BERLIN — Usain Bolt saved the celebration for after the finish line this time and showed that, yes, he can keep breaking that world record.
He obliterated it, in fact.
Bolt ran 100 meters in 9.58 seconds Sunday at world championships, turning his showdown against Tyson Gay into a rout and putting to rest the questions that went unanswered last time he set the record — at his showboating Olympic run of 9.69 seconds.
Yes, he can do better when he goes all out the whole way. Yes, he can break 9.6.
“I got a pretty good start,” Bolt said. “I was there at 20 meters and that was it.”
It was the biggest change in the record since electronic time was introduced in 1968. It came very close to the 9.55-second time that an American professor said Bolt would have run in Beijing had he run all out in the Olympic 100 finals.
Under ideal conditions and facing the toughest competition possible, Bolt blew away his own world record by .11 seconds on the one-year anniversary of the last world record. Gay, meanwhile, set the American record by finishing in 9.71, a time that would have been a world record 12 months and one day ago, but was an afterthought instead.
Asafa Powell of Jamaica took bronze in 9.84.
In Beijing, Bolt was coasting after 70 meters, but on the deep indigo blue track in Berlin, Gay pushed him as far as he could — to no avail.
Gay stayed with him over the first part of the race but once Bolt unfurled that huge stride of his, there was no contest.
“Awesome,” Powell said.
“I’m happy he got it,” Gay said. “I’m happy he ran 9.5 because I knew he could do it, and I know I can do it and I’m happy for him.”
In the stands, the fans carried a banner saying “Bolt — Legend.”
Once he sensed another gold, Bolt glanced quickly to his right at 90 meters to check on Gay, then left, at the scoreboard, as he crossed the line and then pounded his chest when he saw the record time flash up.
Troubled by a nagging groin pain, Gay had to cut practice on his start and it showed. He needed to get out the fastest by far but was never able to shake the Olympic champion.
“I put everything into it. But I came in second,” Gay said. “I can definitely run faster.”
Bolt demonstrated his confidence by play-acting hours ahead of race, and the fact that he never saw Gay ahead of him early on had to give him a bigger boost.
“It just wasn’t enough today,” Gay said. “I ran my best race I could run. I put my all into it. I got through the little groin situation and tried to put it together.”
The crowd of 55,000 at the Olympic Stadium roared at the end of most anticipated race since the Olympics.
The record time was hard to believe even with Bolt’s knack for the unimaginable.
He grabbed a flag, hugged Powell, with whom he had been literally shadowboxing for fun just before the start. They wrapped themselves in the Jamaican flag, and it looked like Bejing all over again.