Usain Bolt is paying attention to what the track and field world is saying before the expected last individual race of his career on Saturday.
He doesn’t agree with it.
“Again, I’m the underdog for some reason,” Bolt said at a press conference in London on Tuesday. “That’s what I keep reading. That’s what my team keeps telling me. So I’ve got to prove myself once more.”
Bolt competes in what is expected to be his final meet before retirement at the world championships at the 2012 Olympic Stadium.
The 100m final is Saturday (NBC and NBC Sports Gold, 3 p.m. ET).
The 4x100m final is Aug. 12 (NBC and NBC Sports Gold, 3 p.m. ET).
Bolt’s fastest time this season is 9.95 seconds, which ranks him seventh in the world in 2017.
It’s his lowest standing going into any Olympics or world championships. And in Bolt’s six previous Olympic and world 100m titles, the silver medalist ran 9.89 or faster.
Bolt is not worried. He’s encouraged by steady improvement this season. Bolt’s first two 100m races in June were 10.03 and 10.06, followed by the 9.95 in Monaco on July 21 in his last worlds tune-up.
“Shows that I’m going in the right direction,” Bolt said. “It’s all about who can keep their nerves and who’s ready to challenge. I’ve been here many times. I know I’m ready. It’s go time.”
Like in 2015, when Bolt had an injury-shortened build-up to worlds. He didn’t break 10 seconds until one month before the championships (a pair of 9.87s in one day) and then won worlds in 9.79 seconds.
This year, Bolt can take confidence in that the rest of the world is slowing down, too.
Justin Gatlin, the 2015 World and 2016 Olympic silver medalist, has a best time of 9.95 seconds in 2017.
Another American, Christian Coleman, owns the fastest time in the world this season, a 9.82 from the NCAA Championships on June 7. But Coleman, who is untested on the global stage, followed that with a 10.04, 9.93, 10.02 and 9.98 in his last four races.
There’s also this stat: Bolt has the fastest time in the world run outside one’s home country this year.
Bolt was asked Tuesday if he’s still the fastest man in the world. Yes, he says, adding that his suggested headline for the Sunday newspapers is “Unbeatable.”
Bolt was asked if he will reconsider retirement if he loses on Saturday.
“It’s not going to happen,” Bolt said, “so we won’t have that problem.”
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