Colin Jackson would love to see the man voted by AW readers as the Greatest male athlete of the past 75 years sharing his athletics knowledge and insight with the world
While much of Usain Bolt’s time is currently being taken up by being a new dad to baby daughter Olympia, he has not been lost entirely to the sport of athletics.
His friend and former world sprint hurdles champion Colin Jackson hopes it stays that way.
The Jamaican sprint superstar retired after the world championships of 2017, ending a career which was laden with the sport’s major prizes and world records.
He does a lot of work via his Usain Bolt Foundation but, while potential roles have been mooted by World Athletics, nothing official has been put in place just yet in terms of playing a role in the sport’s future.
Bolt has been voted by AW readers as the Greatest male athlete of the last 75 years and Jackson believes the knowledge and skill of the eight-time Olympic champion must be tapped into.
Bolt can be found coaching Glen Mills’ group in Kingston but Jackson would also love to see the development of a more global role for him.
“He does go down the track to coach,” says the former 110m hurdles world record-holder. “He’s very much part of that. Sometimes people say it’s a bit distracting for them, as you can imagine, but they all know who he is down there so they don’t treat him as a god – he’s just Usain – and that’s great because it means they get the best out of him.”
However, Jackson adds: “What I’d love him to get involved in – and I don’t know if he’d ever do this – is to go on proper world tours, giving seminars and insights into the life of a superstar in our sport.
“The messages he could give out to many youngsters I think would have a good, positive influence.
“He knows a hell of a lot and we should learn from him. He’s not just this world symbol – there’s more to him than that. Just listen to what he has to say because there may be one or two diamonds in there. Learn from the best.”
What made Bolt so great? Jackson believes it was a dedication to his craft and that, despite outward appearances, an acknowledgement of his frailties.
“He knows his sport inside out – he loves athletics and that is really important,” says Jackson. “An athletics connoisseur, that’s for sure.
“He also scrutinised his own performances a lot. He didn’t take anything for granted.
“People would always think ‘he’s Usain Bolt, of course he’s always in front’ but he had his demons that he dealt with as well. His uncertainty – lots of times he was unsure at what he could do.
“Just because you’re the fastest man on the planet, doesn’t mean you’re not petrified of your opposition! He felt he was vulnerable in places and that’s a good thing because it meant he was always kept on his toes.”
A key example of this, says Jackson, came in 2015 when Bolt had been beset with injury problems and was preparing to face America’s Justin Gatlin – who had come back from a doping ban – at the world championships in Beijing. It was dubbed the battle of good versus evil.
“In 2015 when he was struggling with injury and coming back all the time, having a lack of races and competitions while Justin Gatlin was flying,” says Jackson. “In his own mind he put himself as the underdog when no-one else in the world did.
“He wasn’t even sure he was going to win the 100m, while everyone else in the world was thinking ‘surely he should win it’.”
Of course Bolt did win it, by 0.01 seconds, with Steve Cram proclaiming in commentary at the time: “He’s saved his title, he’s saved his reputation – he may have even saved his sport.”
Expectations were always high when it came to Bolt – and were rarely ever dampened by his performances – but, as Jackson points out, he wasn’t perfect.
“He was like every athlete out there – he’d do one thing really well but then he forget the other bits of it,” laughs the Welshman. “When he focused on the start he’d think ‘yes, that’s a great start’ but would then realise ‘oh lord, I haven’t done the drive phase, I haven’t done this, I haven’t done that’ because he has been so focused on other elements.
“He was honest too and would tell you ‘I lost it there, I didn’t do what I should have done there, my pick-up was terrible’.
“We paint the picture of him being this iconic figure that is untouchable but in reality he is a normal guy blessed with incredible height and skill – and he applied it so well.”
He was also aided, insists Jackson, by his battles with injury.
“Injuries helped him because it meant he had to be careful and he could never over-race,” he adds. “He always had to prepare quite meticulously. That played to his advantage.
“It meant he could take his time and always be ready at the right moments – and the right moments were championships.
“When it really came down to it, he’d deliver the performance we all wanted to see.”
» Read the 75th anniversary edition of AW for more on Usain Bolt’s remarkable career – and an in-depth look at the world record-breaking double of Berlin 2009. Click here to order a copy of our special diamond anniversary issue
» Photos are from I Am Bolt, which was released in 2016 and can be bought here