Journalist and author since 1981
Not surprisingly, Usain Bolt didn’t have too much time for me when we met recently in New York. The six-time Olympic champion, eleven-time world champion and triple world-record-holder took a break from his training in Jamaica especially for the opening of the Hublot boutique on swanky Fifth Avenue. Despite his hectic schedule, I was still able to get hold of the star for some very quick questions. Needless to say, time was at the centre of a conversation with the fastest sprinter on the planet, a man who has contributed to the creation of special-edition Big Bang chronographs.
Mr Bolt, let’s talk very briefly about time. You hold the world record for the 100 metres – 9.58 seconds – and hope to run the 200 metres in under 19 seconds. In both cases, fractions of a second are vital. So how important is time to you?
USAIN BOLT: It’s immensely important in all of life’s situations. But in sport it is the fraction of a second that can make all the difference between winning and losing. Time really is everything.
How hard will you have to work and what will you have to give if you want to run the 100 metres in 9.57 seconds?
It’s immensely difficult. If you’ve reached the top and still want to improve, you have to work extremely hard. That hundredth of a second is dependent on so many circumstances that are very hard to influence. It’s extremely heavy-going and hard work.
What’s more important to you achieving your goals: the physical or mental side of things?
Both are important at the end of the day. The mental side is extremely tough and the physical side is just difficult and strenuous. It means training and then more training till you drop. But when push comes to shove, your state of mind and strength of will do play a decisive role in you digging out that final hundredth.
How do you deal with being the fastest man on the planet, but knowing that one day you’ll be overtaken by somebody else?
I think that’s normal and the sort of thing you always have to deal with in sport. It goes with the territory. Eventually I’ll retire and someone will come along who’ll run the 100 metres quicker than me and take the world record. But no-one can take the medals I won at the Olympics and other championships away from me, and that’s far more important. Gold medals are wonderful, which doesn’t mean I’m saying world records aren’t.
Will you do the triple this year in Rio?
Yes, of course. That goes without saying.
But you had some problems at the start of the year…
I was suffering from an ankle problem, but I’m over that now and slowly but surely I’m making up for the training I missed. I’m pretty much back to my best and I’ll put my performance to the test in my first race at the Cayman Invitational on May 16. The same goes for the races after that, which includes races in Kingston, Jamaica.
But after the Olympics you’re done…
As far as the Olympics are concerned, definitely. Everything else remains to be seen.
Do you think you’ll cement your place as a sporting legend if you defend the title a second time?
I’ve got nothing against the idea!
Where do you see yourself ranking against other sports stars?
If I really can pull off the triple triple in Rio, then I’d rank myself alongside legends such as Michael Jordan and the boxer Muhammad Ali.
We’ve spoken about time, and time and watches go together. How important are watches to you?
As important as time itself. The two are inseparable. That’s why I’m so happy to be in this partnership with Hublot.
How did you react when Jean-Claude Biver came to you and asked you to be a brand ambassador?
I was delighted and honoured at the same time that a brand as venerable as Hublot was interested in me. That’s why I hope I can meet the expectations Hublot has of me as an ambassador.
You are also a role model. Children mean a great deal to you. I’ve seen that multiple times already.
I grew up in a very family-oriented environment. Children were central to that. That’s why children are also the focus of my foundation. Children are so precious. They’re our future.