Kicking It In Kingston With Usain Bolt
'Usain, what is it you're running from?' That's the question I didn't ask when in a room with the fastest man in the history of Earth. A predator? A painful memory? Unlike senseless field events like triple jump, sprinting actually makes evolutionary sense – big body Bolt can get the hell out of an awkward situation with a sour shawty or bitter bredren fast. When we put him in context of the complete animal kingdom, though, how does he fare?
If Bolt was a puma, the animal totem of the sports brand he's been riding with for 13 years, he would be sluggish at best. Pumas can sprint at up to 80 kilometres an hour if the caribou on the prairie looks delicious, while Bolt's fastest dash couldn't clock 45 kmh. So if Usain is a bolt from the blue, what is a bolt but a glorified screw? We set out to find out ...
Usain, man, you look good. Fit. You look like those anatomical muscle flesh diagrams of the perfect male body. All your muscles are pumped to the max like plastic bubble wrapping. But it doesn't look creepy at all, it's just so right. Bloke to my right says you're retiring after the Olympics, why would you even consider doing so with a body like that? Press play ...
I never said I was going to retire after the Olympics. Initially, I said maybe after the 2017 [championships], but my coach said let's take it one year at a time, see what we want to do, if I want to continue or call it a day. So I'm gonna take it a year at a year, see how my body feels, see if I have the motivation to wake up in the morning.
Bad, man. Are you tasting those sweet 'n sour nostalgia tears yet, though? Thinking about those gold medals and golden memories of running really fast in spandex across blue or brown polyurethane all over the world?
It feels good to know I've accomplished so much in my life, I'm really happy with myself.
All fruits haven't always been ripe, though. You've had to push through some bad luck and injuries ...
Yeah. The hard times that I had really developed me as a person, as an athlete, and changed my character in a better way. I'm happy with how my career has been going and hopefully I can finish with a bang.
Though you're still the favourite for the Olympics, you're 29 going on 30. Just a few hundred years ago it was common to be a grandfather by that age. Especially for men with your obvious virility. With that disturbing picture in mind, how do you feel now compared to when you broke the 100 metre record?
I was 21 then. So the physical difference is nine years. For me, it's been a tough road. People say, the older it gets, the harder it gets. You get a lot of experience, so you figure out what you need to do to be the best. It gets easier to do certain things, and you know not what to do. But it's just harder. When you're younger, you get injured and it's two weeks and you're back. When you're older, it takes a month and a half to get back on par and really get going again. The physical part is hard, but I'm used to it and I know what it takes.
Word on road is that you were a beast at the 400 metres back in the day too. Why don't you go full gazelle in that event as well?
I remember after '07, when we decided we were going to do this. My coach said I had to do two events, it was either going to be the 400 or the 100 metres [plus the 200m]. I didn't want to do the 400 metres, but he was like, 'Yo, I think you would be the best at the 400 metres because you used to do it in high school. So I was like, 'Listen, let's make a deal. Give me one 100 metres, if I run fast, I do that, if I don't, I'll run the 400 metres.' I ran 10.03. [Laughs] It was good, it worked out.
Brilliant. Never underestimate man's ability and desperation to get out of harder work. Puma signed you up when you were a proper youngblood. That must have felt good?
Yeah, I think the fact that Puma found me when I was really, really young, that shows their vision. They told me, 'This is what we want to do, we want to invest in youngsters.' And I think that is always the right thing to do. To find the talent young and develop it is really important, because a lot of young athletes don't have the support, even though they have the talent. That kind of support helps you develop really quickly because you can get the right gear and nutrition to push yourself forward.
Water sucks, Gatorade is better. I scored some tickets to the Jamaican high school track and field championships, I've heard it's a riot. What should I expect?
You'll see the competition and the rivalry that we have in this country. I feel that's why we keep producing so much talent. That's where we find it. The coaches prepare athletes to be the best, to dominate, to win, so they can make a legacy too. That's where all the talent from every corner of the island comes from to compete. That's where the grassroots is.
When you go out there and it's so loud, there's so much energy. It's either gonna make you very nervous, or very excited. I was once very nervous but then I got excited by it because I wanted to go out there and prove I was the best at what I do. Champs is one of the greatest moments, you can never forget it.
Sounds like it really set you up to live this here lifestyle. Finally, how do you want to be remembered once you've ghosted on the game?
As one of the greatest athletes to do the sport, a great motivator, just a cool person. A chilled, fun person to hang around.
What a perfect mix of huge and humble goals. Thanks for your time and good luck in Rio, maaaate!
Sneaker Freaker attended a pimpin' trip to Kingston thanks to Puma for the launch of the DISC IGNITE. Usain's answers above were drawn from a small press conference, while the associated questions have been creatively altered because press people aren't very interesting.