Bolt­ing up for last blast of Usain­ity

An­tic­i­pa­tion at fever pitch as sprint king eyes fit­ting farewell

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

LON­DON — In the un­likely case that the world of athletics did not know what it will be miss­ing when Usain Bolt re­tires from the sport in less than two weeks’ time, the Ja­maican su­per­star’s fi­nal pre-com­pe­ti­tion me­dia con­fer­ence rammed home the mes­sage on Tues­day.

Th­ese events have be­come part and par­cel of every global cham­pi­onship and though Tues­day’s ver­sion in east Lon­don lacked the danc­ing-girl razzmatazz of Bolt’s Rio wel­come last year, it scored heav­ily on nos­tal­gia as every as­pect of his stel­lar ca­reer was raked over anew.

As al­ways, jour­nal­ists and TV crews, around 400 of them, from every cor­ner of the world packed the room and strained their arms in des­per­a­tion to get their ques­tion an­swered by the great man, who play­fully cas­ti­gated one half of the au­di­to­rium for not giv­ing him an en­thu­si­as­tic enough wel­come.

Bolt, of course, is an old hand at deal­ing with the me­dia and rolled out all the fa­mil­iar an­swers, but al­ways with grace.

His proud­est mo­ment was win­ning the world ju­nior ti­tle on home soil as a 15-year-old while his most sat­is­fy­ing per­for­mance was his 200m world-record run at the 2008 Bei­jing Olympics, where he poured all his con­cen­tra­tion into get­ting the mark he had al­ways wanted, hav­ing ear­lier won the 100m.

He ex­plained how his moti- va­tion to keep putting his body through such a pun­ish­ing regime was re­newed each year by re­set­ting his goals — with one of­ten cre­ated for him by a ca­su­ally “dis­re­spect­ful” re­mark from an op­po­nent.

His tar­get in Lon­don is clear — to sign off with a fourth 100m ti­tle and a fifth 4x100m re­lay gold — tak­ing his world haul to 13 to add to his eight Olympic golds — and then head off to play soc­cer with his friends.

“I’m ready,” he said. “If I show up at a cham­pi­onships you know I’m fully con­fi­dent and ready to go.

“I ran 9.95 in Monaco so it shows I’m go­ing in the right di­rec­tion. Go­ing through the rounds al­ways helps me and it’s then about who can keep their nerve. “It’s go time, so let’s go.” Lon­don Sta­dium (re­named since the 2012 Olympics), where he suc­cess­fully de­fended his Olympic sprint dou­ble five years ago, will rise to ac­claim him when he set­tles into his blocks for the last time on Satur­day.

Then, other than the re­lay a week later, he will be gone, leav­ing the sport with­out the man who has been its fo­cal point for a decade.

Tues­day’s event in­cluded a big-screen “farewell and thanks” mes­sages from the likes of ac­tors Sa­muel L. Jack- son and Idris Elba, for­mer France and Ar­se­nal soc­cer star Thierry Henry, model Cara Delev­ingne and In­dia cricket cap­tain Vi­rat Kohli, un­der­lin­ing his sta­tus as one of the world’s most fa­mous, and ar­guably its most ad­mired, sports­man.

Bolt, who turns 31 later this month, looked moved by the im­ages, say­ing: “It’s just bril­liant that peo­ple in other dis­ci­plines re­spect what you do as they know the work you have to do.”

Ratch­et­ing up the an­tic­i­pa­tion for his farewell, Bri­tish tele­vi­sion screened his I Am Bolt doc­u­men­tary on Mon­day night, which opened a win­dow on the rarely seen bat­tles he has en­dured to over­come in­juries and was a tes­ta­ment to his de­ter­mi­na­tion to work him­self back into shape year af­ter year.

That is one thing he will not miss, and although he thrives on the pres­sure of the big race, he says he is look­ing for­ward to watch­ing the next one from the side­lines.

“Oh yeah, sit­ting down, talk­ing about it, no pres­sure,” he said. “The next cham­pi­onship should be fun.

“It’s go­ing to be hard, as track and field has been ev­ery­thing for me since I was 10 and it’s been a rush — but we’ ll see where life takes me.”

He in­tends to stay close to athletics and is eye­ing some sort of am­bas­sado­rial role, in­spir­ing the world’s youth to get in­volved in a sport he says is on the up af­ter reach­ing “rock bot­tom” with the re­cent Rus­sian dop­ing saga.

While fans and the sport’s ad­min­is­tra­tors will miss Bolt enor­mously, those lament­ing his de­par­ture most of all will prob­a­bly be his chief spon­sor Puma, the Ger­man sports­wear man­u­fac­turer which has ben­e­fited from his glory for a decade in the face of the mar­ket dom­i­nance of ri­vals Adi­das and Nike.

On Tues­day, Bolt’s par­ents pre­sented him with his fi­nal pair of spikes — a com­bi­na­tion of gold, for ob­vi­ous rea­sons, and the pur­ple of his school, Wil­liam Knibb Memo­rial, where it all started af­ter his cricket coach sug­gested he try out for the track team.

“I didn’t know I would be a world-record holder grow­ing up, I had no idea,” he said. “So, all I’ ll say now is, if you work hard, any­thing is pos­si­ble.”

I didn’t know I would be a worl­drecord holder grow­ing up, I had no idea. So all I’ll say now is, if you work hard, that any­thing is pos­si­ble.” Usain Bolt


Ja­maican su­per­star Usain Bolt strikes a zany pose dur­ing his fi­nal pre-com­pe­ti­tion me­dia con­fer­ence in Lon­don on Tues­day ahead of the IAAF World Athletics Cham­pi­onships, which open on Friday.

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