Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Lightning Bolt


Whilst the best track and field athletes in the world prepare for this weekend’s World indoor Championships in Doha, arguably the globe’s finest ever athlete; Usain Bolt is training hard for more assaults on his own world sprint records this summer. Nicola Bamford spoke to the Jamaican superstar about his manic schedule and ongoing quest to become a legend...

For 23-year-old Bolt, global supremacy is a familiar, pre-destined territory. Each major championship performance in the past two-years has brought unprecedented brilliance and has led many to question how far off the limit this sprinting phenomenon must be.

Following a hectic winter full of media, charity, awards, sponsorship and ambassadorial engagements, most would not have been surprised if the double Olympic and World 100m and 200m champion and record-holder had started 2010 in lacklustre fashion.

Sizzling 400m form

But then again, this is Bolt we’re talking about; the 6ft5 mischievous speed demon who has not only revolutionised athletics but also world sport with his laid-back, science-defying ability which has captured the hearts of the sporting public.

The triple Olympic champion has started his 2010 campaign where he finished off last year; in sizzling form. A couple of 400m races for over-distance work recently saw Bolt speed to a 45.86 and 45.38 (relay) clocking, respectively, in his homeland for the Racers Track Club based in Kingston – interestingly, his swiftest season-openers to date.

Coached by Glen Mills on the tiny Caribbean nation, Bolt revealed on his current form: “We (the club) just went out to have fun. It wasn’t about proving anything; it was about having fun.

Getting ready for summer

It is this fun-going attitude that has attracted more fans and publicity for the sport. What started off as rousing the (very few) critics with his seemingly less-professional manner on the track has turned into a popular style of behaviour for athletes on the international circuit; with fans around the world copying his famous ‘lightning Bolt’ pose.

“That is my personality,” Bolt explained. “I don’t think it helps me to run fast if I am nervous and tense so I just be myself. People seem to like it so I have kept doing it.”

Managed by Ricky Simms of PACE Sports management (UK) and Norman Peart (JAM),
Bolt continued: “Training is going well. I had a lot of engagements and functions to attend before Christmas so I was a bit behind in my schedule but now I am in hard training to get ready for the summer. I don’t enjoy the long-distance work in the winter but it is necessary to build a good endurance base.

“I took one month completely off training (after the Berlin World’s last August) but I was playing a lot of football and cricket so I kept fit. I also had a big charity party (in honour of his 9.58 world-record in Berlin) in Jamaica with a lot of the top Jamaican artists.”

Prefer the 100 and 200m

Such scintillating early-season form in the wake of such much- deserved celebration and in an event he does not even train specifically for, has understandably led to fans questioning the date of when Bolt will move up to the distance.

Indeed, one of his biggest admirers and Bolt’s idol to boot; American former world 200m record-holder, Michael Johnson – has suggested such a move would bring further global success and if he trained hard enough, also bring the world 400m best.

Bolt though, is not taken by move just yet: “I will probably run 400m in the future but not for a few years; I prefer to run 100m and 200m,” he revealed.

No limits

Indeed, it is the shorter sprints that have provided such outstanding performances from the young Jamaican who aptly adopted a cheetah last summer.

Bolt explained the performances that saw him named the 2008 and 2009 IAAF male athlete of the year and receive a special Olympic reward:

“My 2008 and 2009 seasons were great. I achieved great things and hope to continue doing well. The Olympic Games was very special, as it is the biggest event for athletes and the whole world is watching. The stadium in Beijing was amazing and I also love to run in New York and London, as there are a lot of Jamaicans in the crowd.

“I enjoyed breaking the 200m world-record in Beijing. I had been working for this all my life and was delighted to finally get it. I don’t want to set a limit (on how fast he can go) but the 200m is my favourite event.”

Book deal and head-to-heads

Though Bolt remains firmly focused on the events that brought him the 9.58 and 19.19 global bests last year, new experiences this year are set to appear for the world’s fastest man.

First, the release of an illustrated book, detailing his global domination this autumn – with a full-length biography set to come out after the 2012 London Olympics – and secondly, the inaugural IAAF Diamond League competition this summer.

Organisers of the world governing body are keen to pitch Bolt against the few fellow athletes around that can finish within a few strides of the affable superstar in much-wanted head-to-heads.

Bolt is relishing the prospect: “The IAAF Diamond League should be great. Sprinting is very strong at the moment. Everyone is talking about where and when Tyson (Gay, USA), Asafa (Powell, JAM) and I will race. It’s going to be fun.”

Becoming a legend

More fun is in store for the 2009 Laureus Sportsman of the Year tonight, as Bolt hopes to retain his prestigious title at the Abu Dhabi awards ceremony for his exploits in Berlin.

Long-term, he has aspirations of continuing his domination with lightning-quick times and with no major championships for Bolt this year, he can focus on purely just that.

On and off the track, the great man explained: “I would like to become a legend in the sport. To do this I need to retain my Olympic and World titles in 2011 and 2012. After my career, I would like to retire and own a business in Jamaica, though I’m not sure what type of business yet.”

Whatever Bolt touches seems to turn to gold and you can guarantee that he likes to cause a storm around it.

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