Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said “Ambition is so powerful a passion in the human breast, that however high we reach we are never satisfied.” Usain Bolt fully embodies this sentiment.. He has nothing left to prove in the world of track & field. He could retire today and still be considered the greatest sprinter ever; his world records would serve as testiment to his greatness. He possesses extreme confidence in his ability which fosters his desire to run faster than anyone ever thought possible. Bolt’s false start at last year’s World Championships has critics questioning has he peaked. Expect his unbridled ambition to prove these detractors wrong.
Bolt is a phenomenon. In only his fifth professional race in 100 meters he broke fellow countryman Asafa Powell’s world record of 9.74 seconds, posting a time of 9.72 seconds at Icahn Stadium in New York. He followed up this success by entering the 2008 Beijing Olympics as overwhelming favorite to win gold. The Olympic Games have long been the graveyard for odds-on favorites, the pressure that comes with the history and intrigue of the Olympics makes many elite athletes crumble. Bolt not only won the 100m race, he bested his own world record in the process, sauntering across the finish line pounding his chest at the crowd of thousands looking on in awe. His celebration drew ire from track aficionados as braggadocio and mocking his competitors.
In the 200 meter final he broke Michael Johnson’s 8-year-old world record of 19.32 seconds winning his 2nd gold medal (19.30sec). He dug in with every step in the final 50 meters, complete with an eleventh-hour lean toward the finish line, which quieted those same pundits in less time than his 100m race.
In the process, he became the first Olympic sprinter to break world records in each event at the same Olympics. Not one to rest on his laurels, he added the 4 x 100 meter relay to his tally of gold medals and another world and Olympic record (37.10sec) to his catalog.
2008 did not just see Bolt enter the realm of superstardom; he’d kicked down the door and announced his presence. He had a trademark celebration, “To Di World”, was a media darling recognizable throughout the sports world. Even the chicken nuggets he ate before the Olympic Final gained popularity. Along with Michael Phelps, the Olympic gold medal swimmer, Bolt was the headline of the 2008 Beijing Games. Finishing a career with this sort of a roll call would be impressive but the human phenomenon that is Usain Bolt was only getting started.
He went to the World Championships in Berlin in 2009 and won the 100 and 200 meters titles. Not satisfied with just the medals at these events he also set two new world records. These performances elevated him to another level of respect with many proclaiming him the greatest sprinter ever to grace a track. Three Olympic Gold medals and three world and Olympic records all before his 23rd birthday puts his achievements into even starker contrast. Since, Bolt has flirted with the idea of running the 400 meters at a future Olympics as well as trying to match Jessie Owens and Carl Lewis by winning a long jump gold medal. He has also stated his desire to play professional soccer when he retires.
Needless to say his meteoric rise both on and off the track is still ascending. He’s a member of the 2012 Time Magazine 100 most influential people in the world. His endorsements have pushed Virgin Media to post record first quarter profits. The Bolt Collection is PUMA’s latest marketing venture for its premier client and his book deal with publishing giant HarperCollins is certain to land on the New York Times Best-Seller list upon its scheduled 2012 release. He’s Got Game! We chased him down, figuratively, to discuss the pressures of success, the 2012 Olympic Games and challenges to his throne. Oddly enough; his answers were strikingly similar to his races, short and to the point.
What's your impression when you hear the phrase Got Game?
To me that means that you have got skills.
How much pressure do you feel when you sit in the blocks knowing the world
not only expects you to win but to shatter world records? Did this affect your performance at last year’s World Championships?
The only pressure you feel is what you put on yourself. Last year’s false start was due to me coming into the World’s in very good shape and trying too hard to run a fast time. I was too anxious to perform.
What are your thoughts on the one-and-done false start penalty?
The rule is the rule.
Explain the mental aspect of sprint running?
The mental aspect is important. For me I run best when I am relaxed and focused.
Describe the feeling you get once you set foot on the track for a race at the Olympics?
The Olympic Games is the biggest sporting event for an athlete. The whole world is watching. This year it will be in London and it will be a magnificent event. I am really looking forward to the energy and the buzz of the crowd.
How much different will this experience be from your last one?
It isn’t that different. I will have a similar schedule and similar opponents.
How much does it annoy you when you the media portray you as this happy-go-lucky athlete, who was born naturally fast and doesn't need to work hard?
Well I was born fast but I still have to work extremely hard to get to the top and stay there.
Describe your passion for Jamaica? What keeps you at home when you have had so many offers to train all over the world?
I love Jamaica - it is my home and I couldn’t live anywhere else. We have the best training environment for sprinting in the world. Other athletes come to Jamaica to train so why would I think about going elsewhere?
You started off as a 400m runner, have you considered going after Michael Johnson's 400m record?
I am focused on the 100m and 200m at the moment.
How fast do you envision yourself running in the 100m and 200m by careers end? Sub 9.50 & 19.0sec respectively?
I never set limits but I hope to break my own records. If anyone has the ability to go sub 9.5sec its me!
As a sports fan, do you follow American sport? Did you find it disrespectful when Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson challenged you to a race?
I am a big fan of the Boston Celtics and watch all their games. Anyone can challenge me to a race – I’m cool with that. I race all the time and anyone is welcome to get a lane to run against me.
In a sport dogged by doping controversies, how much pressure do you feel to stay squeaky clean? Is this added pressure on you as you're the highest profile athlete in the world?
I am fortunate to have a natural talent. There is no pressure to cheat. I win clean.
OTHER ATHLETES TO WATCH AT THE 2012 LONDON SUMMER OLYMPICS
Michael Phelps – USA Swimmer
One of the most successful Olympians of all time, Phelps won 8 gold medals at the 2008 Games breaking Mark Spitz record of the most gold medals won in a single Games. Like Bolt, his desire to succeed is unquenchable and with Phelps hinting at how this may be his last Olympics, expect him to depart in style.
Katie Taylor – Ireland Boxer
Female boxing is getting its debut in the London Games and Taylor is the queen in waiting of female amateur boxing. She is the 3 time world champion at the 60kg class and is undefeated in nearly 3 years. Taylor turned down numerous offers to turn pro in expectance of winning gold at these Games.
Roger Federer – Switzerland Tennis
Federer has never won an Olympic gold medal which makes it about the only medal that has not darkened his trophy cabinets’ door. He has an incredible record at Wimbledon – where the tennis is being held – which makes him one of the favorites. Could a gold medal see him bowing out of the sport?
Chris Hoy – Great Britain Cycling
A triple gold medalist at the Beijing games, Hoy returned to Britain as a national star and was soon awarded a knighthood by the Queen. Expect the pressure on home soil to be intense but the man they call the “Real McCoy” is as good a cyclist as there is out there.
Misty May Treanor & Kerri Walsh – USA Beach Volleyball
They have been called the greatest beach volleyball team of all time and with the last two Olympic gold medals under their belt, who can deny that? At London 2012 they will attempt to win an unprecedented third Olympic Gold medal in a row and thus cement themselves in the pantheon of great Olympians.