BEIJING — Two protests, two disqualifications and more than two hours after the 200-meter dash was run, the silver medalist and the bronze medalist finally were decided. Officials were forced to postpone the medal ceremony to Thursday.
Usain Bolt was the only runner who didn't leave anything to doubt.
The Jamaican broke Michael Johnson's world record, running a 19.30 and becoming the first sprinter ever to set world records in the 100 and the 200 at the same Olympics.
Bolt is the fastest ever, putting on one of the greatest Olympic performances ever in track and field.
Only Carl Lewis' four gold medals in 1984 and Jesse Owens' four in 1936 top what Bolt has done here, and he has a chance to add to it. The Jamaicans, who have dominated the sprints, should win the 4x100 relay, giving Bolt three gold medals and at least two world records.
Bolt has left his competitors in his wake and in awe.
"He's bad," said American Shawn Crawford, who went from fourth to second after two disqualifications. "He broke the 100-meter record, the 200-meter record. ... Like Michael Jackson said, 'He's bad.' The guy came out and made this the best Olympics of my lifetime."
In doing away with Michael Johnson's record of 19.32 set in the 1996 Atlanta Games, Bolt finally has stolen the headlines from Michael Phelps, who even after he was done winning his eight gold medals was the talk of the Games.
"I won't compare myself to Michael Phelps," Bolt said. "He's a great athlete and to win eight gold medals is great. I'm on the track, and he's in the water, so you can't compare."
How about deciding it with a triathlon? Because no one in his sport can hold a stopwatch to Bolt, who is aptly named The Lightning Bolt.
Bolt's 9.69 in the 100 on Saturday beat second-place finisher Richard Thompson by .20 of a second, tying the largest margin of victory in the event. Bolt beat Crawford by .66 on Wednesday - the largest ever in the event.
Imagine what Bolt could have done if he had run through the finish of the 100 instead of pulling up to celebrate with 15 meters to go. Or if he had run the 200 on fresher legs instead of after seven races. The rest of the field should get weak-kneed thinking about it.
"It's a brutal 1/8butt3/8-whipping we took out there," said TCU-ex Kim Collins, who finished sixth in the 200 while representing St. Kitts and Nevis. "I mean, come on, you've seen it. It's ridiculous. He's doing it and making it look so simple. Michael Johnson did it, and it didn't look that easy."
Bolt's run to the finish line was about the only thing simple about the event Wednesday. No one would have been surprised if the lion tamer and the clowns had shown up in the bowels of National Stadium. It was a three-medal circus.
When the race ended, Churandy Martina of Netherlands Antilles had won the silver (19.82) and American Wallace Spearmon the bronze (19.85). Spearmon had nearly completed his victory lap when the scoreboard indicated he had been disqualified for stepping out of his lane.
In what might have been the most awkward handoff among teammates, Spearmon left the track and Crawford grabbed a U.S. flag and began celebrating the bronze.
The U.S. filed a protest, but Team USA officials viewed video of the race, which clearly showed Spearmon stepping into the inside lane, and accepted the disqualification. But in the process of watching the video, U.S. officials noticed Martina also had committed a lane violation and filed a protest.
Meet officials concurred and disqualified Martina, who had said immediately after the race that he had not stepped out of his lane and planned to pick up his medal Thursday.
The disqualifications, which came long after the crowd of 90,000 had cleared the Bird's Nest, moved Crawford (19.96) from fourth to second and American Walter Dix from fifth to third (19.98).
"I hope Usain stepped out, too," Crawford said in jest. "That would mean I'll go home with the gold. Not the way I want to go home with it, but if 1/8three3/8 people stepped out, that's a gold medal for me."
Bolt, a beloved showman who should boost track's visibility, stopped his press conference before it started so he could get another look at the replay of the 200 playing on televisions in the room.
So what was he thinking as he watched? The same thing everyone else was:
"That guy's fast," said Bolt, who turned 22 on Thursday.
Bolt is the first male to hold the 100 and 200 records simultaneously since Jamaican Don Quarrie in 1976 and only the ninth ever. Not since Lewis in 1984 has a runner won both sprints in the same Olympics.
Bolt has left even Johnson awestruck, which is saying something. Johnson said Wednesday, before the 200, that Bolt's 100 was "the most impressive athletic performance I've ever seen in my life."
Indeed, Bolt has been breathtaking.
So what does he do for an encore? Bolt was asked about the possibility of running the 400, where Jeremy Wariner will try to break Johnson's world record Thursday.
"Anything is possible," Bolt said, before quickly adding, "but don't hold your breath."
Why not? That's what we've been doing every time Bolt laces up his golden spikes.