Usain Bolt is off to his slowest-ever start to a season. Having seen his rivals’ times, Bolt is not worried about ending his career in defeat next month.
“No one is really running fast at the moment,” Bolt said Wednesday, ahead of his last 100m tune-up before the world championships in Monaco (Friday, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold). “I really can’t say [why]. The only thing I’ve noticed is the guys over the years who have really competed like me, Tyson [Gay], Asafa [Powell], and all these guys, we’re just getting older. So just the young crop is coming up now. I guess they’ll take time to mature.
“The girls have really outperformed us over the past three years. They’ve really stepped up and been running some fast times. It’s been really competitive. I take my hat off to the girls for really competing a higher level. I think we’re just getting old.”
Bolt, who failed to break 10 seconds in two June 100m races, will race in Monaco for the first time in three weeks. He visited a doctor in Germany following his last meet in the Czech Republic to work on his usual cranky back.
“People have counted me out [in past years], but I said the team I have always come through for me,” Bolt said.
Like in 2015, when Bolt pulled out of two early July meets with a leg injury and serious doubts about his readiness for those world championships. But Bolt visited his German doctor and returned four weeks before worlds to show medal-worthy form for the first time in nearly two years. He then swept the 100m, 200m and 4x100m at worlds.
This year is different. Bolt said he missed weeks of training following the April 20 death of friend and 2008 Olympic high jump silver medalist Germaine Mason.
“[My back] is not perfect, but I can train, which is the key thing,” Bolt said. “I’m training much better now. Over the next two weeks, it should be fine.”
In Bolt’s favor is a lack of challengers. Only one man has broken 9.90 seconds this year (American Christian Coleman, who couldn’t replicate that speed at nationals), and nobody has broken 9.96 outside of their home country.
At this time in 2015, Justin Gatlin had broken 9.80 a total of four times. Six other men had broken 9.90.
Bolt said it “would be good to dip under 10 seconds” in Monaco on Friday. He will likely need to in order to extend a four-year winning streak in 100m and 200m races, though the field lacks Coleman, Gatlin and Olympic medalists Yohan Blake and Andre De Grasse.
Bolt’s goal isn’t to win on Friday, but “to get perfect for when the big race comes, and that’s in three weeks [at worlds].”
Bolt added that he will not enter any meets after worlds, meaning his career finale will be the 4x100m relay at the London Olympic Stadium on Aug. 12.
“[My agent] says if I’m going to run after London, it has to be like a [Floyd] Mayweather–[Conor] McGregor fight,” Bolt joked. “My coach said that I have to be his assistant until he decides to retire also.”
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