“I’ve always wanted to live in Australia. It’s similar to Jamaica”
Your retirement from athletics has been attributed to hamstring injuries and a lack of motivation. Looking back on the decision, do you still stand by it? Yeah, definitely. I’ve had sponsors offering me money to go back, but money never motivated me to want to go to the Olympics. I had a dream to be one of the greatest sprinters or be among the greatest sportsmen of the world. So if I worked towards my dream and I was successful, the money would come. But towards the end, I didn’t enjoy it like I did when I was starting out and winning my first gold and second gold. I knew that if I had to do [the Olympics] for a fourth time, I wouldn’t have got there because I would wake up in the morning and decide I didn’t want to go to training. There were times at the end where I’d ask myself, when I’m lying on the ground dying, like, “Why am I still doing this?” When I started questioning myself like that, I knew, “This is it. I need to stop.” Originally I wanted to stop after the [2016 Rio de Janeiro] Olympics, but fans pressured me a little bit [to continue on to the 2017 London World Championships]. I thought, “Let me try to do it for one more season.” It ended not so good [Bolt won a bronze medal], but I did it for the fans because without them it wouldn’t be the same for me. You’ve given those fans another opportunity to cheer you on in your new career as a soccer player for the Central Coast Mariners in the A-league. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I said to myself, “If I can get the opportunity to do it, then do it.” Because for me that’s a challenge – and when I get a challenge, it re-energises me. I don’t know where I’m going to go so I really can’t set a goal for myself until this first year [is over]. After this first year I can say, “I feel I can do better if I can train harder or work more on my skills.” Or I can say, “This is not going to work.” [Laughs] This season is just a test, fail or pass. I’m just here to do my best, to learn as much as possible and try to improve as quickly as possible to get to a level. It’s my personal challenge. And how will you feel if you fail the test? I’m not going to be pleased. But I’ve seen that I’ve improved, and if I continue taking part then I will get better. I never try to think that I’m going to succeed or, if I don’t, what’s going to happen? I’ve always just gone with the flow. If it happens, it happens. I don’t want to put that in the back of my head and think, “Let’s have a back-up plan for if I fail.” The moment you start making plans for if you fail, then you’re pretty much saying to yourself [that] you are going to fail. Of all the countries and clubs you could have chosen, why choose Australia and the Mariners, who are based in Gosford on the NSW Central Coast? I’ve always wanted to live in Australia. I come here every year for a vacation and we chill out. People are really nice to me and there aren’t any crazy fans. There are a lot of fans here, but they’re polite. It’s similar to Jamaica. I feel slightly normal. I’ve always said when I retire I’m going to come here for six months and live. When the opportunity came up for Australia – I got opportunities from different countries – I was like, “Let’s go to Australia. Because I know Australia, I know the people, I know what it’s about and they speak English.” [Laughs] There has been some negative feedback towards your desire to be a professional soccer player. What do you say to those critics? Nothing! I’m used to this. You can’t listen to it. I know what I’m capable of, I know what I’m here to do and it’s their [the media’s] job to write the news no matter how horrible or bad it is. But if I start playing well, they’re going to write different things, so that’s all I have to do. You recently made your debut as a guest commentator for Optus Sport. I’ve never done it before and felt nervous and excited, wondering what I should say. Prince Harry will arrive in Australia later
this week for the Invictus Games. You lost a race to him once… He cheated! [Laughs] Whenever we meet up, we’re always cool and we always laugh. Is it true that you formally adopted an abandoned cheetah cub and named it Lightning Bolt? We went to Africa once and went on safari. They said, “We have animals that you can adopt.” I was like, “Yes! I need to do this.” I found out two years later it was a girl, because initially we were told it was a boy. I was like, “How can you not know that from the start?” You’re an inspiration to young Jamaicans, and to young athletes around the world. How does it feel to be held in such high regard? It’s massive. It’s a wonderful feeling. [Olympic track champ] Michael Johnson, [basketball greats] Michael Jordan, Kevin Garnett – all these guys motivated me growing up. It never dawned on me until I started checking my Facebook messages, my Instagram messages – kids and older people were saying, “You really motivate me to do great things.” I was like, “Oh my god, I’m a role model.” I try to live the best I can, to prove to people to work hard and be dedicated. Your Instagram has many videos and posts about your godson, whom you obviously adore. Do you see yourself settling down and having kids one day? Yeah, definitely. Something I’ve learnt is it’s never a good time to have kids. It took me a while to figure that out. When I started my career, I was like, “I can’t have a kid now because I work and travel so much.” Then I thought as soon as I retire I’m going to have a kid – and then I retired and I travel more and now I’m in football [laughs]. It’s never a good time. You just have to buckle down and do it. It’s in the near future, so, hopefully. We’ll see. Your girlfriend of five years, Kasi Bennett, is coming to stay in Australia with you. Just putting it out there that there are some very nice wedding venues in Australia… Wow, wow, wow, be cool, be cool [laughs]. You don’t get much downtime, but when you do, what do you like doing? I like to stay indoors. As soon as I finish training, I go home and watch football or play video games or watch a series - I don’t do reality TV. I was so happy when Optus hooked me up, especially with the football package. They rewired my apartment so I could game at high speeds with my friends back home. Your motto is, “Anything is possible. I don’t think limits.” Have they always been words you live by? Not at the start. I grew into it because people were saying, “You can’t do that” or “You can’t run this fast.” And I’m like, “You can’t tell me that. You don’t know what I can do.” [The motto] just came about and I thought, “This is how I’m going to start living my life.” I’m from Sherwood Content, in Trelawny in Jamaica, in a rural area nobody knows. To come up and dominate and be known worldwide – that’s a story. A lot of people, when they get dealt a bad hand, go, “I’m not going to make it so I’m not going to even try.” You have to. I always say to people, “Don’t give up because you never know.” I wanted to win one Olympic gold medal – that was my aim. I wanted to be like Michael Johnson and win the 200m Olympic gold medal. And now I have eight! Anything is possible, so don’t limit yourself.