ROME (AP) — Usain Bolt is “slightly nervous” for the first time in his career.
The 100-meter world record-holder will make his season debut in the Golden Gala meet Thursday in Rome, running his first race since losing to Tyson Gay last August and ending his two-year unbeaten streak.
Bolt said the loss to Gay changed “absolutely nothing.”
“You lose some and you win some. You never win every race in your entire career. Last season wasn’t my best season. It was kind of my season downtime for me,” the Jamaican said Tuesday. “This season is back to business. I want to prove to the world that I’m still the best.”
After the loss to Gay, Bolt ended last season early because of back and Achilles’ tendon problems.
“For the first time I’m slightly nervous — I haven’t run in so long,” the Olympic and world champion said. “I’m always calm and relaxed. As I said I’m a little bit nervous, but I know I’m getting in shape. Me and my coach have done a lot of work leading up to this race.”
Bolt recently got approval to race again from a physician in Munich.
“The doctor gave me the go ahead,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I’m in perfect shape but good shape, so I’m looking forward to competing.”
Since his last race, Bolt has added more muscle to his frame. He rolled up the sleeve of his shirt and pointed to his flexed biceps during a packed news conference.
“I’ve been doing a lot of work strength-wise, core-wise, that’s why I may look a little different,” he said, noting that he needs to improve his starts. “What has really bothered me over the years is the first 30 meters, because I’m tall. I’ve been working on it.”
Bolt will face fellow Jamaican and former world record-holder Asafa Powell, as well as European champion Christophe Lemaitre at the Stadio Olimpico.
Bolt is also planning to race in Ostrava and Oslo as he warms up for the Aug. 27-Sept. 4 world championships in Daegu, South Korea.
“I’m not really expecting anything, I’m just going out there to see where I’m at and see what I need to do for the world championships,” he said. “These meets are stepping stones for the world championships. My whole focus this year is just to work toward the world championships.”
Since Powell set a world record of 9.74 seconds in Rieti, Italy, in 2007, Bolt has broken the mark three times, the last being a 9.58 at the 2009 world championships in Berlin.
Bolt has beaten Powell in eight of their nine meetings. Powell’s only win came in Stockholm in 2008.
“Asafa is a great athlete, he’s been in the top three for a lot of years now and he has broken the world record a lot of times,” Bolt said. “He’s going to come out running hard and the competition has always been great between us.”
Nine world records have been set in the 30-year history of the Golden Gala, but none in sprint events. Gay holds the meet record of 9.77 seconds, set in 2009.
Bolt had nothing but praise for Gay.
“Tyson Gay is definitely one of those sprinters that never gives up,” Bolt said. “He’s really focused, he doesn’t drink, he doesn’t party, he’s really focused on what he wants. He’s a complete athlete and a wonderful competitor.”
Bolt wouldn’t speculate about what kind of time he might run in Rome.
“I can’t even say. I haven’t run all season,” he said. "Normally I would have done a couple of races already so I could say how fast I could go, so I’m just hoping for the best. I’ve been doing good in training so I hope it’s going to be a good time.
“I’ve said this over the years: records are never my aim, I aim for world championship and Olympic medals. I want to show the world I’m back, and I don’t need to break records to show that.”
Bolt was wearing a shirt featuring the logo of the Italian soccer federation, which shares his sponsor, and he was asked about his aspirations to become a soccer player when he quits running.
“I’m definitely serious,” Bolt said. “I’m a football fan for a lot of years now. I think I can do a pretty good job. I could stack up to the (Wayne) Rooneys and so forth.”