Bolt promises more antics for his fans

August 25, 2011, 1:37 pm
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From Comcast SportsNet Thursday, August 25, 2011
DAEGU, South Korea (AP) -- Usain Bolt promises more antics and more amusement when the always entertaining sprinter takes the track at the world championships. As for more records, well, even the Jamaican sensation thinks that might be a bit of a stretch. Bolt isn't anywhere near his record-setting form of 2009, when he shattered his own marks in the 100 and 200 meters. Calling this his "comeback season," Bolt downplayed expectations at a Jamaican-themed event Thursday. He's contending with nagging injuries, which have hampered his training. Tip-top shape or not, Bolt has a clear path in the 100, especially with Asafa Powell withdrawing because of a lingering groin injury and American rival Tyson Gay already sidelined due to a surgically repaired hip. Once again, Bolt's only real competition may be against the clock, even if he doesn't think he can lower his time of 9.58 seconds set at the worlds in Berlin two years ago. "I don't think I'm in 9.5 shape," Bolt conceded. "But I definitely think I will be able to run fast." When hasn't he? It's all part of his plan to become a "legend" in the sprint game. Defend his title in Daegu, claim another next year at the London Olympics, and his place among the track greats will be etched. "A lot of people have their own goals. My goal is to become a legend," the 25-year-old Bolt said. "I'm working on it." Bolt certainly knows how to make a grand entrance. He was the guest of honor at a get-together Thursday, strolling in with reggae music blaring in the background. He did a little shuffle before lounging on a couch set in the center of an auditorium to answer questions from a moderator. "I've been working hard in training to get everything right for this one moment," said Bolt, who donned a hat with his initials "UB" interlocked. "I think I'm ready. I'm focused and going to take everybody seriously." But it's a watered-down field with all the injuries and no-shows because of doping issues. Powell had the best time in the world this season and was going to provide the biggest threat before suddenly pulling out, a move that even caught Bolt by surprise. "Asafa's out? That's the first I heard of it," Bolt said. Now, Bolt's top challenger just may be Richard Thompson of Trinidad and Tobago, whose best time came this season at 9.85 seconds. Bolt's top mark this year is 9.86. In a promotional appearance earlier in the day across town, Gay picked Bolt to win the 100. That's hardly going out on a limb. Still, Bolt appreciated the nod. "I guess he knows what he's talking about," Bolt said. "At the championships, I'm much more focused. I really want it really bad." Bolt has been contending with back issues, which forced him to shut down his season early in 2010. He's still attempting to round into the form that led to a sensational showing in Berlin, when he not only broke his world record in the 100 but also his mark in the 200 (19.19) as well. "I think people expect a lot from me," Bolt said. "Personally, I'm just focused on winning. The pressure is always there. Even before I won my first gold medal, it was always there." His way of coping with the stress is by clowning around. Like record-setting performances, his antics are almost expected at big meets. "That's just who I am. I like to have fun, like to make people laugh," Bolt said. "The fans like seeing me being me and trying to enjoy the championships as much as possible." But, for once, Bolt was rattled. So calm and cool on the track, he didn't know how to answer a question lobbed at him. Someone asked about his longtime girlfriend and when he was going to marry her. He squirmed and sank into the couch before quickly recovering. "Presently, I don't want to talk about personal life," he said as he tried to stifle a laugh. "It's all about business at this championships. Let's keep it business." Sitting in the back of the packed auditorium was former Olympic gold medalist Maurice Greene, intently listening to Bolt's every word. Greene said this kind of personality, this kind of talent, was exactly what track needed. "Anytime you can get the interest built up like this and have people come out and talk good things about the sport, it's great," Greene said. "He's very important. He's making a name for (track) right now. That's a good thing." Even as he dominates on the track, Bolt is already planning his next line of work -- football. If the Manchester United wanted him on the field for his speed, he would definitely go to the English Premier League. But that's for a later time, maybe when he's 28 and contemplating retirement, he said. Until then, Bolt's interested in only one thing: making his name stand out above track's greatest stars. "A lot of people have said that I'm a legend," Bolt said. "I don't look at it like that. But I'm working on it."