NEW YORK -- Like a bolt out of nowhere, Usain Bolt is now the world's fastest man.
The Jamaican sprinter, who doesn't even consider the 100 meters his best race, set the world record Saturday night with a time of 9.72 seconds at the Reebok Grand Prix, .02 seconds faster than the old record held by his countryman, Asafa Powell.
Bolt was using the 100 for "speed work" and to avoid having to run the more grueling 400, when, suddenly, he ran the world's second-fastest time last month at 9.76. Even then, he said he wasn't sure if he would give up the 400 meters for the 100 for the Beijing Olympics.
Hard to imagine he has any choice now.
Unfurling his lanky frame -- listed at 6-foot-4, but probably more like 6-5 and, either way, considered too tall for this kind of speed work -- he created a big-time gap between himself and Tyson Gay at about the halfway point, then routed him to the finish line.
Gay, the best sprinter in America, finished in 9.85.
Within moments of crossing the finish line, the 21-year-old from Kingston was hoisting the Jamaican flag and a crowd with hundreds of Jamaican fans was going wild.
"Just coming here, knowing a lot of Jamaicans were here giving me their support, it meant a lot," Bolt said. "I just wanted to give them what they wanted."
But who could have expected this?
Bolt has long been considered one of his country's top, up-and-coming sprinters, but his height and running style seemed to make him much more fit for the 200 and 400.
Like so many who compete in the 100, Bolt had lots of work to do with his push out of the blocks. He doesn't consider himself a true pro at that. And after a bad false start by the field -- the second gun didn't go off until the runners were 20 meters down the track -- this simply didn't seem like a night for world records.
But it was.
"He ran a perfect race," Gay said. "I've got to take my hat off to him."
"An awesome athlete," said Shawn Crawford, who finished sixth and witnessed history from two lanes inside of Bolt. "The time shows it."
This marked the first time the record had been set in the United States since the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, when Donovan Bailey ran a 9.84.
A lot is often said about Olympic trials in the United States -- that given the depth of the roster, it can be an even better meet than the actual Olympics. But face it, the highlight of the pre-Olympic calendar could now be Jamaican nationals at the end of June, when Bolt and Powell should square off. Powell, who set the mark of 9.74 last September in Italy, is overcoming a chest injury but is expected to be healthy soon.
Also at Jamaican nationals will be Veronica Campbell-Brown, who won the women's 100 on Saturday in 10.91, the fastest time of 2008.
The fastest time ever, though, now belongs to Bolt, and it made a prophet out of Gay, who predicted that with himself, Bolt and Powell lining up against each other over these next few months, the record could go down, down, down.
The conditions were right.
The start of the meet was delayed by an hour because of threatening storms in the area. Then, about halfway through, a brief thunderstorm hit, cooling the track and leaving it with just the faintest sheen of glistening moisture before the last, and most-anticipated, race of the night. The tailwind was measured at 1.7 meters-per-second, .3 under the limit at which a record can be set.
After his victory, Bolt paraded around with the Jamaican flag, accepted a hug from Gay, then went off to do interviews. Race organizers, knowing they'd get a big Jamaican fanbase out at Icahn Stadium on Randall's Island, had scheduled a post-meet reggae concert for the crowd of about 6,000.
And what a perfect choice that was on this history making night.