How Usain Bolt became a 100m sprinter, convincing his coach

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Usain Bolt might never have broken the 100m world record if he didn’t break the Jamaican 200m record first.

As Bolt prepares for the last 100m of his career at the world championships (NBC and NBC Sports Gold, Saturday, 3 p.m. ET), a look back at his first 100m race as a pro a little more than 10 years ago:

Recall that Bolt grew up a 200m/400m runner and made his first Olympics in 2004 solely in the 200m at age 17 (eliminated in the heats in Athens while slowed by a left hamstring injury). By 2007, Bolt was on the verge of successfully lobbying his veteran coach, Glen Mills, to let him race a 100m.

Even years ago, Bolt was a lazy trainer, so complementing his specialty 200m with the 100m rather than the 400m made sense to him.

Mills, who started coaching Bolt after the 2004 Olympics, preferred the 400m for the lanky teen with a long stride. But they made a deal going into the 2007 season that if Bolt broke the national 200m record, he could enter a 100m.

At the 2007 Jamaican Championships, Bolt lowered Don Quarrie‘s 36-year-old national 200m record by .11 of a second.

“After the race [Bolt] didn’t even say thank you,” Mills said, according to the Jamaica Gleaner. “He just said, ‘When is the 100m?'”

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Three weeks later, Bolt was on the Greek island of Crete for the first 100m race of his career.

“[Mills and I] made a bet that if I did well … he would let me double in the 100m and 200m the following season,” Bolt wrote in one of his books, referencing the 2008 Olympic season. “If I didn’t do well I would do 400m and 200m. Training for the 400 meters struck me as hell on earth, so I wasn’t going to blow this opportunity.”

He won in 10.03 seconds. It was so lightly regarded that Bolt was the last line in a 180-word brief from The Associated Press. Still, Bolt won the bet.

“The only person in Jamaica running faster than that was [world-record holder] Asafa [Powell], so I told coach he had to give me the chance,” Bolt wrote.

The rest is history.

Bolt ran 9.76 in his third career 100m race on May 3, 2008, and then broke the world record four weeks later on that stormy evening in New York City.

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