Usain Bolt © Gallo Images

Bolt and co deliver big at Olympics

No athlete at the Olympics set his target higher than Usain Bolt - to become a "living legend."

Did he deliver!

Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis carried the huge expectations of the host nation, and left British fans delirious.

And the massive crowds? The spectators delivered for every session, morning and evening, at the 80 000-seat Olympic Stadium.

On Sunday thousands lined the marathon course, with throngs around Buckingham Palace providing a fitting finale to the games as Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda upset the Kenyans looking for a sweep of the medals.

As a reward for the unwavering support, the track and field meet delivered four world records and enough feel-good stories to last a lifetime.

Over the final weekend of the games, Bolt produced the superlative finish that everybody has come to expect. He has not wavered once in back-to-back Olympics, going six-for-six in his gold medal races. He won the 100- and 200-metre sprints and helped Jamaica win the 4x100-metre relay in Beijing, and repeated as champion in all three at London - capping it with a world record in the 4x100 metres on Saturday night.

He had already turned the biggest duel of the Olympics - against his training partner Yohan Blake - into a one-man show when the pair combined in the relay and Bolt was given the baton as the anchor runner, shoulder-to-shoulder with American rival Ryan Bailey.

He blew Bailey away with his long stride that has now made him legendary, and even dipped at the line to make sure Jamaica clinched the record for another piece of immortality.

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Just about every athlete surveyed described Bolt as a legend. On Sunday, even IOC President Jacques Rogge, who had been cautiously playing down the Jamaican's status, grudgingly described Bolt as an "active performance legend."

"To step out here in an Olympic final
is more than I could have ever hoped for"

Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce won the highest-profile 100-metre races for Jamaica, but overall the United States edged the small Caribbean nation 5-4 in terms of gold medals available in the sprint and relay events.

Allyson Felix won gold in the 4x100 and 4x400 relays for the US and finally had a breakthrough victory in the 200 with a stride as smooth and elegant as Bolt's is powerful.

It left the United States atop the gold medal standings in track and field with nine, edging Russia by one. Overall, the US tally stood at 29 in track and field, leaving it just one shy of its target of the 30 it won in Barcelona 20 years ago.

Felix also matched Bolt when it came to world records, being part of the 4x100 relay team which obliterated the 27-year-old mark of the former East Germany.

"I was waiting and then I saw the world record and I was like, 'This is insane'," Felix said.

Perhaps the most outstanding individual effort in the games came from Kenya's David Rudisha, who had such confidence about winning the 800 that he set off with one mission in mind: a world record.

Such marks are almost always set with pacesetters. But Rudisha set off on his own and never let anyone get past him.

London 2012 chief organiser Sebastian Coe, an Olympic middle distance champion himself, couldn't believe his eyes.

"Instead of just doing enough to win the race, he wanted to do something extraordinary," Coe said. "Rudisha's run will go down in history as one of the greatest Olympic victories."

When it comes to timing, perhaps nothing at the Olympics will match one stunning hour late on August 4, which Britain will recall for years to come as "Super Saturday."

After a relatively slow start to their home Olympics, suddenly the gold medals came pouring, with Ennis winning the heptathlon and Greg Rutherford surprising everyone in the long jump before Farah started his 10 000.

There was no way he would not win. Not with such massive support screaming him to the third gold of the night.

"If it wasn't for the crowd I don't think that would happen. They give you that lift, that boost. It's just incredible," Farah said.

"Every single one of us who won a gold medal used the crowd," Farah said.

And unlike jingoistic fans of some Olympics past, the tens of thousands of Britons in the stands who knew what they were looking at cheered for everyone who deserved it.

And few were more deserving than Oscar Pistorius.

The South African "Blade Runner" became the first amputee athlete in track and field to compete in the Olympics - probably nobody better epitomizes the concept that taking part in the Olympics is more important than winning.

It didn't matter that Pistorius and his South African teammates finished eighth in the final of 4x400 relay. He can proudly add "Olympic finalist" to his long list of achievements.

"To step out here in an Olympic final is more than I could have ever hoped for," Pistorius said.


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