He’s the fastest man on the planet so it makes sense that he would conduct the fastest press conference in the world. Olympic champion and world-record-holder Usain Bolt met the Penn Relays press this morning and answered all their questions in less than 15 minutes.
Bolt is making his first appearance at the Relays since becoming a worldwide star, setting world records and collecting Olympic and world championship gold medals. “I haven’t been to Penn in years so I’m really looking forward to this,” he said, sporting a black Yankees hat. (We’re guessing Phillies caps were sold out.) “There’s going to be a lot of Jamaican fans in the crowd, so it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Indeed, the green, gold and black clad fans are eager to see their favorite son take to the Franklin Field track for the first time since 2005. In 2002 and ’03 he ran for William Knibb Memorial High School in the prep division. Then he represented his country in the USA vs. The World series, first in the 4×400 in 2004, then on the sprint medley in ’05.
Of his memories of competing at Penn, “well, the first thing that comes to your mind is the cold weather,” Bolt admitted playfully. Temperature aside, he’s always been impressed with the meet’s signature efficiency. “It moves so quickly and it’s a very organized meet,” he says. And he expects everything to be amplified now that he’s become the sport’s most popular superstar. “I remember from my schoolboy days the atmosphere was wonderful, so I just can’t imagine now running in front of them after being Olympic and world champion,” he said. “It should be interesting.”
Running at Penn is all part of Bolt’s plan to have fun in 2010. “This year I’m probably going to try to be easier, I’m not trying to do anything special this year,” he said when asked about his goals. “This year is going to be as relaxing as possible, because next year is very serious. So this year is kinda taking it easy.”
Usain Bolt Press Conference – April 23, 2010
Q: Tell us about what brings you back this year.
A: I think it’s important to get sharper leading up to next week for the race in Jamaica. I haven’t been competing in four years, so I am really looking forward to this. It’s gonna be interesting because there are a lot of Jamaicans in the crowd, gonna be a lot of fans, so I remember this from the schoolboy days, so I am really looking forward to it.
Q: Tell us about your teammates.
A: It’s a Jamaican team, pretty much a racers’ group. We all trained together so we should be good with baton changes, coach has really been driving us. We are taking this pretty seriously. We’ve been talking about if any of us drop the baton, they will probably get kicked out of the group because we have really been working hard on this. The team is looking good so I want give them some props.
Q: What are your first memories of the Penn Relays as a high school kid?
A: The first thing that comes to your mind is the cold weather at the Penn Relays. It was always interesting because it moved really quick.
Q: Why are you doing this event for free?
A: When my coach decided we were going to run and decided to run the Penn Relays this year, I said it was okay because I like to run the Relays with my team. So, for me, it was the enjoyment of running.
Q: How big is the Penn Relays for in preparing what you are going to do in the summer?
A: I wouldn’t say it’s a very big part; it’s just gonna help me get sharper.
Q: There are going to be a lot of Jamaicans in the crowd. Did that play a larger role in your decision?
A: Definitely. As I said, I remember this from the schoolboy days. This has been a wonderful thing, so I can’t imagine now that I have run in the world championships and the Olympics.
Q: Do you have any memories of running on the far turn, where the real avid Jamaican fans tend to sit?
A: I was usually a back stretch guy. I think the Jamaicans were more on the homestretch. The most interesting thing for me was the sounds they made as someone came down the stretch. It’s an experience.
Q: How do you get into your zone?
A: I don’t think I have a zone. I just try to smile and enjoy myself. That’s the only thing you guys see over the past couple and I guess that’s my zone.
Q: Do you have time to take in the sites and sounds of the city?
A: I’m not the sightseeing person. I just chill, go on facebook, listen to music, and just stay indoors. If it’s cold, I’m not going outside.
Q: You said music, what’s on your IPod?
A: I don’t actually do that IPod thing. I’m an athlete slash dj so I’m stacked with all kinds of music on my computer.
Q: How did your exposure at the Penn Relays aid in your growth as an athlete?
A: As a kid growing up, you follow the Penn Relays every year. Running in front of such a big crowd has helped go through world championships.
Q: How has your personality changed since 2001?
A: I like to mess around and joke, but I used to do it with my teammates. So I don’t think I’ve changed.
Q: What are you expecting for time tomorrow?
A: The Penn Relays are my first run [this year] so I am focused on getting sharper. We’ll see. Hopefully it should be good.
Q: What is your attitude going to be like out there?
A: It all depends on how I feel during the day. Whether or not I jog or whatever…
Q: What is your view of USA vs. World?
A: It’s always a big event. It’s preparing for the other major events of the year. It’s going to be big and I really look forward to it. I know most of the guys on the team, so we are looking forward to it, especially 4x1s because it’s for bragging rights. We always message each other.
Q: Are you familiar with DeSean Jackson at all?
A: Who? No.
Q: Are you looking to be able to run sub .19 this year and reach that next threshold?
A: No, this year is probably going to be easier for us. My aim is to try and stay healthy this year because next year is going to be very serious. My aim is just to stay upbeat.