Usain Bolt has acknowledged the efforts by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to reform itself in the wake of the scandal that has beset the sport within the last year.
Speaking ahead of the IAAF Athlete of the Year awards, where he was overwhelming favourite to collect a record sixth title ahead of challengers Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa and the absent Mo Farah of Great Britain, the 30-year-old nine-times Olympic gold medallist responded to a question about tomorrow’s crucial Special Congress vote by saying: “I know that Seb Coe is trying to make track and field more transparent to everyone so they can see what shape it is in and to make sure there is not one person fully in control.
“That’s a big move from him as IAAF President. That’s also helped the sport to make people more confident and to trust the sport more.”
Bolt announced earlier this week that next year would mark his last season as an athlete, and that he would only be doing the 100 metres and 4x100m as he targeted final global gold at the IAAF World Championships in London.
Asked here if, like the swimmer Michael Phelps, he could see himself coming back from retirement for Tokyo 2020 to add further Olympic gold to the nine he currently owns, he was adamant.
“No,” he said. “I am never going to do that.
“I discussed this with my coach, and he told me: ‘Do not retire and come back’. That was why he always said to make sure and take it a year at a time, to make sure I’m ready.
“Most athletes that leave the sport and come back – it never goes well.
“If you leave track and field and put weight on, and do no form of running – to come back two years later and compete again is not going to be the same.”
Asked to name the race that was most special to him, he cited the IAAF World Junior Championships that took place in his native Kingston in 2002, where he earned the 200m title as a 15-year-old running against opponents who were more than two years older than him.
“That was the beginning in Jamaica 2002, in front of all the country, the first step in my career,” he said.
“For me, that was the biggest step. But I also enjoyed winning the 4x100m at the Beijing Olympics.”
Asked if he had any regrets, the man whose world 100m and 200m records of 9.58 seconds and 19.19sec, set in 2009 while winning world titles in Berlin, remain unbeaten admitted that he regarded his failure to better 19secs in his favourite event of the 200m was the nearest to it.
“That is probably the only thing, I wouldn’t say regret, but something I missed out on… for me it was something that was possible, could be possible, but I missed out.”
Recalling his disappointment that he had not managed to break the 19secs barrier at the Rio Games, despite retaining his title, he said: “In my mind I genuinely thought I could run under 19 seconds until I came round that corner and my legs decided I couldn’t do anything about that.”
Asked if he could understand the decision to retire announced today by the newly-installed Formula One world champion Nico Rosberg, Bolt’s initial reaction was to say that he did not. However, he added: “But if you have accomplished all you wanted to accomplish, if you reach your goal, then I can understand.”
But he denied that he had considered a similar announcement himself, saying that he always wanted to push on to the Rio Olympics in order, as he has said in the past, to make himself “a legend”.
That status is now assured, whether or not he is able to steer himself through to London without suffering injury.
That, rather than any more world records, is uppermost in his mind.
Meanwhile, the 24-year-old South African Van Niekerk seemed ready to accept the fact that the Athlete of the Year award might not be heading his way despite the fact that he had broken the world 400m record from the outside lane in an Olympic final.
“I saw something on social media the other day, ‘Usain Bolt is the king of sprints, and Wayde van Niekerk is the prince. That was definitely a feel-good moment for myself,” he said.