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Usain Bolt on Kobe Bryant, fatherhood and Tyreek Hill’s Olympic outlook

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MIAMI — The world’s fastest man sauntered into the back room of a Miami art studio that had been converted into a Gatorade pop-up for Super Bowl weekend.

He opened a bottle of Bolt24, Gatorade’s new off-the-field drink for the 24/7 athlete, an endorsement Usain Bolt takes literally.

“Last night I went to bed at, maybe, like 5 [a.m.],” he said the Saturday morning before Super Bowl Sunday, adding that outside of his native Jamaica, he believes the party scene in Miami is second only to London.

Bolt fully reclined and rested his legs in a NormaTec compression therapy device while spending the next 20 minutes discussing a wide range of topics with NBC Sports.

The retired sprinter recently announced he is going to be a father in a social post.

He does not know the gender of his child yet and declined to reveal the due date.

“I’m excited, but I’m nervous,” said the 33-year-old. “I’ve always been a fun guy, I’ve always been that person. But should I be that person and make my girlfriend [Kasi Bennett] be the bad guy? Those are the questions I’m asking, so we’ll see what happens.”

Bolt, who has two siblings and eventually wants three children, will not encourage his offspring to pursue sprinting.

“That’s going to be hard for my kid,” he said. “If they want to do it, I’m fine with it. But initially I’m going to say don’t do it, ’cause I know the pressure that will come along with it.”

Bolt has always wanted to have a son to follow in his footsteps. But after watching ESPN anchor Elle Duncan deliver an emotional tribute about Kobe Bryant’s pride in being a #GirlDad, Bolt is now hoping for a daughter.

“I could see in his eyes how much he loved his girls,” Bolt said. “I would love to have that feeling.”

Bryant’s untimely death hit Bolt hard. Bolt was driving when he heard the news and immediately pulled over. He completely stopped checking social media. He tried to watch the Lakers’ tribute, but changed the channel after five minutes because he teared up.

Bolt had at least three significant interactions with Bryant. During an NBA All-Star Weekend, Bryant paused a conversation with Bolt to fetch his daughters for sprinting advice and a photo.

Bolt believed he competed with Kobe’s Mamba Mentality.

“I wouldn’t say I was dedicated as Kobe,” Bolt said, “but when I competed, I went out there no matter what was going on and was focused.”

Being in Miami, the conversation eventually turned to football.

Bolt laughed when asked about Tyreek Hill, the Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver who said he is serious about trying to qualify for the U.S. Olympic track and field team. Hill, who reached the top in-game speed of any NFL player in 2019, was a world-class sprinter in high school but is seven years removed from his track days.

“No, there’s no chance,” Bolt said, pointing out that Hill would have to run the 200m three times over three days at June’s U.S. Olympic Trials. “A lot of people think it’s about one-off runs, but it’s rounds that really show who you are and the amount of work you do. So I think no, he wouldn’t make the team.”

Bolt, a longtime Packers fan, reiterated he would try out for the team as a wide receiver if Aaron Rodgers called.

“I think my hands are good,” he said, “and I know I’ve got the speed.”

But Bolt, who had a brief professional soccer career, would not listen if the MLS or another soccer league called.

“I think I’m past the soccer stage,” he said. “I tried it, and it was OK, but it didn’t work out the way I wanted it to.”

Bolt still follows track closely.

He said it was “nerve-racking” watching the 2019 World Championships as the Jamaican men failed to earn a 100m or 200m medal for the first time since 2003.

“I actually missed it,” he admitted. “I was like, ‘Aw crap, did I do the right thing? Did I retire too soon?’”

But he has no regrets about retiring in 2017.

“You question yourself,” he said, “but I know I made the right decision.”

Bolt wonders why the Jamaican men stopped dominating the sprints since he retired.

“Hey, if you know, tell me,” he said. “But the girls are doing awesome, so that’s a good thing.”

Bolt will be in Tokyo during the Olympics. He has had conversations with television networks, but has not committed. He is excited to go to an Olympics as a fan, and hopes to experience swimming and an Argentina soccer match, in addition to track.

Bolt predicted a U.S. sprinter will win the Olympic men’s 100m title for the first time since 2004.

“From my standpoint right now, Christian Coleman has got the Olympics won already,” Bolt said. “He’s fearless. He’s really fearless.”

Yet Bolt has learned to never overlook Justin Gatlin, who finished second to Coleman at the 2019 World Championships but will be 38 in Tokyo.

“My greatest competitor was Justin Gatlin,” Bolt said. “For the last five years of my career, he kept me on my toes, and I will always respect him for that.”

Bolt was less confident predicting the Olympic 200m champion.

“I think [reigning 200m world champion Noah Lyles] could be beaten,” Bolt said. “In a one-off run, no. But through the rounds, he kind of didn’t impress me as much.”

Since he will be in Tokyo, Bolt was asked whether he could — hypothetically — lace up racing spikes and advance out of a heat to an Olympic semifinal in the 100m or 200m.

“For sure, no problem,” he said without hesitation. “In both.”

Does he still have enough speed to advance from an Olympic semifinal to a final?

“I think over 200m, I could make it to the final as the last, last guy,” Bolt predicted. “But in the 100m, I don’t think so.”

Both scenarios are purely hypothetical, since the deadline to unretire for a 2020 Olympic bid has passed. Retired stars like Bolt must re-enter the drug-testing pool six months before they are allowed to compete. Track’s international governing body confirmed that Bolt has not done so.

Since Bolt is happily retired from Olympic competition, how does he want to be remembered?

“I want to be remembered as one of the greats,” he said. “My only goal in track and field was to be among the greatest in the world. The Kobe Bryants, the Muhammad Alis, the Peles, the Maradonas. That’s how I want to be remembered. That’s the work I put in. I want to be remembered as one of the greatest sportsmen to ever live.”

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Usain Bolt on Noah Lyles’ ‘Bolt Who’ Instagram, his Olympic 100m favorite

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NEW YORK — Usain Bolt spoke with OlympicTalk while in Manhattan to receive an International Humanitarian Award from the American Friends of Jamaica for his charity work.

Bolt, who just helped build a home for somebody who lost his in a fire, said he’s now focusing his foundation on bringing computers to children in rural Jamaica.

“When I learned about computers was when I got to high school,” Bolt said Thursday night. “We had no idea, because I’m from the rural area, about what was out there.

“The only thing you knew about was bicycles. You didn’t dream big.”

Bolt also discussed his peculiar Instagram post about Noah Lyles, Allyson Felix breaking his world titles record and his pick to win the Tokyo Olympic 100m. The Q&A is lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

OlympicTalk: Overall thoughts on the world championships?

Bolt: The distance [races] are picking up. I think most of the crowd came to see the distances. It was shocking to see the amount of people there for the sprints — that was different. Overall, the ladies are doing pretty well. They’re really doing much better than the men.

OlympicTalk: You saw Allyson Felix today and talked to her about breaking your world championships gold medals record. What exactly was said?

Bolt: I said to her, I saw you passed me for all-time medals. She said to me, well, most of your medals are gold. I laughed. For her to come back from having a kid, also, on this stage and work this hard to actually come out and compete is big. She said she spoke to [Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who won the world 100m title after a pregnancy break], and Shelly said the first year is always the hardest year. So next year, I’ll feel much better.

OlympicTalk: Does it hurt you a little bit inside that’s one record you don’t have anymore?

Bolt: It was never about records or running fast times. It’s always championships, getting to the championships, winning and dominating. Showing the world that I was the best. I got to my goal at the end of my career, and that’s what really matters.

OlympicTalk: What about Shelly-Ann, coming back from childbirth to win the 100m. For so long, she raced in your shadow a little bit. Do you think she didn’t get enough credit over the years?

Bolt: She didn’t get enough credit, but I think it’s the personality. I keep explaining to a lot of these athletes that one way people loved me is the personality that I had, that I showed people. Shelly is very shy. She’s quiet. When you hear her speak at functions, she’s really good, but to interact with people, she’s not that type of person. I tell her all the time, if you add the personality, it wouldn’t be like this. It would be much different because people would actually see you, love you, feel your energy and know who you are. So, yes, I kind of overshadowed her because of my personality, but I think people really did recognize what she did for track and field and the work that she put in.

OlympicTalk: Did you watch the Eliud Kipchoge event?

Bolt: No, I just heard about it.

OlympicTalk: It made me wonder if anybody ever came up to you and said, we want to set up an event so you can run sub-9.5. Maybe put a bunch of blowing fans behind you. Did that ever happen?

Bolt: No, no. I never had the opportunity. It would be interesting. We have talked about it. It would be cool to see how fast I would run with proper wind.

OlympicTalk: I have to ask you about something that happened on social media before and during the world championships. You might know what I’m going to ask about.

Bolt: [Laughs] Yeah.

OlympicTalk: After the Paris Diamond League, Noah Lyles posted this after breaking your meet record [shows Bolt the Instagram Story photo]. Did you see that, and what did you think of it?

Bolt: I think he went to another meet after that, and he ran, and then I was watching the TV, and they brought it up. I was like, what do you mean Usain Bolt who? If you don’t know who I am, you’re in the wrong sport. That’s the first thing that came to my mind. I’ve always said this, the young kids are always going to be like that. But it’s funny to hear them talk, hear the energy that they push. I’ve set a standard so high. You can talk all you want, but you have to prove that you can live up to that standard. Breaking a meet record means nothing to me. But I was surprised that he actually said that.

OlympicTalk: I’ve got to ask you a follow-up then. Did you post this [shows Bolt his own Instagram Story photo] after the world championships 200m final?

Bolt: Yes I did. It was funny to me because throughout the whole season [Lyles] was like, oh, I’m going to break the world record. I’m going to do this. I’m going to do that. But in my mind, I’m saying, do you know how hard it is to go to the championship and break a world record? I felt like, because he was running fast all season, he felt like, yeah, I’m going to show up, and I’m going to do it. So I found it funny.

Editor’s Note: Lyles was asked often this summer about Bolt’s world record in the 200m — 19.19 seconds — after Lyles ran 19.50 with no wind. Lyles’ usual response was that he hoped to do special things in the event, but never predicted, in media interviews, that he would word-for-word break the world record. Lyles won the world 200m title in 19.83 seconds.

OlympicTalk: Were you nervous he might get the world record in Doha?

Bolt: No, I knew he wasn’t going to get it. It’s not easy. A lot of people see it and feel like you show up and you just run fast. For me, throughout the season, I figured out what I needed to do. I didn’t run races because I wanted to run fast. I ran races to figure out how I needed to run the corner, my technique I needed to fix. If you followed me through my career, I didn’t run a lot throughout the season. I trained. I ran and competed, figured out what I needed to improve, then did that [repeated that process] over again. That’s what I did to perfect my race [for the championships].

OlympicTalk: Have you spoken to Noah at all this summer or fall?

Bolt: No, I’ve never had a conversation with him.

OlympicTalk: Noah wants to do the 100m-200m double next year. You’ve also got Christian Coleman, Justin Gatlin, Yohan Blake. Who is your pick to win the Olympic 100m?

Bolt: I don’t see anybody actually beating Coleman. I think he’s only going to get better. For me, competing with him [in 2017, when Coleman took silver and Bolt bronze at worlds], his start is ridiculous. If he improves the last part of his race, he’s going to be, probably, unstoppable. I don’t see anybody beating him. I also have to say respect to Gatlin, the fact that he medaled at the championship [silver in the 100m in Doha behind Coleman after squeaking into the eight-man final]. I told my people, listen, I’m sure Coleman is going to win, but Gatlin is going to be in the top three no doubt because when he comes to a championship, no matter how much you feel like he’s not going to do well, he shows up. That’s just the mind of a champion. Competing with him throughout the years, I figured that out. That’s why I respect him. I gave him respect at the end [of my career in 2017]. I said, you know, you’re a true champion. I really enjoyed my last five years of my career competing with him.

OlympicTalk: If you could do it over again, would you have raced in 2017?

Bolt: Definitely. Doing it was for the fans. When I went to my doctor [former German national soccer team doctor Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt] before I went to the [world] championship, my doctor told me not to do it. He said, if you go to the championships, most likely you’re going to get injured because you’re not fit. I feel like you’re not ready to compete at this level. But I was like, you know what, I told everybody I was going to come out and compete. It was important for me to do it for the fans because they made me who I am, and I promised I would do it one more year.

Editor’s Note: Bolt was defeated in his last two career races, taking bronze in the 100m at the 2017 Worlds and tumbling to the track with a hamstring tear in the 4x100m relay final.

OlympicTalk: How far before worlds was that doctor’s visit?

Bolt: Two weeks. Every year before championships, I get a check-up.

OlympicTalk: Were you with him at Oktoberfest in Munich this year?

Bolt: Yeah.

OlympicTalk: I see videos and pictures of you at Oktoberfest every year. What was the beginning of you going to Oktoberfest, singing Queen and Kings of Leon in the beer hall every year?

Bolt: Every year I went to see the doctor, he would say, you should come to Oktoberfest. I would never go. But one year he finally convinced me. It was nice. Laughing, good food. Then they always try to bring me up on stage. The crowd is loud. The energy. That’s me. I love stuff like that.

OlympicTalk: What’s next for you in 2020?

Bolt: I told my agent I want to travel to all the meets. I want to know the athletes who are going to compete because, this year, I really didn’t know a lot about what was going on. I knew about Lyles and Gatlin, but I didn’t know much about the rest of the field. Next year, I want to go to meets, see the athletes, see who’s doing well. When I get to the Olympics, I can actually say, they’re looking good.

OlympicTalk: What will you do at the Olympics next year? Attend as a fan? Sponsor functions? Commentary?

Bolt: I definitely will be doing sponsor stuff. Eurosport has asked me [about broadcast work]. I’m not sure. I’m thinking about it.

OlympicTalk: And these meets you want to go to next season. We’re talking Diamond League meets around the world?

Bolt: Yeah. I’ll probably pick four or five, just to watch. I just want to see what’s going on, stay on top of things and know the athletes.

OlympicTalk: Did watching the world championships give you any itch to think, I wish I was out there?

Bolt: I missed it [competing]. Especially watching the guys from Jamaica not really doing that well. But I don’t want to. The training, that’s what I don’t want to do.

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Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Dafne Schippers out of world championships 200m

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Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the freshly crowned world 100m champion, and Dafne Schippers, the two-time reigning world 200m champion, both withdrew before the 200m that began with heats at the world championships in Doha on Monday.

Neither absence was a surprise.

The Jamaican Fraser-Pryce withdrew after storming to her fourth world 100m title on Sunday night. A turnaround to start the 200m the following day is a tough ask. Men’s 100m champ Christian Coleman similarly withdrew before the men’s 200m heats on Sunday.

The Dutchwoman Schippers reached Sunday’s 100m final but did not contest it, suffering an adductor problem in the earlier semifinals, according to the IAAF.

While Fraser-Pryce and Schippers combined to win the last three world titles at 200m, they rank Nos. 7 and 13 in the world this year in the event. The 200m also lacks 2017 World silver medalist Marie-Josee Ta Lou of Cote d’Ivoire and the fastest woman in the world this year, Bahamian Shaunae Miller-Uibo, who is only doing the 400m at worlds because of the schedule.

The favorites in the 200m (the final is Wednesday) are Brit Dina Asher-Smith and Jamaican Olympic champion Elaine Thompson. The top-ranked American this year is Anglerne Annelus, who is seeded fourth.

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