Coach needed convincing about Bolt
Reuters, Wednesday May 7 2008
By Gene Cherry
SALVO, North Carolina, May 7 (Reuters) - World 200 metres silver medallist Usain Bolt always thought he could be a fast 100 metres runner.
Convincing his coach took some time.
His bargaining chip turned out to be a 200 metres run, the coach, Glen Mills, told Reuters this week as he reviewed the 21-year-old’s stunning 100 metres of 9.76 seconds last Saturday.
“I told him last year that if he broke the Jamaican record in the 200, 19.8 something, I would allow him to run one 100,” Mills said by telephone from Kingston, Jamaica.
“He broke the record (running 19.75 seconds) and he said: ‘You’ve got to keep your promise’.”
So Bolt, the world junior 200 metres record holder, ran his first professional 100 metres last year in Greece, clocking 10.03 seconds.
“After that there was no stopping him,” Mills said.
The coach agreed Bolt would run the shorter race early this season for experience and speed work, with the 200 remaining his emphasis for August’s Beijing Olympics. A 100-200 sprint double might be considered for 2009.
Saturday’s run – the second fastest 100 metres of all time, behind compatriot Asafa Powell’s world record of 9.74 seconds – may have changed that, especially since Bolt lowered his personal best by almost three-tenths of a second in his third professional race at the distance.
Bolt will contest several more 100s before the late June Jamaican Olympic trials. The first will be on May 18 in Trinidad. Another could be a May 31 New York race featuring world champion Tyson Gay.
His only scheduled 200 before the Jamaican trials will be in Ostrava on June 12, Bolt’s agent, Ricky Simms, said.
Afterwards, Bolt and his coach will map out their trials strategy. Bolt’s early-season performance and an analysis of how other 100 metres runners are doing will be determining factors.
Bolt would not express a preference.
His lanky body may work against him at the start of the 100 but once he starts rolling he is difficult to defeat, as he proved on Saturday.
“It was an incredible run,” Paul Doyle, Powell’s agent, told Reuters in an e-mail.
“It reminded me a lot of Asafa’s (world-record) run in Rieti. Bolt really moved on the pack at 30 metres and just kept going and going.”
Powell, who was in Florida receiving treatment for a pulled muscle, did not see the race. His first race against Bolt would be the Jamaican trials, if Bolt decides to run the 100.
“In terms of ability, Usain has the most of any athlete I have ever coached and probably have ever seen,” said Mills, a veteran trainer whose athletes have included Jamaican sprinter Raymond Stewart and former 100 metres world champion Kim Collins of St. Kitts.
“His abilities’ range from the 100 to 400 is fantastic,” Mills said.
Whether that can translate into a world record in the 100, Mills and Bolt were reluctant to speculate. Both said wait until Bolt runs a few more 100s.
“A lot of people don’t believe what they saw Saturday night was for real, so we will see,” Mills said.
Photographs of Saturday’s race indicate Bolt might have already missed an opportunity to bring down Powell’s record, Mills said.
“The photos show he glanced to his right – I guess he was looking for (world 200 metres bronze medallist Wallace) Spearmon,” Mills said.
“At that point, somewhere around 80 metres, he realised he was way out in front, and he kind of eases his foot off the gas,” the coach added.
"He missed an opportunity because he had a following wind of 1.8 (metres per second, just inside the maximum limit of 2.0 for record purposes) and that helps.
“But I cannot really blame him because he was not really running for a world record.”
Mills has also wanted Bolt to try the 400.
“Because of his height (1.96 metres) and what he did in high school in the 400 (45.35 seconds), the overall opinion, including myself, was he would make a great 400 metres runner,” Mills said.
Bolt always had other ideas.
“He thought he would do a better job running the 100 and he kept resisting being committed to the quarter (400),” Mills said.
The coach countered by declining to schedule any 100 metres workouts or races for Bolt.
“The idea was to force him to go in the direction of the 400,” Mills said.
Not any longer: the emphasis now will be on improving Bolt’s 100 metres, especially his start, and going for more honours in the 200 metres.