For Usain Bolt (in photo) all roads lead from Rome. Tomorrow night the world’s fastest man will begin his competitive preparations proper to reclaim the one crown he cannot currently perch on his head and they will take him from the Olympic Stadium in the Italian capital on a journey to another former home of the Games in Moscow two months down the line.
He will head for the world championships via a route to stretch the sat-nav, stopping off in Oslo, Ostrava, Kingston, Paris and London to run a mix of 100m, 200m and relays — tomorrow it’s the 100m — but the destination is very definitely Moscow. Bolt wants his world title back, the one he squandered so unexpectedly and shockingly when he leapt a moment too soon from his blocks two years ago in Daegu.
London is not the only city pondering a coronation at the moment. Rome is dotted with posters of Bolt dressed as a king, complete with large crown, a string of medals and, oddly, green trainers. He has brought his smile with him — this is a man who spreads smiles, yesterday joking and performing happily for the photographers in between questions. They love him here, they love him everywhere, but this Diamond League event has also become his serious starting point of choice for the new season and one in which for the last two years he has laid down a brisk marker. In 2012 here he ran 9.76sec, following a troubled opening to Olympic year. This year has begun similarly with injury niggles and an underwhelming run at a low key meet in the Cayman Islands where he failed to break 10 seconds. Post-Olympic malaise is a familiar diagnosis but Bolt is having none of it.
`I will treat it just like the Olympics because it is the world championships so I will be focussed, I will be ready,’ he insisted yesterday. `I am looking forward to the challenge. I strive on the challenges. Everybody has got to bring their A game to the [world] championships because running against the best for me is always a joy, to show the world I’m the best. And I always want to be the best.’ Winning back the world title is a major goal and offers an important focal point for that post-Olympic year when those who found success in London can struggle to shift focus forward, a problem that could affect a man who has six Olympic gold medals, the most coveted world record and the rest of his speedily acquired sporting bling hanging around his neck.
Bolt insists he has plenty to look forward to and there is no secret to be made of his ambition, what he wants, indeed expects, this year and the next and on to the Rio Games in 2016, which will be his last. I definitely have goals,’ he said. `I have accomplished all my dreams but I do have goals that I make myself. I have four more years in this sport so now it is about dominating for those four years. I am looking forward to the next Olympics to doing something that has never been done before. That is one of my biggest goals but for the next four years I want to dominate the sport, show people that it is possible to go year in, year out just being the best.’
Three more gold medals in Rio would take his total level with Carl Lewis and the flying Finn Paavo Nurmi. But more strikingly it would move the already unique double double he achieved in London, defending both his sprint titles, to an extraordinary level. the independent