Usain Bolt would have made Muhammad Ali proud as he vowed the star-struck audience here Tuesday with one-liners and a bit of justifiable arrogance laced with humour, reminiscent of the boxing great during his salad days decades ago.
In city on one-day sponsor commitment trip, Bolt devoted a little over 30 minutes fielding questions from local athletes, the twitterati and the media during a session that also showcased the Jamaican’s penchant for showmanship besides his obvious bias for the 200 metres sprint rather than 100, disciplines in which he holds the world records of 19.19 seconds and 9.58 secs respectively.
When asked about the possibility of him further lowering the 100m record, Bolt was quick to say that he was eyeing a sub-19 run in the 200 and if he improves his half-lap sprint then it would also help him do the 100 faster.
“I think there is room for improvement in the 200. It is very technical, but possible. I have always wanted to run sub-19. If I keep chasing the 200 record, am sure, it will help me in the 100,” said the 28-year old Bolt who also holds the 4×100 world record of 38.64 along with compatriots Yohan Blake, Michael Frater and Nesta Carter.
Bolt was quite firm in saying that his world record in 100 metres was “pretty much out of reach”, but there were quite a few runners who could challenge him if not beat him.
“Track and field is a weird sport. It’s all about focus and mental capacity. It’s hard to pick any one person, but my coach thinks Justin Gatlin is good. Then there are Tyson Gay and Yohan Blake…so many guys are coming up. But I am not going to let anybody beat me!” thundered a confident Bolt.
While on the subject, Bolt pointed out that he had worked hard to be where he is and that his rivals will have to do much the same to match him.
“As an athlete, I have seen records come and go. They have always been broken, but if you want to be as great as me, you have to work very hard. That’s why my records will stand the time,” said the six-footer Jamaican without bothering to couch his words in modesty.
In a lighter vein, Bolt, who also follows cricket keenly, opined that South African star AB de Villiers was the fastest cricketer over 100 metres and fellow-Jamaican Chris Gayle was probably the slowest.
Reflecting on a question about his future and specifically the 2016 Rio Olympics, Bolt minced no words in saying he would probably quit athletics “a season after Rio” when he will be 31.
Looking back, Bolt said he chose athletics over cricket on his father’s insistence when he was still in school.
“My father is a huge cricket fan, but when I got to higher secondary, I had two options – cricket or athletics. My dad said because of the system in Jamaica, it would be better to take up athletics. He said, you just have to run fast in athletics to get into the National team while it was tougher to get into the national cricket team. So blame it on my dad,” said Bolt amidst laughter.
Bolt also spoke at length about his other passion, the Usain Bolt Foundation for which he devotes considerable amount of his time and energy and he hoped that his efforts would make a difference to the lives of children.
“The Foundation is about creating opportunities for children through education and cultural development for a positive change.
“We provide the kids equipment, books and such, so that they too can chase their dreams,” said Bolt who is also involved with the Samsung Cup football tournament for school children in Jamaica.