Usain Bolt: The Bolt show runs on

Friday's 'slow' 100m has done nothing to dent Jamaican's supreme confidence he will triumph in London

Rome

Usain Bolt has seen it all before: the madness of the media circus whenever he hits town, any town. The world's fastest man had three bodyguards in tow as he attempted to make his way into the press conference room in the basement of the Villa Pamphili Hotel in the western suburbs of the Eternal City yesterday. He needed them to clear a path through the paparazzi scrum.

For half an hour Bolt sat in the starting blocks of his seat on the stage. He did so in a state of semi-boredom, answering the same old questions, amusing himself by pulling faces and listening to the mass click of the cameras his every movement instantly caused. In the midst of it all, however, came one query that had the Lightning Bolt in a laughing fit.

He was asked what he thought about the American sprinter Justin Gatlin saying in Doha the other week that the world was getting bored with "the Bolt Show", that it was time for someone else to take the limelight. "I don't want to sound rude," Bolt replied, after regaining his composure, "but I think Gatlin's had his chance. To say, 'Get ready for the Gatlin Show' is funny.

"There are a lot of other athletes. You can't count out Tyson Gay, and Yohan Blake is back, so I think he has a few guys to get past before he should be worried about me."

As to the question of whether Bolt himself should have cause to be a worried man – ahead of his first Diamond League appearance of the summer, in the 100m at the Golden Gala meeting in Rome's Stadio Olimpico tomorrow – the Jamaican did not even bother to give a shrug of the shoulders.

Sure, by his own freakish 9.58sec world-record standards, his failure to break 10 seconds in the Golden Spike meeting at Ostrava in the Czech Republic last Friday evening had to be rated as a poor showing. But was it cause for concern two months out from the defence of his Olympic 100m and 200m crowns in London?

"I never stress over things like this," Bolt said, laughing again. "I've gone through so much, so many things that even if I lose every race up to the Olympics it doesn't matter because I know that I have one focus – and that is just to go to the Olympics and do great things.

"I'm confident that myself and my coach can put together a programme to be a champion. I will focus on that. My coach is the greatest coach ever and knows exactly what to do to get me to the top. I'm not worried.

"You have to enjoy your job and I enjoy my job. I'm always going to be the same. I'm always relaxed. I don't change that just because it is an Olympic year."

Evidently not. Lest it be forgotten, Bolt was not beaten in Ostrava. Indeed, no fellow sprinter has managed to get past him in any 100m or 200m race for 18 months now – since the August night in 2010 that he trailed home behind Gay, Gatlin's United States team-mate, in Stockholm, suffering from an injury that forced the curtailment of his season.

Bolt did, of course, get the better of himself in the World Championship 100m final in Daegu in August last year. He jumped the gun and was disqualified for a false start.

In Ostrava he did the opposite. He got stuck in his blocks and had to dig deep to catch Kim Collins, the veteran speed merchant from St Kitts, before salvaging victory in 10.04sec. It was Bolt's slowest ever 100m time outside of heats and semi-finals.

"It was just one of my bad races," the 25-year-old said. "I have to put that behind me and just move on. For me, it's not a worry. I have a lot more races to run.

"On that day my legs weren't feeling good and I wasn't feeling that energetic. Maybe it was lack of sleep or not enough food or something. I didn't have the energy I usually have so I've just been trying to get lots of sleep and eat properly.

"I'm training better than in Ostrava, so I seem to be on a better track. Technically wise, it wasn't that bad. It was just the first 45 to 50 metres, when my shoulders were coming up a bit, but not much more.

"Everybody has bad races. It's just one of those things in track and field. You can't win every race, and you can't come out and run fast every day. We are humans and we have off races and it's just one of those things.

"This is sport. It happens in basketball and baseball and it happens to athletes. I'm never worried because at the end of the day it's all about the championships.

"I've set high standards and people expect you to do certain things. I know I'll have bad races but I've got to stay focused on my goal."

The standards Bolt set at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 were 9.69sec for 100m and 19.30sec for 200m. He raised them – or rather lowered his times – to 9.58sec and 19.19sec at the World Championships in Berlin a year later.

Despite his relative lack of speed in Ostrava – where the unfavourable weather was another factor, as well as the travel-weariness – Bolt does top the 100m world rankings in London Olympic year. At the Jamaica Invitational meeting in Kingston on 5 May he clocked 9.82sec. The next fastest is Blake, the training partner who took his world 100m title after his disqualification in Daegu, with 9.84sec.

Then comes Gatlin, the American who has had more than one chance in the sport, having served two drugs bans. He won in Doha in 9.87sec, finishing 0.01sec ahead of Asafa Powell, who will be among Bolt's rivals in the Stadio Olimpico tomorrow night.

So what will be the Lightening Bolt's target on the Roman track where Ben Johnson blitzed to tainted victory in world record time at the 1987 World Championships? "I definitely want to win," he said, "but for me it's about the execution too, and getting my start right consistently. A fast time would be very nice too.

"Rome is definitely a fast track. Asafa has run 9.7sec here. People said I predicted I would run 9.7secs in Ostrava. What I said was I would like to run 9.7sec because I had just run 9.8sec in Jamaica. I never predict times."

Still, the chances are that when it comes to the Olympic 100m final in London on 5 August the digits on the trackside clock will be pretty low. It has not escaped Bolt's attention that the British athletes who took part in the test event in the 2012 Olympic Stadium earlier this month described the Mondo surface as a fast track.

"That's a good thing," he said. "I'm definitely looking forward to competing on that track. For the championships, I always turn up and I always run fast. I'm looking forward to doing my best there.

"People are looking for me to run 9.4sec but you can see I have bad days. As long as I am fit and I am ready, anything is possible."

Stats magic

8 Major golds won by Usain Bolt across 100m, 200m and the 4x100m relay – including three at the 2008 Olympics.

9.58s Bolt's world record time in the 100m, set in the final at the 2009 World Championship in Berlin.

19.19 Bolt's winning 200m time in Germany in 2009, breaking his own world record.

0.16 Seconds taken off the 100m world record by Bolt since he first broke it in 2008.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the world's leading suppliers and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Multiple Apprentices Required

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...

Sauce Recruitment: HR Manager

£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...

Ashdown Group: Interim HR Manager - 3 Month FTC - Henley-on-Thames

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee