The 24-year-old Thompson benefitted from a good start and quickly moved away from her rivals to win the gold medal in a fast 10.71 seconds, just below her world leading time of 10.70.
Thompson’s Jamaican teammate Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce had established herself as the queen of women’s sprinting with wins at the Beijing and London Games, in addition to claiming three World Championship titles.
However, Thompson left the rest of the field trailing in her wake with a superb performance to win comfortably ahead of the United States’ Tori Bowie (10.83 secs).
Fraser-Pryce edged out Marie-Josee Ta Lou to grab bronze – both women given the same time of 10.86, while Dafne Schippers (10.90) of the Netherlands came fifth and English Gardner – who had run 10.74 at the US Olympic trials – came a disappointing seventh in 10.94.
Although the finalists were separated by a mere eight hundredths of a second across the three semi-finals, Thompson had looked the most accomplished qualifier as she ran 10.88 seconds easing up.
The 24-year-old – a silver medallist over 200m at last year’s World Championships – then made a strong start in the final and never looked likely to be caught after opening up a lead at the halfway stage.
Thompson duly surged home to come within a hundredth of the world-leading time she registered last month, with Bowie and Fraser-Pryce edging out Ta Lou in the battle for the remaining podium places.
Fraser-Pryce was denied a place in history as she was aiming to become the first woman to win the same individual track and field title three consecutive Olympics. New Zealand’s shot putter Valerie Adams and 10,000 great Tirunesh Dibaba failed to get such a triple on Friday.
Christania Williams, the other Jamaican in the final, was outclassed and finished eighth and last in 11.80 seconds.