By David Leon Moore, USA TODAY
LONDON - What's greater than a legend?
How about just plain ol' faster-than-anybody-ever Usain Bolt?
Bolt, 25, did it again Thursday night, pulling away to another gold medal in the 200 meters with a time of 19.32 seconds - well off his world record of 19.19 but tied for the fourth-best mark in history.
It was just another moment in a 10-day track and field meet, but it was so much more - something that, statistically speaking, further lifted Bolt above Jesse Owens and Carl Lewis and history's other great sprinters.
Bolt completed an unprecedented Olympic double-double - back-to-back gold medals in the 100 and 200 meters.
Only Lewis had won back-to-back golds in the 100, in 1984 and '88, and he was elevated to first in '88 only after Ben Johnson was disqualified for doping. No one had ever defended an Olympic 200 title. In the 200, Lewis won gold in 1984 and silver in '88.
"I wanted to become a legend, and now I've done it," Bolt said. "That's what I came here for. Now I'm going to sit back and think about what I want to do next."
Quieting the doubters
Bolt had erased most of the doubts about his fitness and his struggling starts this year when he blazed to a gold medal-winning time of 9.63 seconds in the 100 meters Sunday night.
But he still had a defensive mind-set working, and when he crossed the line with a comfortable lead over friend and training partner Yohan Blake, he put his forefinger to his mouth in a "shhhh" gesture.
"That was for all the doubters," Bolt explained. "There were a lot of people talking and doubting. That was just for them to say they can stop talking now. I'm a living legend."
Bolt put on his usual good show afterward.
He dropped to the track shortly after crossing the line and did some pushups - for no apparent reason other than "my friends said I should do some pushups, so I did."
He hugged Blake, and took a photographer's camera and took pictures of Blake, to whom Bolt gave the nickname "The Beast" because of his fondness for brutally hard workouts.
And he took a slow victory lap, hugging Jamaicans and anybody else who got in his path.
He looked into a TV camera and said: "I'm now a legend. I'm also the greatest athlete to live."
Bolt's postrace comments twice veered into criticisms of Lewis, who had been quoted recently doubting whether Bolt could repeat his Beijing success. Lewis also was quoted four years ago as being suspicious about whether Bolt's world record times in Beijing had been accomplished drug-free.
In the mixed zone (informal interview area), Bolt said of Lewis, "Everybody's forgotten about him."
At his formal news conference, Bolt was asked a question about the past greats of the sport, such as Owens and Lewis. Bolt praised Owens, but of Lewis, he said, "I've lost all respect, all respect."
Bolt called himself the greatest of sprinters and, in answering a question, said that he is what Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali were to their sports.
"I'm guessing I'm in that category," he said.
His victory came, as it seems to do at the Olympics, with seeming ease. The 6-5 Bolt started well, ran a great curve and powered to a big lead on the straight. His time didn't threaten his world record of 19.19 set in 2009, but he might have gotten closer to it if he hadn't relaxed on his last three long strides.
"Maybe I ran the corner too hard," he said. "I felt something in my back, and that's the reason I didn't push it and slowed down at the line. All I wanted to do was stay ahead of Yohan."
Blake, 22, second in the 100, was second again in the 200, in 19.44 seconds.
"He is the god of track and field," Blake said. "To do the back-to-back double, he got me back from the trials. He is a legend. It is his year. It will be my time soon - next year at the world championships."
The bronze wend to a third Jamaican, Warren Weir.
The sweep for Jamaica was the seventh time one nation had swept the men's 200, but the first time a country other than the USA did so.
U.S. champion Wallace Spearmon, 27, was never really in it but closed to fourth place with a season-best time of 19.90.
He cried in disappointment afterward but praised the Jamaicans.
"They work hard," he said. "They got a sweep. Thank you for always supporting me, I appreciate it. I'm going to go ahead and work harder. I'm sorry I let you down."
And of Bolt, he said, simply, "That guy's on another planet right now."
Looking ahead to Rio?
Bolt has always said the 200 meters is his favorite race. He had taken it easy in the first two rounds, more jogging than racing. But earlier in the Games, in his 100 victory, he had also shown he was ready to run very, very fast.
As usual, he walked the walk. Or something like that. Actually, nothing Usain Bolt does on a track looks like walking.
He was asked if he would now give some thought to a triple-double - that is, trying to win the 100 and 200 again at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
That seemed way too far off to Bolt. He says he's going to take it easy for the rest of this year, then take it from there.
He didn't seem to be in a hurry to retire, though. He'll be 29 in 2016. He said something about 30 being a good age to retire.
"I am not sure," he said. "Blake is going to be 26 (in 2016) and at his peak. We will see."