NEW YORK - First things first: The newly anointed "World's Fastest Man" does not consider the 100-meter race his favorite.
In fact, it wasn't even part of Usain Bolt's normal routine until he pleaded with his coach to let him try it. Always known as a standout at 200 meters, Bolt even conceded that part of the plan to bring the 100 into his repertoire was to get out of running the more-taxing and much-less-enjoyable 400.
His coach, Glen Mills, finally relented. Bolt got his way. And now, even though it was never part of his grand plan, he is the new world-record holder - recording a time of 9.72 seconds in a remarkable run on a perfect Saturday night in New York.
"I've been asking for two years to give me a chance," Bolt said. "He gave me a chance last year to run one 100 meters, and I had a 10.03. Then he decided, 'Hey, let's try this and see what we can do.' I showed him what I can do in the 100 now."
To most of the track world, this record-setting surge has come as a bolt out of the blue. The former world-record holder, Jamaica's Asafa Powell (9.74), is a household name among track fans. The best sprinter in the United States, Tyson Gay, also has that kind of name recognition.
Bolt, meanwhile, was a 200 guy. The veteran of the Penn Relays was full of potential but not considered a contender for one of the most iconic records in sports, when he unexpectedly turned that earlier 10.03 into a 9.76 - at that point, the second-fastest time ever - last month at a meet in Jamaica.
That set the stage for Bolt vs. Gay on Saturday night, and though the setting was the Big Apple, it felt more like Jamaica Night at Icahn Stadium on Randall's Island.
During a 45-minute rain delay, a singer took to the microphone and belted out the Jamaican national anthem. The crowd went wild. The delay only served to heighten the buzz, and when Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang announced he was pulling out of his race because of a tight hamstring, there was no doubt what the main event would be on this night.
The thunderstorm cooled the air and left the track faintly glistening with remnants of the rain. A slight tailwind - just under the maximum allowable speed for a record to count - rounded out this setting, nearly perfect for setting a record.
Gay, who finished second with a time of 9.85, said he knew there was a time in the 9.7s to be had.
"He ran a perfect race," Gay said. "I've got to take my hat off to him."
Bolt got another break when an awkward false start brought the runners back to the blocks. The second gun, signaling the illegal start, didn't go off until the runners were nearly 20 meters into their sprint. Normally, that's strength sapping.
This night, of course, wasn't normal.
"When they called it back, I said, 'Thank God,' because I didn't get off so well," Bolt said. "I was happy for the false start, then I came back and got a good start the second time around."
Getting out of the blocks is almost always the biggest issue for the world's top 100-meter sprinters. In an event in which every microsecond matters, it can be the difference between winning and losing or setting a record or missing it, and it also might explain why Bolt never was slotted for greatness in this event.
He stands about 6-foot-5. Explosive starts are supposed to be the domain of the 6-foot-and-under set. Part of the deal when Mills agreed to give him a chance at the 100 was that he not simply use it as "speed work" for the 200, but that he improve on his starts to turn himself into a true contender in the 100 as well.
Well, showdowns with Powell certainly look more intriguing than they did, say, six weeks ago.
The Jamaican national championships are scheduled for June 27-29 in Kingston. Powell, coming back from a chest injury, is expected to be back by then.
"A lot of Jamaicans keep asking me, 'Do you think you can beat Asafa?' " Bolt said. "I guess a lot of people are looking forward to that race."
Then there are the Olympics in August. As recently as four days ago, even with the 9.76 on his resume, Bolt said there was no guarantee he'd run the 100 in Beijing. He still had more training under his belt in the 400 and at least as much promise there as in the 100.
That debate is over now.
"The gold medal is more important to me," Bolt said.
See video of the race at http://go.philly.