Usain Bolt ready for tears as retirement nears
NEW YORK -- Three months.
Usain Bolt, the gangly Trelawny boy born with scoliosis who grew into the greatest sprinter of all time, has three months left in his track career.
He says he has three, maybe four meets to go before retirement -- Kingston on June 10 (his final Jamaican meet), Ostrava, Czech Republic, on June 28 and possibly another tune-up before the world championships. He also isn’t ruling out a meet after worlds.
Still, Bolt envisions his career ending at worlds in London, a place he has called a second home. He has the 100m final on Aug. 5 and the 4x100m relay Aug. 12.
“I’ve thought about it many times,” Bolt says in a basement nook of a lower Manhattan studio space, after smiling and gabbing for a few dozen international media at an event promoting his apparel sponsor, Puma.
Bolt mentions his 2016 film, “I am Bolt,” and a scene where he began thinking about retirement.
“I started getting a little bit emotional,” Bolt remembers. “Knowing that it could be your last big race in front of so much crowd, that’s something I know I’m going to miss when I retire.”
Bolt is quick to say he has never cried at a race.
Not after any of his nine Olympic titles (since reduced to eight due to a relay teammate’s doping). Not after defeats, such as failing to advance out of his first Olympic race in 2004 or his infamous false start out of the 2011 World Championships 100m final.
That in mind, Bolt thinks about the scene three months from now in the London Olympic Stadium. Tears?
“To be actually in the stadium and know that this is it, you never know,” he said. “What will I do? What should I say? How should I go about it? But I haven’t come up with anything solid yet. I’m open. Hopefully it’s not too emotional.”
Bolt decided not to race the 200m, his trademark event, this season because he doesn’t want to risk losing and doesn’t want to train as hard.
“Can’t mess it up at the end,” Bolt said. “It’s not really that stressful this season. My coaches really adjusted my program a lot, so it’s not as intense as it used to be. But it still gets me where I need to go.”
Bolt says his longtime coach, Glen Mills, believes he could continue for one more Olympics in 2020, but only if the sprinter wants to. Bolt, who turns 31 in August, has made it clear that he doesn’t want to.
He dislikes the rigors of training and enjoys staying out late and straying from proper nutrition. Bolt has been known to show up at group step classes in Jamaica on mornings after fried-chicken dinners.
“I’m back on my diet now,” he says. “My coach tells me stay focused because it’s the home stretch.”
Bolt is confident in his 100m. Asked of his biggest rival, and he says he doesn’t know. This is a departure from past years, when it was clear that either training partner Yohan Blake or Americans Tyson Gay or Justin Gatlin were pushing Bolt.
“The only person that I’ve seen really compete at his best [this season] is Andre De Grasse,” Bolt said of the 22-year-old Olympic 100m bronze medalist from Canada. “He’s really shown promise early in the season. I always wait until the trials [late June for the U.S. and Jamaica] to see who’s really stepping up because that’s when it really matters.”
The day after Bolt’s interview, De Grasse finished an unimpressive fifth in a 100m race in Qatar in 10.21 seconds. Bolt has never been that slow in a 100m final, according to Tilastopaja.org, but he rarely competes this early in the year and never races when he’s not confident of victory.
Bolt is less sure of what is shaping up to be his final race -- the 4x100m relay at worlds.
“That’s what I’m worried about,” he said. “I’m not worried about individual. I have all the abilities to do the individual, because I’m going to show up ready.”
Bolt noted his countrymen dropped the baton in the 4x100m heats at the IAAF World Relays last month. Bolt was also part of the Jamaican team that was beaten by the U.S. in the 4x100m at the 2015 World Relays. It’s his only defeat in top-level competition in nearly four years.
But the U.S. has a penchant for failing on the biggest stages -- one medal combined from the last four worlds and three Olympics, where Jamaica prevailed all seven times.
“The 4x100m is always tricky,” Bolt said. “I always worry a little bit, but my teammates always come through.”
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