The advent of super spikes in track and field have toppled down world records like a massive wrecking ball. And now the fastest man in history, Usain Bolt, feels like he could have given a faster time in them.
“Me and a friend were talking about this the other day,” Bolt answered after pondering for a moment “And I was like, ‘should I be upset?’ Because I know over the years everyone has tried to make spikes different and better but…” he added.
Although confident about the indestructibility of his world records, the legendary sprinter sounded uneasy while wondering about where the arms race in shoe technology will lead. “How can I argue if World Athletics decide that it’s legal? I can’t do anything about it. The rules are the rules. I don’t think I’ll be fully happy, but it’s just one of those things,” he was quoted as saying by The Guardian.
The super spikes feature a superlight, energy-returning foam and are said to be worth at least a tenth of a second over 100m. Bolt who currently holds a world record of 9.58 seconds in 100m and 19.19 seconds in 200m, feels he could have raced much faster in them. He is just not sure by how much.
“We have guessed and we have talked about it, but I don’t know for sure,” Bolt said. “But definitely much faster. Below 9.5 seconds for sure. Without a doubt,” he added.
“It’s something that we need to make the world aware of, what’s going on with racism,”
The International Olympic Committee (IOA) had specified that any show of protest at the field of play or the podium during Tokyo Olympics is strictly banned which sparked a lot of controversy. Last month, British athlete Adam Gemili pledged to take the knee at the podium, in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
When asked about Gemili’s decision, Usain Bolt had a clear response. “If you believe in something, then you should do it. It’s something that we need to make the world aware of, what’s going on with racism,” he answered. “I’ve seen it big in football now. If a track athlete decides to do it, they should be able to voice their opinion,” he added.
Regrets and Temptations of a Comeback
Usain Bolt had an undisputed dominance in track and field over the course of three Olympic Games. In his illustrious career, he clinched 8 Olympic golds and 11 World titles and yet the Jamaican legend has a small regret.
At the age of 16, Bolt had clocked 20.13 seconds in the 200m placing him on the 9th position in the world. However, after moving to Kingston and discovering Burger King and nightclubs, he didn’t always want to train. This resulted in him getting heat out in the Athens Olympics in 2004.
“In 2003 I was running faster than almost everybody,” he said “If I had run in the world championships that year I would have probably medalled. And if I’d continued on that road, I would have run 19 seconds earlier in my career, so for sure I could have won gold in Athens if I’d dedicated myself more,” he added.
He attributed his lack of dedication in his younger days to his early fame and lack of an experienced guidance from someone who had been in his shoes. “If I had run in the world championships that year I would have probably medalled. And if I’d continued on that road, I would have run 19 seconds earlier in my career, so for sure I could have won gold in Athens if I’d dedicated myself more,” he said.
The realization of his folly, now makes Bolt advice young athletes to not repeat his mistakes. “That’s why I try to talk to the younger athletes now and explain to them ‘get serious early man’. Because the possibilities are endless,” he said.
Usain Bolt had a second confession to make. That his fans all over the globe weren’t the only ones wanting him back on the track and he himself was twice tempted after retirement to make a comeback. “It was something I thought about in the first and second year after I retired,” he confessed “I even went to my coach. But he was like, ‘It’s going to be harder than before – coming back is not going to be a cakewalk.’,” he added.
Usain Bolt ended his career on a tumbling note after tearing his hamstring at the 2017 London World Championships. “When I look back I have no regrets. I did extremely well in my career. True, it didn’t end on the greatest note but the legacy I left is wonderful,” he answered.
Running in 800m
Usain Bolt fans may just get to see the legend in action again. The Jamaican is going to return to the track on 13th July to run in 800m in a promotion for the US firm CarMax. It is a distance he has never run professionally before.
The challenge which will be featured live on the sprinter’s Facebook page will check whether he completes two rounds of his hometrack in Kingston faster than a CarMax customer receiving a live online appraisal offer, a process that typically takes under two minutes. Although it is a light-hearted event, Bolt said that he is taking the challenge seriously.
“I train every day of the week. I still do a lot of cardio. And I’m on my Peleton too. Now I just need to sharpen up at the track and get my lung capacity up,” he said.
When the Guardian reporter noted that he looked in shape the reigning Olympic champion laughed. “I have tried to stay fit because my friends told me that when I retired I would get fat and I was like ‘no way’. So I can’t let myself go when they have bet me it will happen in the next six to eight years. For me, it’s a pride thing. I’m not going to let them win. I’m not going to give them the satisfaction,”
So how fast can the king of sprints complete a 800m? “My personal best is around 2:05, but when I put my spikes on I reckon I can take five seconds off,” he said. When asked the most popular question whether he could be tempted to race properly again given that he is only 34, the icon answered, “No, no, definitely not. This is just a challenge. Even now, I need something to challenge myself,“
“The women’s finals will be without a doubt more interesting,”
Usain Bolt has been without a doubt the showman of track and field. His name had been chanted and cheered for religiously throughout the stadiums in Beijing, London and Rio. His trailblazing speed stunned fans while his heroic aura never failed to make anyone smile.
But the Olympic champion acknowledged that Tokyo is going to be a whole different ball game. It will be a tough time for athletes trapped in the bubble and to compete in front of only a few fans. But Bolt believes the fast track and hot conditions will lead to marvelous performances. Naturally the sprint king is excited about his favorite events, the 100m and 200m, but he is particularly looking forward to women’s races.
“The women’s finals will be without a doubt more interesting,” he said. “That’s what I’m looking forward to the most. The women have really stepped up and they’ve led the way for a few years now,” he added. Bolt further noted how the Jamaican favourite and the fastest woman alive, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce changed her stride pattern to get faster. The current world record holder also thought British Dina Asher-Smith has also gotten a lot stronger since her 200m gold at the 2019 World Championships.
“Dina has already proven herself to be one of top athletes in the world,” Bolt said. “But she keeps pushing to be the best and to beat the best. You see she puts in the work. She has the dedication. If a conversation is happening about who is going to win Olympic gold, she’s a part of it,” he added.
But Usain Bolt has put his money on compatriot Fraser-Pryce to take home the 100m title. “Shelly‑Ann has the edge because of her experience, as long as she just doesn’t put too much pressure on herself. But Dina is her closest challenger,” he said.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Bolt had intended to go to Tokyo as a fan and watch as many sports as possible. Fencing was particularly on his bucket list. However, in an unavoidable change of plans he will be watching the Olympics at home in Kingston playing with his three children.
“That has made me think about coaching,”
Usain Bolt’s daughter Olympia Lightening Bolt turned one in May. In a surprising Father’s Day post this year, the legend announced that he had become father to twin boys, Thunder Bolt and Saint Leo Bolt. Bolt clarified that he would love for his children to do sports but a fourth child which would make for an unbeatable 4x400m mixed relay team won’t be happening.
When asked about the one thing parenthood had taught him, he had an instant reply, “patience“. Although his current attention is focused on his fledgling music career, this new lesson just might bring a good news for the track and field world. The legendary sprinter has hinted that he still has unfinished business left in the sport.
“In the past my biggest problem was being patient with athletes,” he said. “But when you have kids you have to be a lot more patient. That has made me think about coaching. I have sat with my coach and started picking his brain about different things – how he writes his programme and stuff like that – so you never know. Maybe in the future I will take on the challenge. Let’s see what happens,” he added.