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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Bolt travels to N.Y.C

The fastest man in the world is a slow walker. Usain Bolt is tired, understandably, after an early-morning flight from Kingston to New York. He drags his tall bones along Broadway, past commuters and tourists who have no idea that this is one of two men who rescued the Beijing Olympics.

Bolt won three golds in Beijing. Michael Phelps won eight. Both men set records, captured our imagination. Phelps won more races. Bolt won them with more flair. They have never met, although Bolt says he and Phelps will cross paths finally at a Jamaican Super Party in December.


In the meantime, he has a rare six-week vacation and then more records to establish. Bolt sets so many of them - holding the mark at 100 meters (9.58 seconds) and 200 meters (19.19) - he has been accused of scheduling them in increments for the greatest dramatic and financial impact.

"You can't set up a schedule like that," says Bolt, 23. "I do it when the pressure is on and the time is right. For me, I set my own goals. I want to become a legend."

He better set a new goal, because he has already accomplished that legend deal. His billboard shines above Times Square. He has been an express train ever since he set a world record of 9.72 against American rival Tyson Gay back on May 31, 2008, right here on Randall's Island, during the Reebok Grand Prix at Icahn Stadium.

That was the first indication, really, that nobody was going to stop Bolt in Beijing. When Bolt set that mark in New York, it seemed everybody in the world took notice except New Yorkers. The meet was plagued by bad weather, little publicity and poor attendance. Then Bolt darted through the mist, and it suddenly became something very special.

"That meet was in the making, just starting out," Bolt says. "For me, my focus at the time was just to beat Tyson Gay. Rain, sun, hot, cold, none of it bothers me anymore. I learned that during a meet in Helsinki, where the weather messed me up. I realized from there on, I can't stop the elements."

He also understands the troubles facing track and field in the States, beginning with the drug scandals that cut the heart out of the sport during the '90s and then again at the Sydney Olympics.

Several top American sprinters from that time - including world record-setter Tim Montgomery and Marion Jones - took shortcuts that would catch up with them in the worst way. Then in Beijing, the Americans were suddenly pointing fingers at the Jamaicans, wondering how both the men and women from that relatively small island nation could dominate the sport with such numbers.

"I look at the overall (drug) problem in all sports, not just ours," Bolt says. "Some people don't want to work, they went about it the wrong way. We can get it back to where it was. You can run clean, work hard.

"It's not all on my shoulders," he says. "I can't do it all."

We have to believe the best from Bolt. He hasn't tested positive, and his times have been credibly evolutionary. He is a giant by sprinting standards at 6-5, 190 pounds. Because of that, he doesn't run indoors. He can't navigate the tight curves at 200 meters or the short straightaways. "It's the height," Bolt says, almost apologetically.

Outdoors, though, he has the time and space to stretch his muscles. His performances this summer at the World Championships in Germany were so impressive, the mayor of Berlin presented him with a 12-foot high section of the Berlin Wall to match the scale of his achievements.

But there are special requests, even demands, which come with such dominance. After Bolt set those world records at 100 and 200 meters in Berlin, coaches and fans started pressuring him to try 400 meters, maybe the long jump, at the London Games in 2012.

Bolt may be the greatest sprinter of all time, but he is in no hurry to accept those dares.

"I want to try the long jump before I retire," he says. "And I'll probably compete at 400 after the next Olympics."

Two tourists come up to Bolt, ask him for his autograph. He signs all the pages. He answers all the questions. He moves slowly, talks cautiously.

He runs like a taxi cab at 3 a.m. on the West Side Highway.

Source:Ny Daily News