Usain Bolt, one of global sport's most marketable personalities, rebounded from his false start in the showpiece 100m final at this year's world championships to immediately eye four golds at the London Olympics.
The United States topped the medals table after nine days of riveting action at the worlds held in Daegu, South Korea, amassing 25 medals, including 12 gold, eight silver and five bronze, to finish ahead of Russia, with 19 medals (9, 4, 6).
But it was Bolt who once again stole the show despite a false start on the second day that saw him sensationally disqualified from the 100m final, in which he was defending champion.
The 25-year-old Jamaican, Olympic double sprint champion and world record holder in both events, put that behind him to retain his 200m crown in 19.40sec, then the fourth fastest time ever run over the distance.
He then went on to anchor the Jamaican 4x100m relay team to a new world record of 37.04sec in the final event of the Daegu showpiece and then turned his sights on next year's Olympic Games in London where he plans to add the 4x400m relay.
It would give the Jamaican a shot at becoming the first man to win four gold medals in track and field at one Olympics since American Carl Lewis achieved the feat at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.
There was more drama in Daegu when Cuban world record holder and Olympic champion Dayron Robles was stripped of gold in the 110m hurdles.
Robles was adjudged to have obstructed China's Liu Xiang in the final, American Jason Richardson instead taking the honours in a gripping race.
A performance to match that of Bolt's came in the form of Australian Sally Pearson, who scorched to 12.28sec - also the fourth fastest time in history - in the 100m hurdles, the world record in which dates back to 1986.
Bolt and Pearson were awarded the IAAF's male and female athletes of the year awards, something that rankled supporters of Kenyan athletics.
Kenya finished third in the medals table with seven golds thanks to the east African country's amazing strength in depth in distance running and a generally underwhelming performance by the Ethiopian team, for whom track legend Kenenisa Bekele failed to fire.
Incredibly, Kenya won seven of the 12 events for men and women from the 800m through to the marathon, accruing 17 of the possible 36 medals on offer. Star of their show was Vivian Cheruiyot, who notched up the women's 5000-10,000m double.
Four of the biggest stars to watch in coming years also emerged from the worlds: Kenyan 800m world record holder David Rudisha, teenage Grenada 400m champ Kirani James, Polish pole vaulter Pawel Wojciechowski and Russian heptathlete Tatyana Chernova.
The worlds were also noticeable for the history-making appearance of South African Oscar Pistorius, who became the first amputee to take part in the championships, making the semi-finals of the men's 400m.
The double amputee who runs on carbon prostethic blades also departed South Korea with a silver medal for being part of the 4x400m relay squad. He ran the heat but did not compete in the final itself.
Pistorius' teammate Caster Semenya, who has since chosen Mozambican legend Maria Mutola as her new coach, claimed silver in the women's 800m, keen to put behind her the doubts over her true gender that erupted after she won gold at the Berlin worlds.
The biggest doping casualty of the year was Jamaican sprinter Steve Mullings, who was handed a lifetime ban by a Jamaican anti-doping panel following a second doping violation in seven years.
The two-time IAAF World Championships relay medallist, who set a 100m personal best of 9.80sec at the Prefontaine Classic in June, the fourth-fastest time last season, and became the sixth-fastest ever in the event, says he will prove his innocence.
Portuguese steeplechaser Sara Moreira and South Korean sprinter Lim Hee-nam both failed tests for the banned stimulant methylhexaneamine at the worlds and were banned.
A world record came in the men's marathon, Kenya's Patrick Makau winning the Berlin Marathon in September in a new best of 2hr 03min 38sec, smashing the old mark of 2.03:59 set by Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie in the same race in 2008.
Germany's Betty Heidler also set a world record hammer throw of 79.42m in Halle in May.
Kenya, led by Cheruiyot in the women's individual race, bagged six of the eight gold medals on offer at the World Cross-country Championships in Punta Umbria, Spain, in March.