Under black clouds on a damp day, Usain Bolt was brilliant as ever. Once again, it was as if he were racing alone.
The Jamaican ran the fourth fastest 200 meters in history on Friday to upstage Yelena Isinbayeva, Sanya Richards and Kenenisa Bekele, who split a $1 million jackpot for winning their events in all six Golden League meets this season.
Because of a wet track and cold conditions at the Van Damme Memorial, Bolt never got close to the world record of 19.19 seconds he set in Berlin last month. But when it comes to performing in bad conditions, nobody's done better than his 19.57 on Friday.
With clouds overhead as black as the shirt he wore, Bolt didn't have the perfect start but once he mastered the smooth curve on the brand-new Mondo track he was out front all by himself.
Even if such times become ordinary by his standards, the 50,000 fans in King Baudouin Stadium knew they saw something special during the race run in damp conditions and 61 degrees.
Even if his theatrics were a lot more understated, Bolt's smile was as bright as ever and he made the meet his own in front of a crowd that included International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge.
"I felt wonderful," Bolt said. "I was fatigued in the last 20-30 meters. But the crowd gave me that extra push. I was very surprised by the energy they gave me."
Only his world record in Berlin, his Olympic time in Beijing last year, and Michael Johnson's 1996 Atlanta Games times were better. All those were run in near ideal conditions.
In the long shadow of Bolt, the three other stars each claimed a check for $333,333.
World 400 champion Richards led her entire race and set the season's leading time of 48.83 seconds to claim the prize. Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu of Britain was second in 50.43.
Pole vaulter Isinbayeva needed only to clear 15 feet, 5 inches to beat Poland's Monika Pyrek on a countback. Isinbayeva failed in three attempts to vault a world record 16-7 1/2 and break the mark of 16-7 1/4 she set last week.
Two years ago, Isinbayeva won half of the jackpot, sharing it with Richards.
World and Olympic 5,000 champion Bekele was not as dominant as usual, but still had enough of a finishing kick to hold off fellow Ethiopian Imane Merga, winnning in 12 minutes, 55.31 seconds. Merga finished in 12.55.66.
Bekele was equally bent on sharing the jackpot. After feeling tired in the wake of his fifth win at the Weltklasse last week, he flew straight back to Ethiopia for four days of high-altitude training before rushing back for Friday's race.
In the absence of Bolt, fellow Jamaican Asafa Powell beat Tyson Gay in the 100, blasting out of the blocks and never giving the American a chance to get back in the race. Powell timed 9.90 seconds on a wet track, edging Gay by 0.10. American Darvis Patton was third in 10.08.
"Without a Bolt, it is boring," Powell said.
Because Bolt did not compete in all of the Golden League meets, he was not in line for the jackpot and competed in the 200 instead.
In the women's sprint, American Carmelita Jeter turned the tables on the Jamaicans, beating world and Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser with a time of 10.88 for an edge of 0.10. Kerron Stewart of Jamaica was third.
A Kenyan quartet beat the oldest world record in track and field, edging the 32-year-old 4x1500-meter mark set by West Germany.
William Biwott, Gideon Gathimba, Geoffrey Rono and Augustine Choge finished in 14:36.23, going just inside the 14:38.8 set by the West Germans in 1977.
The relay distance is never run at major championships and only rarely at big meets like the Golden League.
"Only three weeks ago, we knew that the record existed," Choge said.
Without reigning world and Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt, Jeremy Wariner won the 400 in 44.94, easily holding off Renny Quow of Trinidad and Tobago, the world bronze medalist.
Blanka Vlasic confirmed her dominance in the high jump, but the cold weather limited her to a winning jump of 6-6 3/4, beating Russia Anna Chicherova.