Sing Usain!

Usain Bolt’s six gold medals and four world records may pale in comparison to the 18 golds, two silvers and two bronzes by Michael Phelps, who topped the medals table for the third straight Olympics. But Bolt was the people’s hero as he constantly entertained the crowd with his priceless gestures even as he went about scorching the track. An analysis by Kamesh Srinivasan.

The London Games belonged to the Speed King Usain Bolt. The Jamaican floored the world with a triple gold-strike in sprint and the relay world record to boot. American Michael Phelps too had a pot of gold to emerge the most successful Olympian in history.

Bolt’s six gold medals and four world records may pale in comparison to the 18 gold, two silver and two bronze by Phelps, who topped the medals table for the third straight Olympics. But Bolt was the people’s hero as he constantly entertained the crowd with his priceless gestures even as he went about scorching the track.

There were also many other unforgettable moments in the London Games. In the war of sporting supremacy, the United States got back to the top ahead of China, which had topped the list in the Beijing Olympics with 51 gold medals. The U.S. won 46 golds and 104 medals in all, with 25 of those golds coming from athletics and swimming. China had 36 golds.

The 17-year-old Missy Franklin with four golds in swimming and Allyson Felix with three golds in athletics, including the 200m, spearheaded the women power for the U.S. Allyson was part of the American sprint relay team, along with Carmelita Jeter, Bianca Knight and Tianna Madison, which broke the 27-year-old world record of Germany.

Of course, the 30-year-old Serena Williams was the evergreen heroine for the U.S. as she swept to the singles title in tennis, dropping just 17 games to six opponents. She won the doubles gold, too, with her sister Venus. Serena has achieved the career Golden Slam in singles and doubles, a brave effort indeed from someone, who had been out for many months owing to a blood clot in her lungs in 2011.

Another such story of bravery was that of Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia who returned to the track after 16 months of injury lay-off, to clinch the women’s 10,000 metres gold. She had won the 5000 and 10,000 double in Beijing.

Britain jumping to the third place ahead of Russia in the medals table was a fitting climax for the host, as London became the first city to host the Olympics a third time after 1908 and 1948. Mo Farrah’s double of 5000 and 10,000 metres was the highlight for British athletics, even as Jessica Ennis lived up to the high expectations in clinching the heptathlon gold.

The 36-year-old Chris Hoy won his sixth gold medal in cycling, while Andy Murray became the toast of Britain as he won the tennis gold by outplaying Roger Federer in the final. It was the final affirmation for Hoy, and a breakthrough for Murray who went on to win his maiden Grand Slam in New York later.

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce affixed the Jamaican stamp of authority in the sprints, by defending the women’s 100m gold, even as Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda won the men’s marathon and Keshorn Walcott of Trinidad and Tobago won the javelin to bag the surprise awards.

It was a heart-wrenching moment when Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic broke into a flood of tears, after recapturing the 400m hurdles gold. He had won the gold in 2004 in Athens in exactly the same time of 47.63 seconds. History was being repeated at its best.

China may have lost ground, but Lin Dan defended his badminton gold, to be rated as the greatest player in history. Of course, it was a big blot on the Games as four women’s doubles teams, including the top-seeded Chinese were scratched from competition, on being found to have under-performed in their last league matches.

The 16-year-old Ye Shiwen made a breakthrough for China in swimming by winning the 200m and 400m individual medley events, the latter with a world record. Sun Yang won four medals, two of them gold, to be the most successful swimmer for China.

World and Olympic champion, Liu Xiang crashing on the first hurdle and hopping out brought back the painful memories of Beijing when he did not even attempt the first hurdle. In contrast, diver Wu Minxia was able to add two more gold medals to the ones that she had won in Athens and Beijing.

Ben Ainsle won the fourth successive gold in the Finn class in sailing, to add to his sixth World Championship gold won in the season, and further boost the achievements of Britain.

The 10-time World champion Saori Yoshida of Japan won the 55 kg freestyle wrestling gold for the third time, while the 19-year-old Kirani James of Grenada won the 400m gold in athletics. The 15-year-old Ruta Meilutyte of Lithuania caused a sensation, beating the seasoned Rebecca Soni of the U.S. by 0.08 second to win the 100m breaststroke gold.

Nadzeya Ostapchuk of Belarus was stripped of the gold medal in women’s shot put, on a positive dope test. The projection of the Queen jumping from the helicopter along with James Bond, as part of the Opening Ceremony, showed the Brits at their imaginative best. The spectators were, however, the real winners as they packed the stadiums and made the Games vibrant.