Usain Bolt: Need For Speed

With Usain Bolt set to chase another world record this Sunday at the London 2012 Olympics, VIBE revisits our feature from the April/May 2011 issue.

Amid the specter of long-standing steroid scandals that continue to shake his sport, Usain Bolt is still smiling. VIBE catches up with the international superstar who carries just as many admirers as he does critics

You want in-your-face brashness with a mix of unadulterated greatness? Usain Bolt -- the only man in history to hold both the 100- and 200-meter world and Olympic titles simultaneously -- is your man. The 24-year-old sprinter more than beat the odds in turning a once-stagnant, injury-riddled career into record-breaking triumph. And now, at least in the heart and mind of Olympic track deity Michael Johnson, Bolt has cast himself in the position of “making people stop and rethink what humans are capable of.”

But on this chilly February afternoon, track’s reigning charismatic Superman in cleats is proving that he is indeed human after all. Bolt, who proudly reminds you many times during the interview that he was born and raised on the island of Jamaica, is not a fan of the biting German air swirling unmercifully around him. But a focused Bolt shakes off the natural elements, not to mention the hellish pings and pongs of his inhuman daily training regiment-knee skips, weighted lunges and squats, leg drives and ankle rollsŃto reflect on where he’s been and where he now sees himself going.

“I want to be iconic,” proclaims the Jamaican sprinter, whose 9.58-second flash run in the 100 easily puts him in violation of some small-town speed limits. “That’s my mind-set. It’s why I’m still in the game.”

Track and field, however, has been tainted by lingering cases of steroid abuse that have engulfed some of its biggest stars (Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery, Ben Johnson). It’s much like America’s pastime in that way. Such doubt has even managed to cast a cloud over Bolt’s own grandiose accomplishments. Fair or not, the universally touted “world’s fastest man” doesn’t evade the elephant in the room.

VIBE: You are the headliner of a sport that has long been tainted by allegations of cheating and steroids abuse. What’s it like to face that kind of suspicious scrutiny from fans and the media?

USAIN BOLT: For the fans, it sometimes can be hard to trust [us]. It’s like being in a relationship where one of the people involved has cheated. It takes time for things to get back to normal. My peace comes from knowing I’m clean and don’t have anything to worry about.

Track icon Carl Lewis publicly questioned your record-breaking time. He said, “To run 10.03 seconds one year and 9.69 the next, if you don’t question that in a sport with the reputation it has right now, you’re a fool.” Were you surprised at Lewis’ remark?

Yeah, I was, but part of me can understand where he was coming from. I know Carl Lewis cares about the sport and just wants to make sure things are being done the right way.

You weren’t upset with Lewis’ assertion that you were doping?

I’ve been taught not to worry about what other people have to say about you, especially when it’s different from the truth.

American track star Tyson Gay is considered by most to be your greatest adversary. Did your 100m loss to him last year intensify the rivalry?


Ah yeah, it does make things more heated and makes all the fans want to see us together again. I know I do. But going up against him doesn’t change anything for me. I’m always motivated. I use all my opponents as a tool for staying ready. But now I’m healthy again. Tyson and all the others best beware.

What made you choose your $32 million sponsorship deal with PUMA over bigger names like Nike and Adidas? Some say you may have been able to get more money from the bigger athletic shoe companies.

I’ve had a deal with PUMA since I was 15. They’ve stood by me since the beginning of time, even when I was getting hurt all the time and not performing as well as I was capable of.

Is it true that Bob Marley’s daughter Cedella is designing gear for your line of PUMA wear?

She’s working on uniforms for the entire Jamaican track team that we will wear in the 2012 Olympics. Bob Marley’s one of my all-time favs, so I’m looking forward to working with her on everything. It’s going to be inspirational to run in London with that energy surrounding me.

How does such a small country like Jamaica continue to be such a major international player in track and field?

Personally, I believe every country has a sport that it identifies with as sort of a national pastime. In Jamaica, for the longest, it was football and then cricket. But now it’s track and field. We’re producing more and more great athletes in that area because more kids are becoming involved. And they’re doing it at much earlier stages in life.

What music artists get you charged when you’re training or away from the track?

Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, Ludacris, Young Money and Nicki Minaj are all at the top of my playlist. Plus, I gotta have my video games.

Okay, we are going to put you on the spot. Beanie Man or Buju Banton?

Wow. Beanie’s my boy, someone I know very well. And Buju is like the biggest icon back home.

It looks like you have a future in politics.

[Laughs] Let’s just say I’m down with them both.

You’re an ambassador of tourism for Jamaica. What’s your hope for the residents?

It’s best for my people that I try and be the best ambassador for Jamaica that I can be. With increased tourism comes more jobs and more opportunities for everyone. Most of my family is still there, so the thought of that never leaves my mind.

It’s rumored that the Jamaican government has assigned two undercover officers to guard you full-time. Are you ever concerned about your own safety when you are back home?

When I’m stressed, this is the place I’ll go back to because this is where I feel most comfortable -- a place to chill, where they love you but know when to leave you alone. It’s a place I’ll always feel at home.

From the Web

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Kentucky Catholic School Faces Backlash After Students Berate Indigenous Peoples March Protesters

Representatives from Kentucky's Covington Catholic High School have confirmed plans to look into their student body after several of their students appeared in a viral video harassing and mocking protesters at an Indigenous Peoples March.

The viral video above spread around the web Saturday (Jan. 19) a day after the protest that took place in Washington, D.C. Teens in the video were rocking "Make America Great Again" to support President Donald Trump and the anti-abortion March for Life demonstration that was also taking place on Indigenous Peoples Day.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports  Laura Keener, the communications director with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington, released a statement about the video: "We are just now learning about this incident and regret it took place. We are looking into it."

In the video below, Indigenous elder Nathan Phillips of the Omaha tribe was reportedly performing a song meant to calm down the crowd when the large group of teens surrounded him, with one eye to eye as he and another elder chanted.

In tears, Phillips recalled the incident, calling for an apology and that the teens would "put that energy into making this country really great." The teens also got their messages mixed up when they also screamed "build that wall" toward him.

"I heard them saying 'build the wall, build that wall,'" he said.  "This is indigenous land. We’re not supposed to have walls here. Before anyone came here there were no walls, we never even had prisons. We always took care of our elders, we took care of our children. We taught them right from wrong."


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#ipmdc #ipmdc19 #indigenousunited #indigenouspeoplesmarch #indigenouspeoplesmarch2019

A post shared by KC🇬🇺🌴🌴 (@ka_ya11) on Jan 18, 2019 at 4:42pm PST

Speaking to The Enquirer Vincent Schilling shared how Phillips has been attacked in the past for standing up for indigenous peoples. Schilling, who is a member of the Mohawk tribe, said Phillips was pelted with trash just a few years ago by Eastern Michigan University students who hosted a Native American-themed party.

"As a Native American journalist, I find this to be one of the most egregious displays of naïve – I can’t even say naïve. It’s racism. It’s blatant racism," Schilling said.

"The guy has just been through a lot. To see Mr. Phillips treated this way is an incalculable amount of disrespect, and it's absolutely unacceptable in Native culture. As a Native man, I’ve got it countless times myself I’ve been mocked, I’ve been teased, my culture has been ridiculed. This is just another brick in the wall. I wanted so bad to walk up to those kids and say, 'You know this is a Vietnam veteran, right?'"

Director Ava DuVernay slammed the teens for their behavior as well as a number of indigenous social justice figures.

Thank you to @VinceSchilling of @IndianCountry and many others who identified the proud Native man who is being harassed. He is Mr. Nathan Phillips. I’m reposting this video from “ka_ya11” on IG. This man’s words pierce my heart. The grace. The wisdom. The hope.

— Ava DuVernay (@ava) January 19, 2019

Thank you for the kind shout-out @Ava

Nathan Phillips and I have shared in a sacred pipe ceremony to honor Native American veterans.

He is a Vietnam veteran, such behavior is terrible.

Again, thank you for your support.

— Vincent Schilling (@VinceSchilling) January 19, 2019

The teens in the video haven't been identified.

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Man Exonerated After Serving 45 Years Forced To Sell Prison Artwork For Money

A Detroit man who served 45 years behind bars for a crime that he didn’t commit, is forced to sell his personal collection of artwork that he made in prison. Richard Phillips, 72, doesn’t have steady income at the moment, and his lawyer is currently battling the state of Michigan to get him compensated for the wrongful conviction that stole his freedom.

"I don't have an income right now," said Phillips while showing off his paintings to Fox 2 Detroit. "This is my income."

In the early 1970s, Phillips was wrongfully convicted for the murder of Gregory Harris. He was sentenced to life in prison but always maintained his innocence. “I would rather died in prison than admit to a crime I didn’t do,” Philips said.

Phillips was convicted through an eyewitness account implicating him and a second man, Richard Palombo. In 2010, Palombo admitted that Phillips had no involvement in the murder and that he didn’t even know him. A new investigation was launched in 2014, nearly 20 years later Phillips appealed his murder conviction.

Last March, Wayne County Prosecutors Kym Worthy dropped all charges against Phillips, officially freeing him from prison. “There’s nothing that I can say to bring back 40 years of his life. The system failed him. There’s no question about it,” Worthy said at the time. “This is a true exoneration. Justice is indeed being done today, but there’s nothing that we can do ... to bring back those years of his life.”

Art played a big part in helping maintain his sanity through the sentence. Though he remained optimistic, Phillips admitted that he never truly believed he would be released. To pass the time, he began painting. He pulled inspiration from everywhere: his favorite artists, photos and even tapped into some of the loneliness that he felt in prison. "It was created in a harsh environment. But it goes to show you that beauty can come from something ugly."

Last year, Detroit's Demond Ricks was awarded $1 million for spending 25 years in prison on a wrongful conviction. As it stands, Phillips is the longest-serving wrongfully convicted former prisoner in U.S. history.

Phillips' artwork will be on display at Michigan's Ferndale's Level One gallery beginning Jan. 18.

See more on his artwork in the video below.

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Gladys Knight Defends Decision To Perform National Anthem At Super Bowl Amid Criticism

Glad Knight says she wants to “give the National Anthem back its voice.” The music legend released a new statement defending her decision to sing  the National Anthem at the Super Bowl in Atlanta, next month, amid criticism from fans.

Several artists turned down offers to perform at the Super Bowl in protest of the league’s treatment of Colin Kaepernick. Knight clarified that her choice to sing has nothing to do with Kaepernick, and she doesn't exactly agree with the anthem being "dragged into the debate."

"I understand that Mr. Kaepernick is protesting two things and they are police violence and injustice,” Knight said in a statement to Variety. “It is unfortunate that our National Anthem has been dragged into this debate when the distinctive senses of the National Anthem and fighting for justice should each stand alone.”

The 74-year-old singer also noted that she has been on the forefront of social justice issues for much of her career. "I am here today and on Sunday, Feb. 3 to give the Anthem back its voice, to stand for that historic choice of words,” Knight said. “The way it unites us when we hear it and to free it from the same prejudices and struggles I have fought long and hard for all my life, from walking back hallways, from marching with our social leaders, from using my voice for good.

"No matter who chooses to deflect with this narrative and continue to mix these two in the same message, it is not so and cannot be made so by anyone speaking it,” she continued. “I pray that this National Anthem will bring us all together in a way never before witnessed and we can move forward and untangle these truths which mean so much to all of us."

Knight isn’t alone in catching heat for joining the Super Bowl lineup. Travis Scott and Big Boi, both of whom will perform with Maroon 5 at halftime, received backlash as well.

Earlier in the week, reports surfaced claiming Scott had a meeting with Kaepernick that ended with “mutual respect” and “understanding.” Kaepernick’s girlfriend and Hot 97 DJ, Nessa Diab, denied the report tweeting, “There is NO mutual respect and there is NO understanding for anyone working against @Kaepernick7 PERIOD. #stoplying.”

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