Lining up for the Olympic 100-meter final, Usain Bolt wrapped up his signature prerace preening by lifting a finger to his lips.
Time to silence the critics.
He might not be better than ever. Clearly, he's back to being the best.
Pulling away from the pack with every long stride, Bolt surged after his typical lumbering break from the blocks and overwhelmed a star-studded field to win in 9.63 seconds Sunday night, the second-fastest 100 in history and an Olympic record that let him join Carl Lewis as the only men with consecutive gold medals in the Summer Games' marquee track event.
''Means a lot, because a lot of people were doubting me. A lot of people were saying I wasn't going to win, I didn't look good. There was a lot of talk,'' Bolt said. ''It's an even greater feeling to come out here and defend my title and show the world I'm still No. 1.''
Only sixth-fastest of the eight runners to the halfway mark, Bolt was his brilliant self down the stretch, his latest scintillating performance on his sport's biggest stage. At Beijing four years ago, the 6-foot-5 Bolt seemingly reinvented sprinting and electrified track and field, winning gold medals in world-record times in the 100, 200 and 4x100 relay - something no man had ever done at an Olympics.
And the significance of Sunday's sequel?
''One step closer to becoming a legend,'' Bolt said. ''So I'm happy with myself.''
Ever the entertainer, the Jamaican kept right on running past the finish for a victory lap that included high-fives with front-row fans, a pause to kneel down and kiss the track and even a somersault. Thousands in the capacity crowd of about 80,000 chanted the champion's name: ''Usain! Usain! Usain!''
Bolt's training partner and Jamaican teammate, world champion Yohan Blake, won the silver in 9.75, and 2004 Olympic champion Justin Gatlin of the U.S. took the bronze in 9.79.