Fast forward to Sunday night, Aug. 5 at London Olympic Stadium.
The crowd of 80,000 plus hushes, as the eight 100-meter finalists settle into their starting blocks for the race that will almost surely be the most-watched, most-enthralling of the entire Games.
The questions have been flying for more than a year:
Can Usain Bolt do it again? Can his often-aching limbs hold up under this kind of pressure? Or will Jamaica training partner Yohan Blake spoil the party? What roles will resurgent Americans Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay play in this high-speed drama?
Well, fasten your seat belts, this seems destined to be one for the ages.
But first, the flashbacks.
Witnesses to Bolt's eye-popping, mind-boggling, record book-crushing double sprint victories at the 2008 Beijing Games and the 2009 world championships in Berlin might have excused the notion that this phenomenon could ever be beaten. In Beijing, he lowered the world records in the 100 meters to 9.69 seconds and the 200 to 19.30.
And Bolt was swifter yet at the 2009 worlds in Berlin, lowering his world standards to 9.58 and 19.19.
Bolt would like to think he stands on the brink of further grandiose achievements. But this time, there are serious challengers, and doubters are driven by three episodes within the past year.
In the 100 final at the 2011 worlds in Daegu, Korea, Bolt never got out of his blocks. He was disqualified for moving or perhaps flinching before the starting gun fired. Blake won in 9.92. In the 200, Bolt was more cautious at the start and won in 19.40.
More shaking were his double defeats at the recent Jamaica Olympic trials. Blake's 100 win was decisive -- 9.75 to Bolt's 9.86. It was a lot tighter in the 200: Blake 19.80, Bolt 19.83.
With Bolt, Blake and Asafa Powell, some think that Jamaica has the potential for a 1-2-3 slam in the Olympic 100 final. Americans Gay (the 2007 world champion and still No. 2 all-time at 9.69) and Gatlin (the Brooklyn-born 2004 Olympic champion bouncing back after a four-year suspension) would like nothing better than to interrupt the Jamaican party.
Bolt's reign in the 200 seems more secure, with Blake again a top threat. Warren Weir, a 19.99 man, is Jamaica's No. 3. Then there's USA trials champ Wallace Spearmon Jr., a 19.82 man on a mission after losing his apparent 200 bronze medal in 2008 on a lane violation.