With dark clouds hanging over the Olympic Games, Usain Bolt is ready to light up Rio 2016.
The world’s fastest man is bidding for an unprecedented “triple triple” of gold medals in Brazil, hoping to become the first athlete to win the 100- and 200-meter as well as the 4×100-meter relay title at three consecutive Games.
And as the Russian doping scandal threatens to overshadow the competition, the Jamaican is ready to deliver a good news story for track and field.
“I know the sport needs me to win or it needs me to come out on top and that’s the same thing I want,” the 29-year-old told reporters. “We want the same thing, so I’m just working hard and staying focused.”
Bolt cut a relaxed figure as he spoke with journalists on the 12th floor of a London hotel, showing no signs of self-doubt after a frustrating year so far.
He was forced out of the 200-meter final at this month’s Jamaican trials with a torn hamstring, although Bolt had clocked a time of 9.88 seconds over 100 meters in June.
Insisting he’s feeling no ill effects from the injury, Bolt says he can still run faster than he’s ever run before … over 200 meters at least.
“No, I don’t personally think so,” he replied when asked if his record-breaking days were behind him.
“I think the 100, for me, is always going to be harder because it’s so technical,” Bolt explained. “It’s all about me getting a good start and executing right and stuff like that.
“But I think always, in 200, there’s room for running faster. So I really want to try to go after the 200-meter world record this year.”
With Bolt set to turn 30 on the final day of competition at the Games, track and field is facing up to the fact that he can’t go on forever.
He admits that his body is starting to feel the strain and that it takes longer to bounce back from injuries. One day, athletics will have to wave goodbye to his “Lightning Bolt” salute.
Bolt had previously suggested he will retire after the 2017 World Championships and he predicts it could be a while before sport sees another athlete as quick as he.
“It’s going to be a long time, I personally think, before somebody comes who is as talented as me, to break my records,” he responded when asked about the future of sprinting.
“You never know what the future holds, but I don’t think it will be anytime soon.”
Coming from most people, those words would sound unbearably arrogant. But from Bolt’s mouth it sounds like the most natural thing in the world.
As well as a star on the track, he’s also a financial success. Bolt ranks 32nd of Forbes’ list of the world’s highest-paid athletes — a long-term contract with sports brand PUMA contributes to his estimated annual earnings of $30 million.
Someone who can beat Bolt to one record is his fellow Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.
Like Bolt, she has taken the 100-meter title at each of the past two Olympics. No one in history has won three in a row.
Fraser-Pryce, who has also been hampered by injury this year, should be on the start line for the women’s 100-meter final August 13. Bolt and the men will race for gold 24 hours later.
“For me, she’s the ultimate athlete,” says Bolt of the 29-year-old. “I’ve always respected her, we’ve come through the ranks together, through high school and everything, so I know what she’s been through.
“She’s proven it over and over again. I remember after she doubled in Russia (winning 100- and 200-meter gold at the 2013 Moscow World Championships) she asked me, ‘How do you do it?’ and I was like, ‘Yo, if you want to be the best, you’ve got to step up and do great things.’
“So it’s something she’s learning and she’s working to be the best.”
And Bolt would be happy to see her beat him into the history books.
“Of course, as a fellow Jamaican, it’s always great to see Jamaicans win,” he said.
Something Fraser-Pryce can never take away from Bolt is the position of “fastest man in the world,” a title he’s grown fond of hearing.
“It’s pretty cool!” he said. “At first it was like, ‘Yeah, whatever. I’m just happy to win gold medals.’ But the more you get used to it and people say it more, then I start hanging out with my friends and I see a footballer and I’m like ‘Yo, I’m the fastest man in the world.'”
Explaining himself, Bolt concludes: “(With) footballers, you have to debate who’s the best.
“But no one can debate who’s the fastest man in the world.”
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