Conversation with Usain Bolt
August 20, 2016
An official I know got me a track team suit from Japan and the necessary credentials, and I sauntered below the Olympic stadium in Rio and onto the practice track where I spotted Usain Bolt as he worked on starts a day before the four-hundred-meter relay final. I jogged over and said, “We’ve already run about thirty-seven and a half seconds for the four hundred and figure we can take you guys.”
“I’m impressed with Japan’s time but guarantee it won’t be good enough to compete with Jamaica when I run anchor.”
“Don’t get cocky. I’ll be running anchor for our team.”
“I wish you were. I doubt a white guy about sixty would be much competition.”
“Okay,” I said. “That’s really why I’m here. Can anyone give you much competition?”
“Not in the hundred or two hundred. I’m the greatest, just too big and fast for everyone else. In the hundred, the little guys usually get out ahead of me but by fifty meters I’m accelerating, running like they never have, while they’re fading. It’s worse for them in the two hundred because I run the turns so well and am almost always leading when we reach the straightaway where I have one or two more gears.”
“Almost everyone expected you to do what you’ve already zone, win your third straight gold medals in the hundred and two hundred. The relay’s going to be the same unless someone drops the baton.”
“That won’t happen,” Bolt says, pointing his right index finger at my nose.
“Yeah, it won’t. What people really wonder is this: what’s next for Usain Bolt?”
“Like I say, I plan to run in the world championship next year, though probably only in the hundred. I’m tired of all those training runs, especially for the two hundred, the intervals are tough.”
“Maybe you could run the four hundred.”
“Long as you run the marathon first.”
“Some of your coaches and friends tell you not to try to make a decision now about Tokyo in 2020. You love the spotlight and may want to come back.”
“Yeah, I love exciting people. I’m an entertainer.”
“What will you do without the affection?”
Bolt looks at me as if I’d belched. “I’ll never be without it. I’m the most famous man in Jamaica and the most popular. I’m famous all over the world, too. I don’t need to keep running forever. One more year. I’ll be thirty in a few days. My body’s slower to recover. And I’m not quite as fast. You don’t think I’m going to stick around till people start beating me, do you?”
“Will you coach?”
“Maybe, but probably not too much. I may spend more time on business.”
“How’s that been going?”
“Very well, indeed,” he said, crouching to launch his famed Thunderbolt, left index finger high in the sky and by his ribs the right finger, ready to fire.
Note: Jamaica won the four-hundred-meter relay as Usain Bolt turned on the jets to pull away from the Japanese anchor runner. Admittedly, I probably couldn’t have outrun Bolt, either.