“I’ve always just gone with the flow”
With a haul of gold medals and accolades to his name, sprinter Usain Bolt has been dubbed the Greatest Athlete in the World. Then, after retiring last year, he shocked everyone by deciding to reinvent himself as a soccer player… based in Australia. Here,
You’ve run so many races. Do you remember your first one? My first race was at an inter-school sports day, and there was a guy faster than me. I remember the coach said, “All right, if you beat this guy, I’ll give you a boxed lunch.” For me growing up, we didn’t have [much] so to get a boxed lunch was a big deal. I wanted it. That’s where it started. Running was just fun for me because I was always winning. It was when I got to the end of high school, when I started talking to my agent and my manager, and they started explaining to me, “Listen, this could be a career” – that’s when I really started saying, “Oh my god, this could actually be good.” I thought it was just fun because I was good at it. Did it ever get “not fun”? At the end! [Laughs] At the end. [Bolt retired in 2017.] But it was always hard. When I started out, I wasn’t focused. I didn’t have a goal, I didn’t have a dream of being one of the greatest. All I wanted to do was help my parents financially. I was never thinking big; I was thinking small. The more I learnt of the sport, the more I got into it. I thought, “I want to be good at this, so I’m going to hone my craft and get better.” The rest is history. You were a star outside the classroom. What about inside the classroom? I was [interested in] history and literature because I was good at working things out and understanding what the author was saying. I hated Romeo And Juliet, though. You hated Romeo And Juliet? I couldn’t get through the book. [Affecting a whispery lilt] “Thou art, winds of winter.” I’m like, “What?” It was too much, I couldn’t get through it. I know the whole story is romantic and everything – that’s cool. But to read the book and to get into it… I just couldn’t. You’ve moved to Australia to kickstart your soccer career, and this Christmas will be your first here. How will you spend it? I have no idea what I’ll be doing… I’ll probably do something with the team or with one of the guys’ families. You must miss your own family – particularly at Christmas – do you speak to them often? Your role with Optus must help when it comes to keeping in touch. This will be the first time, I think, I’ve been outside of Jamaica at Christmas. But my family understands that work comes first at times. I’ll call them and talk to them, because when Christmas is over in Australia it just begins in Jamaica [laughs]. What home-cooked meal of your mother Jennifer’s are you desperately missing the most right now? [Exaggerated sigh] My mum is not a massive cooker… Are you a better cook than your mum? I can’t cook! [But] that’s why I can’t cook! Because my mum will do anything else; she’ll clean, iron, she’s good at fixing stuff. She cooks because she has to feed us – but she’s not really a fan of cooking, you know what I mean? You still live permanently in Kingston, Jamaica, and most of your family is there, too. What was your childhood like? My childhood was just free. I was always into sports. I was playing football and there was cricket and running; it’s just something that we do. We enjoy ourselves. We would eat from fruit trees in the summer. I’m from a small community where everybody knows everybody. All of us got along and it was just fun. I would never change anything from my childhood. You’ve suffered scoliosis [curvature of the spine] since you were a child. How did that affect your running and does it still affect you? It won’t go away. It’s one thing I have learnt that has caused a lot of injuries throughout my career, but if I do my core work, which I’m working a lot on now, and as long as I keep it in check, I’ll be fine.track and field is much more explosive so I don’t really have to worry that much about it. It’s not as damaging in football as it would be in track. You loved cricket so much as a kid that you wanted to be a cricketer. But your coach said track was where you should be. Do you think you’ll ever have a crack at cricket professionally? Nah. Cricket is like football – if you don’t practise, you kind of lose it. I’m still OK, I understand how the game is, how to get better, what to do if I want to continue.