Usain Lightning Bolt

He is a 200m specialist, but he now holds the 100m world record. Laura Dowrich-Phillips talks to Jamaican sprint sensation Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt in the men`s 200m race at the London Grand Prix 2007. Photograph by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt shocked the world of track and field in May when he clocked the second fastest time in history in the 100m event at the Jamaica International Invitational. His time of 9.76 was just 0.02 seconds slower than the fastest time of 9.74, which his compatriot Asafa Powell posted in Italy last year.

The fact that the 200m is really Bolt’s pet event and he holds records in that area, including the Jamaica national record, made his feat even more amazing. It also threw a spanner into the much-hyped Olympic showdown between Powell and his nemesis, the American Tyson Gay. Should Bolt decide to run in the 100m at the Olympics, the race would become a spectacular three-way affair.

Standing at six foot five inches and weighing 190 pounds, Bolt, 21, won one gold for the 200m and two silver medals for the relays at the 2002 World Junior Championships, Jamaica, when he was 15. He won another gold medal at the World Youth Championships, running the 200m in 20.40 seconds.

In 2004 Bolt broke Lorenzo Daniel’s world junior 200m record to become the first junior to break the 20-second barrier, running 19.93 seconds.

At the 2007 Jamaican Championships, Bolt ran 19.75, breaking the 36-year-old national record held by his countryman Don Quarrie by 11 hundredths of a second. At the World Championships in Osaka, he won a silver medal in the 200m behind Gay.

Still basking in the acclaim, Bolt took some time to chat briefly with Laura Dowrich-Phillips about his record run and his game plan for the Olympics in Beijing, China.

I started playing cricket as an all-rounder, and one day my coach decided I should try track and field. I was 10. I tried it and liked it.

In his own words

I didn’t set out to break records, but actually when you just start you always want to win. At the professional level you begin to understand the game better.

My main goal in the 200m was to run at 19.6. In the 100m I ran at the Jamaica Invitational I didn’t think I would run 9.7, but I thought maybe 9.85. I was a little nervous before the race: I was thinking, “Just go out there and execute.” I knew it was going to be fast, at first I said 9.8—but then I felt the wind.

I haven’t done a lot of training yet; I still have a lot of work to do. I am not really worried about breaking Asafa’s record. I am just trying to stay focused and do my best.

My goal for the Olympics is to run 19.6 in the 200m; I definitely want to be a gold medallist at the Olympics, but the 200m is my preferred race.

My favourite runner would have to be Don Quarrie, a Jamaican star; I think he is the best runner ever. I admire him.

I don’t know why Jamaica produces such good runners. Some people say it’s all about the slaves and all that, slavery has something to do with it.