Usain Bolt is late for a Zoom interview.
Do a lot of those today. The Olympics have arrived, and the fastest man in history is spending his time a little differently than he did a decade ago. Bolt is here to promote Michelob ULTRA Beer RunWhere we fanatic runners (and people who do other forms of exercise) can log our workouts and get free Michelob ULTRAs in bars this summer.
I’m excited, because not only do I think I interviewed the best in the world at anything, but also because I was objectively faster than Bolt to get to the Zoom call. I can now tell everyone I know that I was faster, in at least one area, than the fastest man ever. When Bolt finally appears on screen, I ask him if he’d mind if I bragged about this little achievement, and he laughs. Then he strengthens and tells me so factually that it only matters on the right track. fair enough.
During our call, Bolt and I chatted about beer for a minute, then moved on to the Olympics, USA Track and Field The decision to leave Sha’Carri Richardson off his list in Tokyo, the height of the runner, how he would have had success at the olympics without fans, and more. Check out our (slightly edited) conversation below.
men’s magazine: What can you tell me about Michelob ULTRA Beer Run?
Usain Bolt: If you can prove that you go for a run, go to the gym, do yoga, or even bike – any form of exercise you can prove to us by going to our website or any of our social media handles – you’ll get beer. This promotion is valid all summer long. You can get a free Michelob ULTRA for free.
If I show I ran 5km today, is that a free beer?
When you’re competing, do you allow yourself to have a beer?
Definitely. You have to make time to relax. You work hard, but you have to enjoy it. You can’t just work, work, work. You should enjoy the work you do. So I will definitely allow myself to relax and have a beer.
One of the big stories about the Olympic track this year was Shakari Richardson who was disqualified from the US team because she smoked weed. To clarify, does weed improve running performance? Would you smoke it in order to run faster?
I wouldn’t know. There is a list that they show you as an athlete. They tell you, “This is forbidden. You cannot use it.” So I never really went into it and tried to see if it makes you run faster, or if it doesn’t make you run faster. As long as it is on the block list, you are avoiding it. That’s how I look at it.
I just have to say, you know, it’s hard for her [Richardson]. I know she’s going through a tough time with losing her mom and everything. I would just tell her that she just needs to refocus, and the people around her should support her and help her stay on track and get back on the right track. It’s not the end of the world. She still has a bright future ahead.
You are a pioneer on the right track. Would you support any changes to follow union rules for weed, given what we know about them?
If they do their research and decide, “Listen, this doesn’t help you run fast,” then yes, sure. It must change. But it’s all up to the people who make the rules to determine that. I can’t determine that. But if they did their research and it turned out differently, it had to be changed.
As a competitor, if you found out that someone smoked marijuana a month before a race, would you be OK with competing?
For me, I always focus on who’s there. It’s not my job to know if I did something bad. As long as you’re on the line as a competitor, I’m just focused on trying to beat you. I really don’t keep track of whether I’ve ever been tested once for drugs or something else. To me, if you show up on the line that day, you’re my competitor. I don’t really worry about that. I’ve left WADA, the IOC, and everybody else worried about that. My job is to compete against you.
I’ve always wanted to ask someone who is the best in the world about this, especially the runner. Many of us get into the top sprinter level when we do our personal best, like the top 10k or 5k. You can’t be in anyone else’s body, but is there a “Usain Bolt hostility peak” that you think is different from what the rest of us are experiencing?
It definitely feels great, believe me. Even when we are in training and you are PB [personal best], you feel good. It’s good to know that the work you do is paying off. When I compete and win, that’s why I celebrate so much, and you can see that come out. This is just my height. I’m like, “Oh my God, this work you’ve done is paying off.” It’s always just a feeling. Just to know that you did your best and that you ran faster than you did last week; it’s a wonderful feeling.
Are you still ecstatic about it, even if you’re running in the backyard?
I ride my bike and on a peloton. Every time I do a better job, I feel the same way, because I’m very competitive. So I try to push myself to be better, better, and better all the time. I certainly still understand that, for sure.
You mentioned how you’re going to celebrate after a big race. Did you enjoy playing in front of a crowd? And do you think it would have been more difficult, if – as in Tokyo – there were no people in the stands to watch you?
definitely. I don’t think I could do that now. I live for the crowds, and I live for those moments. The first time I got on the field when the crowd went crazy, it gives me the energy and the atmosphere to want to compete and do a great job. To get into the stadium – an empty stadium – it must be difficult. It will be difficult for these athletes to compete at their highest levels. I would just tell them to focus, hard work, determination, and move on.
In some ways, every runner in the world comes for you because of all the records you set. Not many of your records were broken, but American Erriyon Knighton broke one of your junior records in the 200m this summer. Some sports legends get excited when a record of their own is broken, and some aren’t. How did you feel?
You won’t be so happy when you are Records are broken. But for me to see someone at his level, it excites me. I think, “How is he going to continue? What level is he going to be? How is he going to handle the pressure?” Because persistence is the hard part. I will definitely keep my eyes on him, and I’m so happy for him. I would just tell him to keep working hard, be assertive, and push towards his goal.
Among your many records that still stand, is there one that you fear someone will break, or one that you think will last for the rest of your life?
I don’t know, I don’t know. I really don’t know which one. The 200m is my favourite, because the 200m is my favorite event. If I could pick one to stay forever, that would be the 200m record for sure.
But I did not run for records. Run to win, to win gold medals, because records will go. No matter how long they stand, they will eventually be gone. But I set a high standard for someone to try to reach, and I know this won’t be easy. This is how I look at things.
Was your primary competitor Usain Bolt or the athletes on the other blocks?
I live for competition, so I take everyone seriously as competitors. When someone shows up and I know they’re doing well and I know I should be in better shape to beat them, that’s what drives me. So I compete with the people who are against me.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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