Usain Bolt talks Olympic history, racing in the U.S., more in Q&A

Usain Bolt
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NEW YORK — Usain Bolt made a rare appearance in the U.S. on Wednesday, about 10 days after he ended an abbreviated track season and one day after playing cricket in India.

OlympicTalk caught up with Bolt. Here are excerpts from the interview:

OlympicTalk: If you were president of the IAAF and could change one thing about track and field, what would it be?

Bolt: One thing I’d have to really try to address is always going to be drug use. I think one thing I would put in place is that if you make a mistake, you get a ban for a couple years. But if you seriously did it on purpose, you should be banned for life.

OlympicTalk: If you were president of the International Olympic Committee and could change one thing about the Olympics, what would it be?

Bolt: I don’t know. I think the Olympics is a great competition. I really don’t have an issue with the Olympics. They work well.

OlympicTalk: Who do you consider the greatest Olympian of all time?

Bolt: Herb McKenley. (McKenley, the first Jamaican Olympic 100m medalist, won four Olympic sprint medals over the 1948 and 1952 Olympics.) Back in the days, these guys are my idols growing up. I live to see these guys. These guys really pushed the barrier coming up and did great for Jamaica starting out. I lived to see these guys and be just like them.

OlympicTalk: Your confidence is obvious, but what would it take for even a little self-doubt to creep in between now and the Rio Olympics? Injuries? Somebody else running extremely fast?

Bolt: I never doubt myself. In life, you learn that you will lose some. For me, I’m always confident. As long as I’m fit, I’m confident. If I get injuries, I slightly won’t be so confident, but I’m always going to be ready to race.

OlympicTalk: What is the most stinging defeat you’ve had in your career, aside from the false start in the 2011 World Championships 100m final?

Bolt: That’s it, [the false start in 2011]. That’s really it. My coach, when I started out, they would always talk, “You’re going to lose some. You’re never going to win every race.” So when I lose, it’s never a big deal to me. It’s just something to learn from, to move on from.

OlympicTalk: A lot of people don’t know that you competed in the 2004 Olympics in Athens. What do you remember about that experience?

Bolt: Not much. Seeing Yao Ming for the first time. That’s one thing that always sticks in my mind. And it was hot as hell.

OlympicTalk: You’ve visited a lot of places, like India just now. Is there anywhere you haven’t been where you would like to visit and/or race?

Bolt: Thailand and Greece, the islands of Greece.

OlympicTalk: If you raced Justin Gatlin this season, do you think you would have been able to beat him?

Bolt: [Takes a second to think] Well, if I had gotten a little bit more races under my belt, yeah. But perfect conditions, if he’s running 9.8, I don’t think so. I don’t think I would beat him.

OlympicTalk: We haven’t seen you race in the U.S. since you broke your first world record in 2008. There are a lot of sponsor issues and things you can’t totally control, but if it comes down to the end of your career and you still haven’t raced here since 2008, are you going to make it a point to say, “I want to do a race in the United States again?”

Bolt: As you said, Adidas took over the race [the annual Diamond League event in New York that was under Reebok sponsorship in 2008]. So it’s Adidas athletes [Bolt is sponsored by Puma]. For me it would be cool. It’s always good because I know that all the fans always give a great reception every time I come to the meet in New York.

OlympicTalk: We see how great it is to be Usain Bolt. What’s the worst part of being Usain Bolt?

Bolt: Being Usain Bolt [laughs]. I think it’s going out and not being able to just relax sometimes. Sometimes you go to have a bite to eat. You just want to chill, and all these fans want pictures and stuff.

OlympicTalk: The biggest sports star in the U.S. right now is LeBron James. The last time we saw you in the U.S., you were courtside at a Miami Heat game watching him. Did you meet him there? If so, what did you talk about?

Bolt: No. I’ve met LeBron before. He’s a great motivator. He’s a hard worker. I follow him on Instagram, so I see the work he puts in and the determination he has. I have nothing but respect for him also.

OlympicTalk: We see you being brought into meets onto the track in cars, in rockets, in Humvees, and the presents people give you. And obviously in Glasgow at the Commonwealth Games, the lap around the track with all the selfies was pretty amazing. Can you point out one moment in your career that really blew your mind?

Bolt: One of the moments was actually Beijing, on my birthday, when I came out and the whole crowd sang happy birthday for me. That was an experience. That was like wow.

OlympicTalk: Any souvenirs you take from every Olympics, outside of your medals or track kits?

Bolt: I always collect the mascots. My mom or friends always steals them, so right now I don’t have them though.

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