Bolt still looks out for Kenyan cheetah he adopted in 2009
Jamaican sprint king Usain Bolt still looks out for the cheetah he adopted in his visit to Kenya in 2009 as he declared on Friday he is as curious as everyone to find out who will take the baton as the signature act in athletics when he retires from the sport next year.
Bolt who has won the triple-triple at the Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympics Games plans to end his storied career at the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London where he will focus only on the 100m and the 4x100m relay races.
Speaking ahead of the IAAF World Athletics Awards 2016 in Monte Carlo, Bolt afforded a playful grin when the fastest man in history was asked about the progress of the fastest cat he welcomed to his family and named it Lightening Bolt in 2009 in Nairobi.
“I still receive updates about his progress every time and he’s fine but I would not want to hang around him now,” the Jamaican joked.
Of course, the cat that he was pictured playing with as he posed for photos with it wrapped in a green towel to protect himself against the sharp claws was three months old at the time he went to adopt it having pledged to donate USD3000 (Ksh300,000) a year to protect the endangered species.
Pressed whether he would reconsider his retirement decision for a possible tilt at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Bolt who emphasised his dislike for the hard work it takes to be the best in the world was adamant.
“I discussed the issue of retirement with my coach and he told me when it comes to the time to retire, I should never come back since it does not go well. Track and field is difficult and when you put weight after retiring and come back again, you can never go back to the same,” the 11-time world champion stated.
On his preferred successor as the poster king of athletics when he takes his final bow, the playful Jamaican puffed his cheeks, looked sideways, held his head before breaking into a sigh and facing the international reporters surrounding him.
“I don’t know, I really don’t know. I’m looking forward to those who will come up, it’s hard, and I’m looking forward to see who will come up and take the baton,” Bolt offered.
He rates American sprinter and double Osaka 2007 world champion, Tyson Gay as the best competitor he has come across in his age of utter dominance before he was caught up in a dope cheating ban.
He credits losing to Gay in Japan as the biggest spark to what the planet was to witness as he won every available gold medal in 100m, 200m and 4x100m relays at the Olympics and Worlds save for the 2011 Worlds in Daegu, South Korea where he was disqualified in the shorter dash at the semi-finals.
“When I lost to Gay, I returned to my coach and asked him what I should do to be the best. He told me if you want to win, you must do more gym work to be stronger and put in more work,” he recounted.
“Tyson was one of the opponents I respected the most because he was the most determined competitor who pushed right through to the end. Running against him was great,” Bolt added.
For a man who has won it all and set world records in his chosen disciplines, Bolt admitted he would have taken the bar higher had he shown more focus as a teenager.
“When I was 14, I should have gotten more serious and focused when I was younger and could have done better. I know its a shock but it is true. When I began in Jamaica in 2000, I did not imagine we would have done what we have done,” Bolt added.
The sprint icon who is notoriously famous for detesting the punishing workload it takes to be a top athlete and prefers to party instead cited the 4x100m relay as his best event.
“Competing with my teammates definitely because its so much exciting because everyone, not one person puts in so much effort to win,” Bolt stressed.
He explained the reason why he had opted to focus on only 100m in his farewell season.
“The 200m is going to be hard, it requires a lot more work and my workload will be cut significantly since I will not be required to do so much in training. But who knows, if I’m fit anything is possible because when I run at my optimum best, I can push for more,” Bolt added hinting at a remote possibility of going for another triple in London.
His other career misgiving was not going under 19 seconds in 200m having stated he was ready to smash his mind-boggling 19.19 standard at the Rio 2016 Games in the summer.
“I cannot say its a regret, rather it is something I missed out on. When I came round the corner (in Rio), I told myself, yeah, I can do it but my legs, refused it but I really thought I could run under 19 seconds. My coach had told me to focus only on winning but it did not work out,” he detailed.
Bolt welcomed the reform process being driven by IAAF president Lord Sebatian Coe ahead of the Council vote on Saturday as he prepares to exit a sport that is reeling from a well publicised doping and corruption scandal.
“Seb Coe is trying to make track and field more credible and open and it helps to see someone trying to bring it back on the right track.”
And would Bolt be interested in following in Coe’s footsteps and one day lead the IAAF?
“No, that’s too much work, too much work,” he replied nodding his head side to side in disapproval, his disdain of being engaged in a demanding role all too evident.
For now, the world can only be left to wonder where the standards in the most compelling events in track and field would have been if the lanky Jamaican went at full pelt and added just a little more work into his routine.
Bolt was in the running to be crowned the IAAF World Male Athlete of the Year for the sixth time and he declared none of the accolades meant more than the other.
“It’s definitely a big deal because when you get honoured, it means the hard work you have put in is paying off. I know how hard every athlete works to be the best so winning it five or six times means a lot to me,” he added.
Bolt confirmed he would be interested in playing football and not any other sport despite offers from the American National Football League after retirement with plans to train with German Bundesliga giants, Borussia Dortmund already in place.
“The coach (Thomas Tuchel) knows about my plan and he offered me the chance to train with top players for a week and I agreed,” the English Premier League club Manchester United fan told.