Usain Bolt’s press conference ahead of his 100m outing at the IAAF Diamond League final in Brussels on Friday was inevitably a packed affair on Wednesday (4).
The 100m, which is not a Diamond League event in Brussels this year, will be almost a repeat of the IAAF World Championships last month with the USA’s silver medallist and 2013 Diamond Race winner Justin Gatlin, and the only man to beat Bolt in the event this year, and four other Moscow finalists on the start line.
Asked about why he chose the 100m over the 200m in Brussels, an event at which he was potentially still in contention for the Diamond Race and the USD$40,000 first prize, Bolt joked: “It is shorter!
“Initially, I was going to compete in the 200m, but I felt tired after the World Championships. You always have to be careful not to push it too much, because there is always a risk of getting injured.
“After all, the season has been long, but I’m feeling much better than I did in Zurich (where he won over the same distance in 9.90). I’ve always run fast here. The fans give me energy and there are a lot of people coming from all over Europe to see me race here.
“The track is fast and this is a place where I always want to come back, but it will be a hard race because everybody is in it.”
Asked about his plans for 2014, Bolt said that he will discuss the specifics with his support team in October after he has taken some time off, but he still shared some thoughts about next year.
“I will prepare for the next season very well. First, I encouraged my coach to turn it down a bit but he convinced me that that is a bad option. You need to continue working hard, reduce the risk to get injured and not having to pick it up from scratch.
“So in 2014 (with no global championship on the calendar) I will be racing like I did in any other season. The Commonwealth Games? I’ve never been there before but I’ll leave it up to my coach to decide on my competition programme.”
Bolt confirmed that he has already fixed a date for his retirement, and it was still a few years in the future despite struggling for motivation at the start of the year in the wake of his London 2012 Olympic Games feats.
“After the 2016 Olympics, that seems to be a good idea, retiring when I’m still on top of my career. But again, if I want to continue to dominate on the track I can’t afford an off season, that is a lesson that I have learned. This wasn’t a perfect season for me. I won but it was not in a ‘Usain Bolt fashion’.
“Now that I’m getting a bit older, I know that I have to stay injury free, maintain focus and act responsible.
"I couldn't find that goal, that drive to get going again at the start of the year," he admitted.
"I sat down and thought to myself: what do I really want? And what can I do in this sport some more? I've made up my mind that if I want to be among the greats of Ali, Pele and all these guys, I have to continue dominating until I retire. I'm really focused on getting every season correct, trying not to get injured, and just continue dominating so at the end of my career people will put me among the greats."
Bolt dismissed talk of running 400m seriously or competing in the Long Jump in the immediate future. “That talk is gone. In the early season the coach wants us to run one or two 400m races but that’s it.”
He also gave support to Belgian athletics in view of the plans to demolish the King Baudouin stadium and to build a new stadium, exclusively for football and with no athletics track.
“That is ridiculous, I was shocked hearing that. I’ve been here every season and the crowd in Brussels has always given me energy. This is one of the greatest athletics events in the world. You cannot throw this away. I enjoy football, I am a Manchester United fan, but track is my life.”
He also reflected on the possibility that he could improve his own World records further.
“The 100m World record is the hardest to break because it is more technical. In the 200m, if I can master the bend and stay injury free, there is room for improvement. As I said, I will prepare well to race as fast as possible in 2014, and with no championships on my mind I can concentrate on just trying to race as fast as I can.”
Ivo van Hendrix for the IAAF