DAEGU, South Korea – Six days and a slow start later, Usain Bolt finally won gold at the world championships, running the fourth-fastest 200 meters in history to back up his showmanship with a stunning performance.
Bolt was slowest out of the blocks coming off his disqualification for a false start in the 100 final last Sunday that he blamed on "anxiety," but drove through the bend and powered to the line in 19.40 seconds, just 0.21 seconds of the world record he set to win his first world title two years ago.
"I was close to the world record," Bolt said. "Me, I wasn't in the best of shape, so I wasn't expecting world record. For me to come here and do 19.4 was a wonderful achievement."
Knowing he had something to prove, there was no braggadocio during the race. Instead, he gritted his teeth over the last 20 meters before dipping across the line for the fastest time in two years.
"I am still the best," Bolt told an elated crowd of about 45,000 at Daegu Stadium before starting a barefoot dance to a deafening beat. "It was beautiful."
Bolt was a defending champion coming through on a night of two big upsets at the worlds. In the high jump, Anna Chicherova of Russia beat two-time defending champion Blanka Vlasic of Croatia, and Matthias De Zordo of Germany overcame favorite Andreas Thorkildsen of Norway to win the men's javelin.
Before Bolt took to the track, Sally Pearson ran the fastest 100 hurdles race in almost two decades to win gold. Pearson's time of 12.28 seconds was the fastest since 1992 and moved the Australian into fourth on the all-time list.
Yet, as so often when Bolt is in the stadium, there is nothing to match the Jamaican.
Before his race, he fist-bumped with the volunteer who carried his belongings, practiced his "Lightning Bolt" move, and shushed the crowd with a finger to his lips before he sank into the blocks.
There was going to be no second disqualification. With a reaction time of 0.193 seconds, he was the slowest out of the blocks. But from there on, everything went like a whirlwind.
"I was running hard just to say to fans, 'Sorry about the 100 meters,"' Bolt said.
Dix was running in Lane 4 just ahead of the Jamaican and surprisingly held off Bolt for much of the bend.
"I have never ran in Lane 3, ever," Bolt said. "It was difficult for me."
But once beyond the bend, Bolt got rolling and left the others behind.
He eyed the giant television screen and could see he was unchallenged in his favorite event, but carried through to the end to prove a point that there was no dent in his confidence ahead of the London Olympics.
"There will be no joking round," Bolt said. "I'll be serious and I will come out and work hard."
It was Bolt's fourth gold over two world championships and he is expected to anchor his country's 400 relay Sunday in another Jamaica versus United States sprint duel.
Allyson Felix now has done three better. The American ran the second leg on the winning 1,600 relay team to claim her seventh gold over four world championships.
Felix and Sanya Richards-Ross failed to get gold in the individual 400, but built a big lead in running the first two legs of the relay to lead the U.S. to victory in 3 minutes, 18.09 seconds. Jamaica took silver in 3:18.71 and Russia earned bronze in 3:19.36.
It was the third straight victory in the event for the United States, while Jamaica has now taken silver at the last four world championships.
The Kenyans extended their dominance of the middle- and long-distance events with Olympic champion Asbel Kiprop leading Silas Kiplagat in the 1,500 for yet another Kenyan 1-2 finish.
In the wide-open race, the Kenyans took charge with 600 meters to go and Kiprop pushed hardest to finish in 3:35.69, 0.23 ahead of his teammate. Matthew Centrowitz of the United States came from behind to take bronze in 3:36.08.
It was the fifth 1-2 finish for the Kenyans.
Earlier, Russia completed a sweep of the walking events, with Sergey Bakulin winning the 50-kilometer race ahead of teammate Denis Nizhegorodov. After Valeriy Borchin and Olga Kaniskina won the 20-kilometer events earlier in the week, Bakulin made sure of a second straight Russian walking sweep at the world championships.
The walks and Chicherova's victory left Russia in second place in the medal standings with seven gold and 17 medals overall, behind the United States, which has 10 gold and 21 medals overall.
Kenya is third with six gold and 14 medals overall.