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Bolt admits it's been harder to smile

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David Bond | 21:03 UK time, Thursday, 26 July 2012

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."


  • Comment number 1.

    I've just heard you on bbc news have you been nominated as the official "I TOLD YOU SO" reporter!

  • Comment number 2.

    Bolt has always been under the world's media 'microscope' after his super human victories in the last Olympics. He has become an actor in a 'Big Brother'-like series of worl athletics reality show. Mr Bond is just another cameraman for the show running his own commentaries, good ones I think. I also listen to the man whoe reports from Jamaica, who is good too, so is the guy from Beijing. What are they so good of? Capturing the minute details. A pity, the camera wasn't allowed to show when Bolt is asleep or in the restroom! So, these reports shall remain opinion pieces seen or using from different lenses. Please read beyond the BBC and compare, perhaps Timinhernerbay could be a David Bond wannabe!

  • Comment number 3.

    I think the 200m is where we will see something really special.

  • Comment number 4.

    Gay's injuries are a shame because Gay when at his peak, along with Blake and obviously Bolt, we'd be seeing the greatest 100 metres ever. Still looking forward to it and if anybody isn't, well sports not for them.

    Bolt's appearances this and last season [his consistency not his times] have cast a small doubt about what will happen come the final. With the medics saying one thing and Bolt another, now that is unusual for a sprinter. They are usually like boxers before a fight, outwardly full of confidence.

    If it was any normal sprinter we would have said the best was still to come from Bolt but I'm not so sure. Over 200 I agree with poster @3 and would say he had that one in the bag.

  • Comment number 5.

    you cant say he has the 200 in the bag though, coz last year Blake ran the second fastest time in history of 19.25, beating Johnsons old record. Could well happen that Bolt doesnt win an individual gold, coz everyone spectator-wise seems to massively under-rate Blake -cthis guy is one of the great sprinters of our time, and these olympics could propel him on the way to greatness

  • Comment number 6.

    Usain will deliver on the day. He's not being too overconfident because he knows what happened the last time he was, he just wants to get to the starting line in the final, then he'll let his feet do the talking, really looking forward to the 100m heats & final, it's what makes the Olympics and every sports fan should be watching...Come on Usain show the world what you are made of : )

  • Comment number 7.

    David bond auditioning for GQ with his photo here, black and white photo with a smouldering look....... Edgy.

  • Comment number 8.

    Of course David Bond!
    I too would find it hard to smile if I have to put up with stupid questions like what you and other journalists seemed to ask.
    the fact that Bolt had slight injuries and a very overworked sponsorship schedule and also too many promotional work , leaves less time to be focussed and train properly.
    The false start also make him human, what temperament has to do with reactive issue is beyond me.
    Judge him after the olympics and in the mean time write a meaningful story.... if you can!

  • Comment number 9.

    Bolt has been working towards this for the last 4 years. Trials mean nothing. He just wanted to qualify.

    Why play his hand before the games? Why break records before the olympics? That's not where the money is.

    The press keep trying to make this story when there is none. Bolt will win. The bookies are confident. Why aren't you?

  • Comment number 10.

    #7 Smouldering look? Looks more like Gary Neville to me!

  • Comment number 11.

    10. At 09:13 27th Jul 2012, WGhockerz wrote:
    #7 Smouldering look? Looks more like Gary Neville to me!
    HAHA Gary Neville and Alex Reid's love child possibly!

  • Comment number 12.

    @8. What a fantastic knowledge of sport you possess - you don't understand how his false start makes people question his temperament?

    And you seem to excuse him on the fact that he's too busy to train? He could always turn down the money earning promotional opportunities and press interviews... Bolt isn't smiling because he's let things slip. He is not World Champion and got beaten in both events at qualifying, something that should have been a formality.

    Bolt's answer to Mr Bond's incredibly valid question should have been, 'I'm not smiling because I'm serious about what I want to achieve in London 2012. If I do what I know I can, I can spend the rest of my life smiling.'

    My dearest hope is that Bolt becomes the greatest. I hope that after the Olympics we are looking at an athlete who has indelibly marked himself in to history.

    Your handle 'Datroothhurtzz' applies more to Bolt than Mr Bond.

    Looking forward to what happens next Sunday.

  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 14.

    I thought blogs were for peoples opinions? Can't really understand why my comment has been "referred"??

  • Comment number 15.

    I doubt that Bolt is in anything like the commanding form that he found in Beijing and in Germany. It may well be that Blake is currently the better runner and the person more likely to prevail in both the 100 and 200 metres. I agree with Bond; Bolt has appeared much more subdued than usual during recent interviews and I think he recognises that he could be beaten by the younger man. There is something effortless about Blake's running at present, while Bolt has seemed to really struggle. Neither should we write off the two Americans Gay and Gatlin. In any event the one hundred meters is very open and any of the runners mentioned could win it.

  • Comment number 16.

    As I wrote earlier it's Bolt's consistency and mental approach, that has to be questioned. I cannot recall a sprinter like him and I've watched athletics for over 50 years.

    Normally a sprinter hits form and remains in the zone for a period, even when they are beaten, they are still producing a performance level, somewhere near to their current form at the time. They are still capable of the the times that their condition allows.

    Bolt has gone from one extreme to the other, producing his slowest ever 100 and looking poor by his standards, even though he won he certainly wasn't easing or playing with the field. Within a matter of days, he produced the fastest 100 of the year and looked at ease with himself.

    The Jamaican trials, no doubt he was well and truly beaten in the 100, it wasn't Blake, it was the proximity of Powell that showed us what level he was at there. He did not look sharp, mentally. The 200 was different, he ran reasonably well and his defeat looked like it was due to his conditioning. That is why he should win the 200 in London. Of course he was not at his peak for either trial but there was a distinct difference in the two perfomances.

    For all the razzmataz Bolt's a great, great sprinter but we will find out, just how much the demand's of celebrity status have taken out of him, very soon.

  • Comment number 17.

    @12: How many false starts has he actually committed to make people 'question his temperament'? If you could tell me of any time you are aware of outside Daegu, I would be grateful.

    Also, without wanting to make excuses for him, people always seem to forget that Bolt is a 200m specialist; the 100m is just a distance he is very (very) good at.

  • Comment number 18.

    warwick0 @16

    Of course there is no defined age for a sprinter at his peak but Bolt's age, 25, should not be a barrier. I remember thinking 4 years ago, the best is yet to come, as it would be for any normal sprinter. But then again, what we saw in Beijing certainly wasn't normal.

    I agree with you Bolt's mental state appears to have changed dramatically from 4 years ago.

    An interview that i watched, Bolt was asked if he was to be beaten, who would he like to do it. Sprinters are like fighters defeat is never an issue before a contest but he answered the question and said Blake. Obviously being a training partner and friend he would say that but no champion I've seen would of answered the question, it simply would not be an option.

  • Comment number 19.

    If you miss 3 drug tests are you considered a drugs cheat?

  • Comment number 20.

    Aside from blatantly trying to provoke debate, what was this article supposed to achieve?


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