Sunday 25 September 2016

Usain Bolt limbers up for final Olympics with entertaining and bizarre media conference

Guy Aspin

Published 09/08/2016 | 08:42

2016 Rio Olympics - Athletics - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 08/08/2016. Usain Bolt dances samba at a press conference. REUTERS/Nacho Doce FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
2016 Rio Olympics - Athletics - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 08/08/2016. Usain Bolt dances samba at a press conference. REUTERS/Nacho Doce FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
2016 Rio Olympics - Athletics - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 08/08/2016. Usain Bolt dances samba at a press conference. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
2016 Rio Olympics - Athletics - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 08/08/2016. Usain Bolt dances samba at a press conference. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

Usain Bolt indulged a Norwegian free-style rapper and strutted his stuff alongside scantily-clad samba dancers as the biggest name in athletics geared up for his final Olympics in Rio.

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The Jamaican is aiming to complete the 'triple triple' of Olympic sprint titles in Brazil by retaining his 100, 200, and 4x100 metres relay crowns.

Having already taken a full set of golds home from Beijing in 2008 and London four years later, the world's fastest man is looking to bring his haul of Olympic titles to nine.

He declared after retaining his 100m and 200m crowns in London that he had become a "living legend". Doing so again would elevate him to an all new level of greatness.

But Bolt is almost as much an entertainer as a sprinter. "You've got to clap louder than that, that was weak," he said as he walked out.

As such his press conferences are never ordinary, but even by his standards this was something a bit special.

2016 Rio Olympics - Athletics - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 08/08/2016. Usain Bolt gives a press conference. REUTERS/Nacho Doce
2016 Rio Olympics - Athletics - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 08/08/2016. Usain Bolt gives a press conference. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

From a Norwegian radio journalist proclaiming his love for Bolt before rapping a song in his honour and then blowing him kisses, to the dancers who came on at the end to the sound of the thumping beats of samba drums for him to perform with, this was less media conference, more show.

No wonder organisers opted to stage it at the Cidade das Artes, the largest theatre in South America.

"I like to entertain, because that's what people come out and see," Bolt said. "I try to entertain and make it different. That's my personality."

Queues were building to get in more than two hours before it was due to start. And when it got under way there were fewer empty seats than at many of the events so far.

No one in athletics - and few in sport - draw crowds like Bolt and how to fill the void he will leave when he is gone is turning into one of track and field's biggest dilemmas.

Bolt knows his sport needs him now more than ever.

2016 Rio Olympics - Athletics - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 08/08/2016. Usain Bolt dances samba at a press conference. REUTERS/Nacho Doce TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
2016 Rio Olympics - Athletics - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 08/08/2016. Usain Bolt dances samba at a press conference. REUTERS/Nacho Doce TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

The build-up to the Games has been dominated by the Russian doping scandal, while the world number ones over 100m and 200m - Americans Justin Gatlin and LaShawn Merritt - have both served drug bans.

And he admitted he could not be totally sure all his rivals in Rio would be clean.

"In life nothing is guaranteed," the 29-year-old said when asked if he could be certain the sprint races would be drug-free.

"For me going out there I never worry about that. I just go out there and compete.

"I think we're going in the right direction, I must say. I think we're weeding out the bad ones. We have to go through a rough time before we get to the good times."

Bolt, who has stated his intention to retire following next year's World Championships in London, overcame a fitness scare to reach the Olympics after a hamstring strain forced him to pull out of the Jamaican trials.

He blew away any injury concerns on his last appearance, however, clocking 19.89 seconds over 200m in London and insisted he was in better condition this year than when he was at last year's World Championships in Beijing.

It was an ominous warning to his rivals - he still left China with three gold medals.

Not that his coach, Glen Mills, is letting him get carried away.

"He said after London, 'That's one of the worst races you've ever run. The corner was awful'. He just went on till I got depressed," Bolt said.

Bolt first takes to the striking blue track at the Olympic Stadium in the 100m heats on Saturday.

It is seven years now since Bolt ran his world records - 9.58 for 100m and 19.19 for 200m.

And it is the 200m mark he wants to break more than anything.

"I really want it, I really, really want that one. I've always wanted to run sub-19, so I'm really focused on that," he said.

"As a young kid you grow up looking forward to the big Games," he said.

"Championships are what matters. This is what I do, I enjoy doing it.

"I've got to prove myself over and over again."

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