Lightning strikes

Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt proved a class apart from every other sprinter at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, winning three gold medals (100-metre, 200m and 4x100m relay) and setting three world records.

Olympic sprint king Usain Bolt talks to about how his life has changed since Beijing, his feelings toward IOC president Jacques Rogge and how fast he thinks he can go

Usain Bolt of Jamaica reacts after winning the men's 100-metre final in world record time of 9.69 seconds at the 2008 Beijing Olympics on Aug. 16. ((Anja Niedringhaus/Associated Press))

Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt proved a class apart from every other sprinter at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, winning three gold medals (100-metre, 200m and 4x100m relay) and setting three world records. To most observers — outside the United States at least — he was the outstanding athlete of the Games. 

Still only 21 years of age, "Lighting Bolt" has captured the hearts of sports fans across the planet not just for the fast times he has recorded but for the manner in which he celebrated his victories — with the unbridled excitement of a young man. Canada's Donovan Bailey was among the former Olympic 100m champions in the National Stadium that night and even he was astounded by the ease with which Bolt dispensed of his opponents.

Despite a moratorium on media interview requests Bolt consented to an e-mail interview with while celebrating the Christmas holidays with his friends and family in Trelawny, Jamaica. How has life changed for you since the Beijing Olympic Games?

Bolt: I get recognized a lot more wherever I go and have been invited to more events but life has been good — I can recommend it. You told me before the Olympics that it was the coach's decision whether you would race in the 100m in addition to the 200m.  What were the circumstances under which he finally gave you the nod? Where were you? When was it?

Bolt: Coach Mills wanted to make sure that I was in good enough shape to win both races.  He saw that my training and races were going well and this gave him confidence that I could take on both races. I don't remember the exact moment when he said that I could do both — it kind of developed over the summer. Have you had time to celebrate your triple gold medal performance? How did you celebrate and with whom?

Bolt: I had a lot of celebrations when I returned home to Jamaica.  I celebrated with my friends, fellow athletes and the whole country. There was a tour of Jamaica with most of the athletes and I had a concert in my hometown. IOC President Jacques Rogge was rather uncomplimentary about your post-race celebrations on the Beijing track. Did you think you were overenthusiastic? Were you upset with Rogge's comments?

Bolt: Well, 99 per cent of the comments were positive about my celebrations. I won the Olympic 100-m title so I was happy. I was the first Jamaican to win this so it was a big achievement. You have earned awards as the 2008 Athlete of the Year all over the world, but most American media outlets are giving Michael Phelps this honour. Do you feel slighted by the American media? Does it bother you at all?

Bolt: I am happy with all the awards that I have won and will train hard to try to win more in the future. If you never raced again you have your place in history. What will motivate you in 2009 and onwards?

Bolt: I would like to win the IAAF World Track and Field Championships in Berlin this summer. I got the silver the last time in Osaka so it would be nice to get gold in 2009. How fast can you ultimately run the 100m?

Bolt: I don't know.  My coach was quoted as saying 9.5 something but we will have to wait and see. Your manager, Ricky Simms, told me just prior to the Olympic 200-m final, that it was going to be impossible for you to break the world record in that event because you had run so many races, yet, you ran 19.30 seconds (beating Michael Johnson's record by two-100ths of a second). What could you do in the 200m given ideal conditions?

Bolt: Conditions in Beijing were very good — a fast track, good weather and great atmosphere. I decided to give it my all and see what I could do and it worked. I cannot predict how fast I can go in the future. What other goals have you and coach Mills got to keep you motivated?

Bolt: I would like to continue to run at this level for many years to come. Is there anyone out there who could offer you a challenge over 100m?

Bolt: I respect all my opponents — they will all be training extra hard to beat me in 2009. Asafa (Powell) and Tyson (Gay) both had injuries in 2008 and I expect them to be coming out strong in 2009. Do you have any plans to beat Michael Johnson's world 400-m record (43.12 seconds) and become the only man to hold world records at 100, 200 and 400 at the same time?

Bolt: I may try a 400-m race in 2010 as there is no World Championships or Olympic Games that year.  A lot of people are asking me about the 400m. Do you see yourself ever living outside Jamaica? If so where would you like to live?

Bolt: I will always live in Jamaica. When can Canadian track fans look forward to seeing you perform in Canada?

Bolt: There are a lot of Jamaicans living in Canada and I hope to race there soon. My manager and coach work out my race program so they will let me know.