fans at Olympic Stadium to their feet, Bolt flew to the finish in an Olympic-record 9.63 seconds, .05 off his own world record. It also pulverized the clouds that followed him after he finished second to compatriot Yohan Blake in the 100 and 200 at Jamaica's Olympic trials.
"This is the first step for me," Bolt said of earning legend status, though he was modest after becoming only the second man to win the 100 in two consecutive Olympics. The first was Carl Lewis in 1984 and 1988, but Lewis got the second gold after Ben Johnson was disqualified for doping.
Blake won the silver in a personal-best 9.75 seconds, followed by 2004 gold medalist Justin Gatlin of Pensacola, Fla., in a post-drug ban best time of 9.79. Tyson Gay of the U.S. was fourth in 9.80, perhaps the fastest man who never won an Olympic title. Ryan Bailey of California was fifth in 9.88.
"It's tough but I have no excuses," said Gay, who cried on the track. "I gave my all."
Gatlin, who lost a world record to his doping sanction, said Bolt and Blake had "put on a great show. It just feels good to be back."
But the moment clearly belonged to Bolt, who assumed his "Lightning Bolt" pose with the Jamaican flag draped around his shoulders.
"This really means a lot because a lot of people doubted me. A lot of people were saying I wasn't going to win," Bolt said. "There was a lot of talk."
An unspoken message also motivated him after the Jamaican trials.
"When Yohan beat me twice it woke me up," Bolt said, "and he knocked on my door and said, 'Come on, this is an Olympic year. I'm ready, are you?' "
He was ready Sunday. And he has the 200 this week to continue his journey toward becoming a legend.
In other action at the track Sunday ...
For Sanya Richards-Ross, the women's 400 was about banishing doubts.
She had faded down the stretch of the 400 final at Beijing to finish third behind Christine Ohuruogu of Britain, a performance that haunted Richard-Ross. On Sunday she was as strong physically as mentally in winning the first gold medal for the U.S. track and field team at these Games, taking the lead with about 40 meters to go and finishing in 49.55. Ohuruogo was second in 49.70, with American DeeDee Trotter leaning to finish third in 49.72.
"That was Christine's title in 2008 and it took me some time to get past that," Richards-Ross said. "But this time when I went on the track I knew that I had to cross that finish line first to call myself Olympic champion and so I had to dig really deep to do that tonight. And I'm just so grateful to have this experience."
The men's 400 semifinals were noteworthy, too. Bryshon Nellum and Tony McQuay didn't advance, meaning there will be no Americans in the final.
Meanwhile, reigning world champion Kirani James of Granada made a touching gesture to commemorate a remarkable achievement. Oscar Pistorius, the first double-amputee to compete in the Games, finished last in their heat but was hardly a loser. James embraced him and traded his own running bib for Pistorius'.
"It's what the Olympics is all about," Pistorius said.
Said James: "He's an inspiration to all of us. He is very special to our sport."
Nellum finished in 45.02, .03 off the last qualifying time. "I wanted to make the finals. I came up a little short," he said. "But overall it's a blessing just to be here."
Americans Lashinda Demus, T'erea Brown and Georganne Moline advanced beyond the first round of the women's 400-meter hurdles, with Moline recording a personal-best time of 54.31 seconds and Brown a personal-best 54.72. Demus' time was 54.60.
Leo Manzano of Texas and Matt Centrowitz of Maryland, moved on to Tuesday's 1,500-meter final by finishing in the top five in their respective semifinal heats. Manzano's time was 3:42.94 and Centrowitz's time was a season-best 3:34.90. Andrew Wheating of Vermont didn't advance.
Americans Evan Jager and Don Cabral finished sixth and eighth, respectively, in the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase. Ezekiel Kemboi of Kenya won in 8:18.56. Erik Kynard of Ohio led the American men into the high jump finals. Kynard and Jesse Williams each cleared 7-6 and Jamie Nieto of California cleared 7-5. Kibwe Johnson of San Francisco finished ninth in the men's hammer throw.