Bolt admits it's been harder to smile
A year ago, I interviewed Usain Bolt before the World Championships in Daegu. He was at his strutting, confident best, telling anyone who cared to ask that he was ready to become a legend.
We all know what happened next. He false-started in the 100m and was disqualified, raising questions about his temperament. Then just last month he was beaten over 100m and 200m in the Jamaican trials by training partner and friend Yohan Blake, the man who inherited his world title in South Korea.
On top of all that, questions over Bolt's fitness have continued to dog his preparations for London 2012 as he attempts to defend the Olympic sprint titles he won in Beijing.
It is perhaps no surprise then that I found a slightly more humble Bolt when I interviewed him on Thursday evening, just a day before he was due to carry the Jamaican flag at the opening ceremony.
He admitted he was only "95% fit" despite reassurances from the Jamaican track and field doctor that he had overcome all his injury niggles and would be ready for the start of competition.
He revealed the last two years had been "really tough" and that he had found it hard to smile because he had so much on his mind.
And he said retaining the 100m in London would be the toughest challenge of his career.
"Over the past couple of seasons, I have been through a lot," he said. "Niggles and problems, sponsorship stuff... there are so many different things I have to do and keep focused. It's hard and every now and again I get a niggly injury. It plays with your mind."
I asked him if he was finding it harder to smile.
"It's been harder because I have been through so much," he replied. "It's been harder and harder because there is so much on my mind. I am more confident now. Things are coming together and I can hopefully smile a bit more."
The pressure on Bolt to deliver in London is immense. His face is everywhere on posters across the city. There were almost 300 journalists at the Jamaican team news conference on Thursday at Brick Lane. If the numbers had not been restricted, there would have been two or three times that.
He is quite the biggest draw in athletics, so any doubts over his form and fitness are bound to cast a shadow over London 2012. But the situation with Bolt and the emergence of Blake have made the 100m final on 5 August a proper contest rather than a coronation.
Bolt believes it could be the greatest race ever.
"I definitely think so," he said. "The field, if everyone is fit, will be world class. It will be an experience for people to remember. So people should really watch out."