|Usain Bolt in Bangalore.
Bangalore, Sept. 2: Sharp, modest, witty. And, with six Olympic golds and eight in the world championships, the champion of champions.
There’s no better way to describe Usain Bolt, the holder of multiple world records, fastest man on earth and a massively envied brand ambassador of Puma.
After a general media conference this afternoon, Bolt had one-on-ones with select newspapers (including The Telegraph) and a few TV networks.
This reporter’s interaction with Bolt took place at the ITC Gardenia, which hosted him on his whirlwind trip to India.
Bolt was to check out late at night, some 24 hours after arriving from Hong Kong.
TT: You draw thousands to the stadiums. Do you see yourself as an icon who is actually bigger than the sport?
Bolt: (Grins) You can’t ever be bigger than the sport which has made you what you are. Never.... In fact, I’m trying to promote athletics, make it bigger. That’s why I keep travelling across the world. I want the sport to grow. So, I’ve run on the streets, run at an indoor football stadium. Hopefully, more and more youngsters are getting interested. To draw more is my aim.
TT: How do you handle the pressure of enormous expectations?
Bolt: I want to do well, to be great. I don’t think of pressure. I just want to be the best and set high standards... raise the bar. That done, I try and match those standards. By nature, I’m a very competitive person.
TT: Everybody isn’t Usain Bolt. So, what’s the best way to handle pressure?
Bolt: Different people have different ways of handling it. As I’ve told you, I don’t think of pressure. For me, it’s never ever there.... I know my fans want me to win, but that’s my own goal too. I myself want to be great, so where’s the pressure then?
TT: What goes into the making of a successful sportsman?
Bolt: Performance and personality. Fans love performances, but they also love personalities. Over the years, people have come to love the person I am.... Somebody with drive, somebody with clear goals. Initially, the effort is all physical, but later it’s 50-50.
TT: Should success be measured only by way of records and medals?
Bolt: Where I’m concerned, it’s about breaking records and winning championships. How many championships can I win? For how long can I hold on to a record? Till when do I keep raising the bar? Critical questions.
TT: Message to youngsters...
Bolt: Look to better yourself.
TT: For all your achievements, do you still envy somebody?
Bolt: Envy? Aah... no.... I look up to people, but I certainly don’t envy them. Different sports have different challenges, so anybody who gets to the top does so after putting in a lot of hard work. That’s to be appreciated, not envied. It’s hard to keep travelling, yet I do that. Others put in the effort as well. Look at the leading performers, who sing in one country one day and in another continent after a few days. There’s a lot which goes into reaching the pinnacle.
TT: Fame has changed your life. Do you miss doing some of the simple things you used to before becoming such a talismanic figure?
Bolt: Definitely.... I miss going out to chill when I want to... miss not being able to party when I want to. I’ve had to make sacrifices owing to race commitments and the training routine. You can’t always be your normal self.
TT: You must be very disappointed with athletes who get into doping and, thereby, hurt the image of sport...
Bolt: It bothers me, yes.... I’m one of those trying to make athletics more popular, but you have instances of (doping).... I mean, I work so hard, yet there are others who cheat and set the sport back. It’s hard to deal with such situations. Over the years, one has been trying to explain things and harsher bans are in place, but... I’d like sport to be clean.
TT: It’s great that you aren’t quitting immediately after the 2016 Rio Olympics...
Bolt: Yeah.... I’ll run for a season more. My fans want that, my sponsors want that. But a season more, that’s it.
TT: The last one.... Are there days when you don’t feel like training, when you don’t want to push yourself?
Bolt: (Laughs) All the time! Seriously, one feels that way after a particularly hard day... I’m human and do get tired.... There are days when I don’t want to go for training. Indeed, there are times when you want to quit and just chill.