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Usain Bolt says his world records will stand for 15-20 years

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KYOTO, Japan (AP) — Usain Bolt is feeling no pressure in retirement, confident his best times can remain world records for decades.

The only sprinter to capture the 100- and 200-meter track titles at three consecutive Olympics, Bolt retired last month after the world championships in London. He holds the world record of 9.58 seconds in the 100 and 19.19 in the 200 – both set in Berlin in 2009.

“I think (they’re) going to last a while,” Bolt said during a promotional event in Japan on Tuesday. “I think our era with Yohan Blake, Justin Gatlin and Asafa Powell and all these guys was the best era of athletes. If it was going to be broken, it would have been broken in this era, so I think I have at least 15 to 20 more years.”

Bolt’s farewell major meet didn’t go to plan in London. After a surprising third-place finish in the 100 behind Americans Gatlin and Christian Coleman, Bolt’s last race ended in the anguish of an injured hamstring while anchoring Jamaica’s 4×100-meter relay team.

Gatlin, often cast as the villain during Bolt’s long dominance, said he thinks his rival will be back. But Bolt brushed off that notion.

“I have nothing to prove, that’s the main reason I left track and field. After you do everything you want there is no reason to stick around,” Bolt said.

Bolt was the life of the party every time he competed, captivating fans with his charisma and smile.

As for the next biggest star in track, Bolt said he doesn’t see anyone at the moment who he expects will follow in his footsteps.

“It’s hard for me to pick someone,” Bolt said. “I think what made me stand out was not only the fast times that I ran but my personality that people really enjoyed and loved.

“If you want to be a star in sports and take over a sport you have to let people know who you are as a person, not just as a track athlete.”

Jamaica won only one gold medal at this year’s worlds, a disappointing haul given its success in the last decade. Bolt said his country’s young athletes will have to step up now that he’s gone.

“The biggest thing with Jamaica now is if the youngsters want it,” Bolt said. “Over the years, one thing I’ve learned is you have to want to be great. If you don’t want to be great, it won’t happen.”

Of course, wanting to be great and doing what it takes to make it happen are two different things, too.

“I’ve noticed a lot of the young athletes, as soon as they get their first contract and start making money, they really just don’t care as much anymore,” Bolt said. “A lot of them are satisfied with getting their first contract, going out and making their first team. If they are satisfied with that, then we’re in trouble.

“Hopefully, a few of these young guys are going to be hungry and want to be great and if we get those guys we will be OK but so far, it is not looking good.”

The 31-year-old Bolt said he had good people around him from his earliest successes who were also there at the end, helping him make the most of his talent.

“My first two Olympics were easier, I was confident, I was young, I was enjoying the sport,” he said. “But I think my last three years were the toughest years for me because then I had done so much I found myself thinking ‘Why am I still doing this? I’ve accomplished everything. I don’t really need to prove anything else.’ But the team that I had around me really helped me to push myself to set the bar so high.”

As for the future, Bolt says he is interested in playing soccer and possibly settling down and getting married.

“Something I’ve always wanted to do is play football,” said Bolt, a die-hard Manchester United supporter. “My team is working on that but we haven’t confirmed anything yet!”

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MORE:  Yohan Blake wins the 100 at the Van Damme Memorial

Yohan Blake wins the 100 at the Van Damme Memorial

Yohan Blake
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BRUSSELS (AP) Yohan Blake won the 100 meters at the Van Damme Memorial, beating Michael Rodgers of the United States and fellow-Jamaican Julian Forte on Friday.

In the absence of recently retired Usain Bolt and world champion Justin Gatlin, 2011 world champion Blake rekindled some old form for a rare win, finishing in a modest 10.02 seconds as runners were slowed by the rain and cold at the King Baudouin Stadium.

Rodgers finished in 10.09 and Forte had 10.12.

On a tough night for athletes, Ivana Spanovic of Serbia won the long jump with 6.70 meters on her last attempt, sweeping past Lorraine Ugen of Britain, who missed out by 5 centimeters. World champion Brittney Reese of the United States finished only fifth.

MORE: Redemption for Olympic champions in Diamond League final

Ato Boldon on Usain Bolt, Justin Gatlin and the 2017 season

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Four-time Olympic medalist Ato Boldon, NBC’s lead track and field analyst, witnessed a memorable year for the sport.

35-year-old Justin Gatlin shocking Usain Bolt to win the 100m world championship.

Bolt falling to the track in the final race of his decorated career.

The best-ever performance for the U.S. at Worlds, led by sprinter Allyson Felix, who passed retired Jamaican sprinter Merlene Ottey for the most career world championship medals.

Boldon discussed the 2017 track and field season before the year’s final Diamond League meet, which will take place today at 2:00 p.m. ET on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and NBC Sports Gold.

What are your biggest takeaways from the 2017 track and field season?

My biggest takeaways are the new stars emerging. You need only look as far as the world championships in London and the number of first-time world champions to realize that there are some new faces that you better get familiar with, because chances are they are around to stay.

Justin Gatlin upset Usain Bolt to win the 100m world championship. At 35, how much longer can he be a top sprinter?

I thought Justin had lost a step after last year. The response to that was, ‘Well, how is he the world champion in 2017?’ Simple answer: 9.92 seconds was all it took to win Worlds, one of the slowest winning times ever. If the winning time at championships (including the USA Championships) is 9.9, Justin will remain competitive. If Christian Coleman, Andre De Grasse and younger sprint stars of the world make it 9.7, he will be forced out.

Now that Bolt is hanging up his spikes, who will become the face of track and field?

I think it will be Wayde van Niekerk, because I think he has the ability to dominate his event (400m) the way Bolt did. I was disappointed to hear him say he won’t double at a championship again. The sport needs that. He was a lean from pulling off something that had been done before only once, so I hope he’ll reconsider. He doesn’t have the same extrovert personality as Bolt, but it’s partly the media’s job to continue to make him appealing to the global audience.

As the 2017 season comes to a close, who will you be watching in 2018?

In 2018, I will be watching the youngsters who almost won this year to see if they improve or decline next year: Coleman (100m silver), Salwa Eid Naser (400m silver from Bahrain), Steven Gardiner (400m silver from Bahamas), and Marie-Josee Ta Lou (100m and 200m silver medals from Ivory Coast).

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MORE: World champion Justin Gatlin beaten in Diamond League final