Champion Of The Track: Usain Bolt
The first thing you notice about Usain Bolt is just how slow he is. He walks at a glacial pace, plodding in Jamaica’s midday sun like a knackered donkey. His every movement is sedated, unhurried, sluggish – from tying his shoelaces to eating a lunch of rice and peas.
Usain Bolt can run 100m in 9.58 seconds. That’s not just slightly ahead of the previous world record – it’s decades, centuries ahead, in terms of natural sporting evolution. Until Bolt, world records were generally toppled by a couple of milliseconds every few years; Bolt’s time is 16 milliseconds ahead of his nearest competitor. His 200m personal best of 19.19 is just as impressive – a staggering 13 hundredths of a second faster than the previous world record chalked up by Michael Johnson in 1996.
On the track, Bolt isn’t just quick, he’s super-human. No man should be able to run as fast as him. Whether you’re a fan of athletics or not, seeing him in his stride is an awesome experience – like watching a rocket launch into space, you know it shouldn’t be possible, and yet somehow, it is. His record-shattering pace has bagged him five World Championship golds so far, alongside the three Olympic gold medals from Beijing that he’ll doubtless be adding to in London this month.
But at 12:15 pm Jamaican time, outside the Bob Marley museum in Kingston, Jamaica, where FHM has come to meet the man behind the myth, Bolt moves at a standstill. Even the car that he arrives in shuffles along the street before it comes to a halt. When he edges out of his motor – fully equipped with blacked-out-windows and alloys – it’s hard to believe that this languid, listless 6’5 giant is the same man who smashed the 100m world record by such an enormous margin that he had time to start celebrating before even crossing the line.
Is it hard to take in all the success you’ve had?
It’s mind-blowing to think about it sometimes, but for me, it’s just a good thing that I was brought up as a grounded person. I was brought up by my parents to always enjoy what I do and to never let what you accomplish to get to your head; to just be the same person you always are.
You’ve earned a hell of a lot of money over the last few years. What do you spend it all on?
Cars. I buy a lot of cars.
Which is your favourite?
My Nissan GT Skyline. My new BMW M3 convertible. And my Shelby Mustang GT500 – that was the last one they tried to steal in Gone In 60 Seconds.
Aside from driving fast cars, what else do you get up to in your spare time?
Nothing! I watch TV, mainly basketball, football. I love football – I support Man U in the Premiership.
Could you have been a footballer yourself?
Yeah, I think I could. I played a lot of football and cricket when I was younger. I still play sometimes now, but I’m not allowed to play close to competition time.
If you had the chance, would you trade in running for being Man United’s star striker?
Yeah, I would for sure want to do that! After the Olympics though…
Are you any good at other sports?
I actually started off with cricket. I was a huge cricket fan as a boy and I was the opening fast bowler. It was the school cricket coach who discovered that I was so fast. It was a sports day, and he said to me ‘why don’t you try running?’ So I ran on sports day and I did well.
How long did it take before you realised you were a little bit special?
I think it was when I got to 15 and everybody said ‘you have a talent, and you can go far if you really work on it.’ That’s when people started pushing me, telling me I should continue and work hard.
How much of your success is down to raw talent, and how much is down to hard work?
I can’t say. The fact that I have a good time is just one thing, but I also train really hard, and the work pays off so. I guess it’s 50/50.
Over your career, you’ve achieved some incredible things. What’s been your best moment so far?
The biggest moment of my life has to be World Juniors in Jamaica [in 2002]. That’s what made me who I am. I think that’s because I did it in front of my home crowd.
Now that you’re a global superstar, do you still have the same friends from when you were a kid?
Yeah, a few of them from school, and a few running friends, we still hang out.
What sort of clothes do you wear to woo the ladies around you?
I always try to keep it simple. The t-shirts I wear are plain white tees. I’m a simple guy, I’m not extravagant. Unless it’s a big occasion; then I’ll try to look all flashy and stuff.
So what do you put on for a big celebratory night out?
I don’t really wear a lot of jewellery, but I like flashy clothes like Gucci. I like David Beckham’s style sense a lot.
Hopefully, you’ll be doing lots of celebrating after the Olympics. How fast do you really think you could run at London 2012?
I don’t know, hopefully, I can break my old record. I’m going to work on that and try and stay focused and just work hard.
If everything goes right, what’s the fastest you could do 100m in?
I don’t know, honestly. If everything goes right, 9.4 [seconds] is a good possibility.
Can you see your records getting beaten within your lifetime?
Well, hopefully not. They say great athletes come around every 10 years or so, so hopefully, the next great one won’t be a track and field one!
Jamaica has produced a lot of record-breaking sprinters. Why is that?
Running is just so big here. If you watch the youth events and you see the pride the kids put into winning, pushing themselves to do so well, it’s amazing. The coaches search for talent around the island, so that’s why all the talent keeps popping up because we actually search and people want to learn fast. Everyone’s running fast now, and more and more people keep popping up.
Where do you get the biggest rush from when you race? Crossing the line?
No, it’s before I start running. It’s something I really look forward to – when I get out there for the first time when the crowd sees me coming out when they announce my name.
Do you still get nervous?
Sometimes, it depends on the reception that I get. At the World Championships when I came out for the 200m there were lots of kids there and that was wonderful for me. That is a moment that I will always remember.
Does the crowd play a big part?
Yeah, definitely. I perform for the crowd. I don’t only want to go out there and run, I want to give the crowd as much love and I want them to enjoy it as much as possible.
What goes through your head as you’re waiting to start a race?
The majority of what you’re thinking is just to get the execution right at the start because that’s always my main problem. It’s the hardest bit but as long as I get the execution right, then I’m more comfortable.
What do you think about when you’re running?
I try and concentrate at the beginning and in the first half, but the second half just comes naturally.
You were criticised for celebrating before you crossed the line in the 100m in Beijing. Was that arrogance?
For me, that was just happiness. I was just happy that I made it to the finals. It was joyous.
Do you worry about injuries? One little slip and that could be the Olympics gone…
I think in life you’ve got to look at it as things happen when they’re going to happen. You can’t do anything about it. Certain things you can try to avoid, but if you’re going to twist your ankle, you’re going to twist your ankle. I could step down there and twist my ankle. So for me, I just try to live and try to enjoy my life.
What does the future hold for you after running?
I’d like to travel a lot.