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?
PAGE 2: USAIN BOLT TALKS LIL WAYNE, JAMAICA'S DOMINANCE IN TRACK
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.