Usain “Lightning” Bolt is not just brilliant on the track, he is just about as media-friendly as a superstar can be.
So last Tuesday, the day before the Cayman Invitational, he was in customary relaxed mood and fielding questions during a press conference at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort with panache.
When asked about the hordes of fellow Jamaicans expected to support him at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex the following night, Bolt joked: “I’ve really competed all over the world and seen a lot of Jamaicans everywhere!”
They say that anywhere you go in the world there is a community of Jamaicans and Nigerians. Bolt has probably met most of those Jamaicans in far-flung corners.
“I really appreciate the fact that they are there to support me and always want to put on a good show for them. I go out to do my best every time. Push myself to the limits, always.”
He won the Cayman Invitational in a photo-finish 10.09 seconds ahead of training partner Kemar Bailey-Cole, who was credited with the same time.
The 26-year-old champ gave meet director Cydonie Mothersill-Stephens credit for putting it all together.
He said: “I’ve known Cydonie now for a long time, way back. For me, initially, my coach (Glen Mills) came here last year and said they would like me to come to the meet. I said, ‘Sure, why not? I haven’t been to Cayman’.”
“Yohan Blake came here last year and had a fast time, so that looked good so I decided to come.”
Always aware that the next generation of sprinters will come through to challenge, Bolt was reminded that Japanese teenager Yoshihide Kiryu ran a 10.01 seconds 100m two weeks ago. Only 17, Kiryu looks destined to be a world beater.
There is always a new sprint sensation coming through the Jamaican junior ranks, too. He joked: “I try to intimidate them!”
Bolt will only run about seven more times before the world championships in Moscow at the end of August.
Even he loses focus at times and the 6-feet, 5-inch speedster credits the team around him for getting him back on track, literally. Nevertheless, there is an unstinting work ethic. “Keep working hard,” he said. “I know what it’s like to be a champion.
“I’m going to try to push the barriers because you never know, someone might come along who is as great as me. So I have to push the barriers to give them a challenge. I want to be a triple Olympic gold medallist again.”
One Cayman kid definitely inspired was 14-year-old Jamal Walton, who while winning the 400m by three seconds set a junior and men’s new mark of 48.07 seconds.
Local girls had plenty of role models, too, including Carmelita Jeter, the world’s fastest woman, who won the 100m and for middle-distance runners, Melissa Bishop of Canada, who won the 800m.
Bolt is especially keen to win the 100m world championships because two years ago he false started, was disqualified and Blake, another training partner and the No. 2 sprinter in the world, won it.
Cydonie said: “The Cayman Invitational is a huge accomplishment not just for myself but for the entire country. We’re not sure when we will get this opportunity again. I don’t know when we’ll get this chance again. I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to get better than this, but I’ll try my best.
“I’ve always said that the problem we have here is that we don’t dream big enough. I came from very humble beginnings and I want to emphasise that it is possible to dream and you can make certain changes in track and field.
“Dreaming is possible. We don’t have to limit ourselves because we come from such a small country.”
Humour aside, Bolt is aware of his huge influence on the youth.
“It is very important for me to be a role model for the youths. I remember when I was growing up, I used to look up to Michael Johnson, Herb McKenley and Don Quarrie.
“So for me to be a role model for these kids is a great honour. I always wanted to be an Olympic gold medallist and worked hard to do so. To sign a few autographs and take some pictures goes a long way with the kids and, for me, that is wonderful.”
Bolt does not foresee moving up to 400m and for the time being other sports which he excelled at as a kid are not on the agenda.
“I’ve moved away from playing cricket and I think I’m more into football now. Alex Ferguson (the out going Manchester United boss) said if I want to come and train the guys to get the experience I can.”
In the meantime, at the world champs, Bolt wants to beat his own 100m and 200m world records just to emphasise that he is still the world’s fastest man.