Usain Bolt first took the Olympics by storm in 2008 at the Summer Games in Beijing. That year, the Jamaican sprinter won gold medals in both the 100m and 200m sprint.
The next two Olympic Games, at London 2012 and Rio De Janeiro 2016, the man who would become known as “Lightning Bolt” would win both races again, while also adding another gold medal at each Olympiad with Team Jamaica in the 4x100m relay. In all, that track legend ended up tallying up a total of eight golds during his time as an Olympian.
But the now-retired track phenom says that it wasn’t until a few “disappointing” performances in 2007 that he dug deep to find the motivation to improve.
“I personally wanted to win at the in ‘07. I thought I was ready, but afterward, my coach told me straight that I didn’t win because I wasn’t well prepared.”
That summer at the 2007 World Athletics Championships in Osaka, Japan, Bolt won a silver medal, after coming in 2nd place behind American sprinter Tyson Gay, in the 200m. Bolt and Team Jamaica also came in 2nd place in the 4x100m relay, again bested by Team USA.
Thereafter, Bolt explained he became much more coachable, and trained harder under his coach with the 2008 Summer Olympics in his sights.
“That next season, I started and decided that anything my coach said t0 do, do it. So, that year (2008) I was super fit, I was ready, on point.”
Bolt adds that training to his limit and hitting the weights helped transform him into the Olympic legend he is, starting with his breakout in 2008. At that Olympic Games in Beijing, Bolt’s incredible performance made history, when he won gold in the 100m, setting a new world record of 9.69 seconds.
In addition to Bolt’s eight Olympic gold medals, he also won 11 gold medals in four biennial World Athletics Championships from 2009 to 2015. Retired since the conclusion of the 2017 World Championships, Bolt says that his competitive juices are still there, and that “just watching” the Olympics this summer “will be tough.”
But 34-year-old track legend says he’s tempering his inclination to jump onto the track in Tokyo, by being social and also encouraging others, especially athletically inclined Olympic fans, to exercise and train to their own limits too. As such, Bolt has partnered with Michelob ULTRA, and this Saturday, July 24, is opening a nationwide tab to allow bar-goers across the country to enjoy a refreshing Michelob ULTRA on him. If you can’t make it out to the bar on July 24, ongoing ULTRA’s Beer Run campaign allows consumers to trade in their running miles for beer all summer long.
“After a workout or a good run,” Bolt says, “there’s nothing better than enjoying a good beer.”
Last Friday, I was fortunate to connect with Usain Bolt for a quick, last-minute pre-Olympic chat over Zoom. He spoke about the Olympics and more about the motivation that transformed him from a sprinter to an Olympic champion.
Andy Frye: So, you won a lot as an sprinter. What moment from your three Olympic Games was the most memorable to you?
Usain Bolt: For me, it was Beijing, the 4x100m. One of the moments I love was—and I have a picture of it in my trophy case—was the moment I handed off the baton to (Jamaica teammate) Asafa Powell. And I was screaming at him—to run! It was just one of those moments I always remember and that I always smile about.
AF: Between 2007 and Beijing 2008 you had a huge breakthrough. What led up to that?
Bolt: So, in 2007, I personally thought I was training very hard. But I remember when I got to the World Championships and checked in with my coach, he said “OK, let’s see what happens.” Maybe he knew how I would do. And I remember in the 200m, coming out the corner, and I saw (USA sprinter) Tyson Gay just go.
I was trying as hard as I could to catch him, and couldn’t catch him. And afterward I went to my coach and said that I really felt like I could win this race.
He said, “yeah, but you weren’t prepared enough. You didn’t train as hard as you could. You didn’t go to the gym regularly as you should.” And he started pointing out things I should have done.
AF: So did that loss alone make you more coachable? What changed?
Bolt: It was just that I wanted to win. It was just—that moment. I wanted to be a world champion and didn’t yet get there. I knew the Olympics was coming up and my coach said, “This is it. You have the talent but you have to work on your talent.”
AF: Now you are watching the Olympics like the rest of us. As a competitive person will just watching be difficult?
Bolt: (Laughs.) Yeah, I’m definitely inside going to want to run. Every time I see a race and its competition I am going to want to jump in. But I am also just going to enjoy it. It’s my first time just watching the Olympics, and I am going to try to watch everything—or at least everything I possibly can.
AF: I know you are a soccer fan and you trained with Manchester United and other clubs. Is soccer in the Olympics, as interesting as, say, the World Cup?
Bolt: As long soccer is on, I watch it. Both the men and women,I am a huge, huge fan. It’s something that I really enjoy. I’m a massive fan of soccer overall.