Faster than Lightning: My Autobiography - Usain Bolt (2013)

Chapter 8. Pain or Glory

‘You should try running another distance.’ Coach made it sound like I had a say in the matter, but we both knew it was an instruction. Despite my loss to X-Man in Zurich, I’d become physically stronger throughout the season and my back had responded to the new exercises and the treatments from The Doc in Munich. I had a new masseur called Eddie, who warmed my body before every training session and all my competitive races. But there was a feeling my form in the 200 could be improved by some extra training. Working on another distance would increase my strength and speed stamina; it might add to my power on the corner and improve my finishes at the tape.

‘Yo, nice idea, Coach,’ I said, when it was first mentioned midway through ’07. ‘I like it.’

Then he gave me the stupid news.

‘Usain, I think you should take up the 400 metres again, just like you did in high school.’

What? The 400 metres? Forget that!

To me, that race was just plain bad news. The 400 metres meant pain, lots and lots of pain. I thought back to the training runs at William Knibb under Coach McNeil and felt sick. I’d seen how hard the pros ran in the 400. It looked like the race from hell to me. I knew that The Moment of No Return would break me up really bad.

‘Nah, Coach,’ I said, thinking fast. ‘Let’s do the 100 metres instead.’*

Coach pulled a face – he thought I was talking crazy. In his mind the shorter distance was a harder race to execute because it was so damn technical. Bang! Once the starter’s gun had blown, everything had to go smoothly and one little mistake could screw a race. Bad start – forget it. Technique goes off during the drive phase – forget it. Lose your head in the closing stages – forget it.

In the 200 metres I could make a mistake, a shaky step maybe, or a slow start, and recover on the corner. There was more time and distance to readjust. But the 100 was a different game altogether. There was so much that could go wrong and so little time to straighten out any technical errors. Everything had to be just perfect, from the first movement to the final reach at the tape.

Coach also worried that the explosive bursts needed to perfect the shorter race might bring added strain to my back and legs. If that wasn’t enough, he then argued it would take me for ever to unravel myself out of the blocks. A few years previously my high-school coaches had told me I was too tall for the 100 metres. Now Coach was laying out the same story.

My height made me way too tall for the 100. It was a fair point. I was much bigger than Tyson, who was five foot ten. That height meant that he was short enough to get out of the blocks in a heartbeat, but he was tall enough to move down the track at a serious pace. It was that combination which had enabled him to be a contender in both the 100 and 200 metres.

Coach’s point was that the start was the first challenge in any short race. When the gun cracked, a sprinter unfolded their body out of the crouching position as quickly as possible; a taller guy was at a disadvantage because it took longer – it was simple physics really. In real time that action might seem like one hundredth of a second, a pulse, a blink, but it was often enough to separate someone like me from a shorter dude like Tyson, or Asafa. In race time that blink was the difference between a champ and an also-ran.

Coach had done all the maths. He also estimated it was harder for a taller guy like myself to make a quick stride pattern on the track because my legs were too long. A man of six foot five couldn’t turn his legs over quickly enough to move down the track at pace, he said. Not in theory, anyway. But even though there were a lot of physical realities stacked against me, I kept pushing.

‘Oh, come on, Coach,’ I said, almost begging. ‘One chance, that’s all I want. Enter me into a meet. If I run a bad 100, I’ll run the 400 metres next season. But if I run good, say 10.30 seconds or better, then I’ll do the 100 metres.’

Coach reluctantly agreed. Part of his development strategy involved challenging racers with reachable targets, because it gave them extra motivation in training and it forced them to work tougher, especially if there was a reward at the end of their grind. Once their target had been met, Coach set another one. And then another. It was like a farmer leading his donkey along with a carrot.

My introduction to the 100 metres worked pretty much on the same principle. Coach told me that my first goal was to break the national record in the 200 metres, which stood at 19.86. If I managed that, he would then allow me an attempt at the 100. A small race in Rethymno, Crete, that July would be the location for my ‘trial’, and a time of 10.30 seconds or better meant that I could avoid the 400 metres and instead focus on the shorter distance. The carrot had been dangled. But if I crashed out and ran slow, then I could look forward to a season of serious pain.

I was hyped, and I stepped up. In the 2007 Jamaican Championships I reached Coach’s first target by breaking Don Quarrie’s 36-year-old national record in the 200 with a time of 19.75 seconds. When Rethymno came around, about a month before the World Champs in Osaka, I faced up to my death or glory 100 metres race, like a man with a serious reward on his mind.

‘Come on, man,’ I thought as I walked to the start line. ‘You cannot be at the back of the pack, not today. You’re gonna die in the 400 metres …’

Crack! The gun fired and I was off in a heartbeat, burning down the track. I didn’t have time to think about what was happening, I just ran as hard as I could, my legs swinging, the arms pumping fast. I forgot about my height and the disadvantages of my long legs. Instead the image of Coach staring at his stopwatch as I ran 700-metre training laps forced me on. When I glanced across the line, I realised I was in first place.

‘What the hell?’ I thought. ‘I’m gonna win!’

The race was done in a heartbeat. I glanced up at the clock, hoping, praying for a decent time. It said: ‘1/BOLT: 10.03 seconds.’

Ten-point-oh-three?!

My ass was safe. I’d won with a time so quick that I knew I would never have to have to run the 400 metres again. Relief and happiness hit me at the same moment – my time felt like a lucky escape from a miserable, punishing prison sentence. Coach seemed pretty excited, too. The speed had blown him away.

‘I never believed that you could run ten-oh,’ he said, smiling. ‘I thought you might run ten-one, ten-two, but not that …’

I had got the job done.

‘Yo, we had a deal, right?’ I said.

Coach nodded, neither of us knowing that our bet had settled sporting history.

***

Every now and then an athlete can sense something special might happen. It’s not a feeling of destiny, or a sense of inevitability, more an idea that all the hard work is paying off. In 2008, everything came together, I felt deadly. I wanted to kill people with my season.

As background training got under way in October ’07, I did all the weights Coach asked me to do, I did all the back exercises on the schedule. Hell, I even went to the gym when I was told. My focus was Beijing and nothing was going to get in my way.

‘A’ight, Coach,’ I said when we first got to work. ‘Anything you tell me to do in training, I’m gonna do it. If you want me to do ten 300-metre laps, I’m gonna do them. I’m not going to even argue.’

At first Coach didn’t believe me. He figured I would mess him around, like I always did. He probably expected me to skip gym in the mornings. In previous years I had grumbled, or tried to cut him down by a lap or two whenever there was a time training session at the track. But to his surprise, I executed every time – I showed the same work ethic Dad had lived by during his working life in Coxeath and I pushed myself hard. If Coach set me nine laps an evening, I ran nine. If he told me to run faster, I ran faster. It was tough and it hurt, but every time The Moment of No Return pinched at my muscles I remembered the new focus, my new ambition: ‘Yo, this is an Olympics season. This can make me. I need this.

I was on point and, whenever a championship or meet approached, I became the immaculate athlete. I cut out most of the junk food and I switched off my personal messenger and phone, especially on Saturday nights. I needed to relax in peace without any distractions from friends who wanted to party. I was a role model pro all of a sudden.

The results arrived almost immediately. My physique was tight. I worked hard in the gym and my arms were solid blocks; my abs developed sharp edges; my calves and thighs were ripped. I had power, and I looked so bad that whenever I checked myself in the mirror I’d think, ‘Wow, Usain, looking pretty damn good.’ Everything rippled.

My speed was increasing, too. In the New Year I got word that Daniel Bailey, the 100 and 200 metres sprinter from Antigua and Barbuda, was coming down to the track for training. That got me excited because it meant I had a new competition, somebody to test myself against on a daily basis. Daniel was a hot starter, he was a beast when it came to popping the blocks, and our sessions quickly became an intense challenge where both athletes hated to lose.

Bang! Bang! Bang! For the first few weeks, Daniel’s powerful starts meant he was always ahead of me at the beginning of our races. The first time I accelerated past him over 40 metres, I knew it was a big deal. Then it happened again, and again. I was killing it, I’d found a new gear with the work I’d been doing with Coach. I was hitting some serious speeds and Daniel couldn’t live with me, even with his explosive starts.

Sometimes I worked too hard, though. There were evenings when my energy just smoked away, but if the fatigue became too big, I’d beg Coach for a day off. Twenty-four hours of recuperation was usually enough to set me straight because I was strong – seriously strong. I knew my physique would provide the rocket fuel to fire me off the corner and past Tyson, Wallace and anyone else in the 200 metres. I was getting quicker in the 100, too.

My graduation from the third term in Coach’s three-year plan had been successful and injury-free. Like the man had predicted in our first meeting together, I was ready for my Olympic year.

***

Coach pushed me forward in both the 100 and 200 metres, and I lined up in all the big meets against all the top competitors.

If I had questions about his tactics, I decided to keep them to myself at the time because I was a young guy, 21 years of age, and I couldn’t tell him what to do. So every race I could run in, I was there at the start line, popping the blocks alongside the likes of Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell. But I didn’t mind because I was winning in both distances, especially in the 100 where my times were blowing people’s minds, mine included.

The first meet of the 2008 season was at Spanish Town, and to prove the 100 in Crete hadn’t been a one-off, I clocked another time of 10.03 seconds. After the race, Coach and me kicked back at the track and threw some numbers around. The times we believed I might run in the 100 metres (on a really good day) were 9.87 seconds, possibly 9.86, but it would probably take me a while to get there. Neither of us thought that I had the physique to go any faster. But then, in May, Kingston happened.

I was down to run in the 100 metres at the Jamaican Invitational. Because the meet was relatively new and hadn’t generated much publicity at that time, the bleachers weren’t rammed like they had been for the 2002 World Junior Championships or Champs. Still, the energy that night was big, real big. The fans were wound up tight and I picked up on the vibe, coming out of the blocks slow but striding past the field on the halfway mark. With 10, 15 metres to spare I shut down the other athletes, slowing to take first place with ease.

I was defying popular theory. Winning 100 metre races shouldn’t have been that easy because of my build. But what Coach and myself hadn’t realised in training was that in the latter stages of the 100 metres my height was actually an advantage. Somehow I could turn my long strides over with speed, which was unheard of for such a tall athlete. I was a freakish talent, five inches taller than a lot of my rivals, but able to strike the track fewer times than any of my competitors in a short race. Coach later estimated that I might make 41 strides over 100 metres, whereas the other guys usually made around 43, 44 or 45. That was good news; I had serious headway, even with my disadvantage in the blocks. Forget the bad starts, I was physically powerful enough to catch up with the rest of the pack after 30 metres.†

In Kingston, taking victory from the back of the pack was a new sensation for me, but when I looked at the clock, I got excited. At first the time read 9.80 seconds, which was pretty good, better than the figures Coach and myself had predicted. But time runs funny in Jamaica – it’s a place where the attitude ‘Everything can be done tomorrow’ holds true, and my race time was no exception. The digits on the clock flipped again moments later, the time had been corrected and now it read 9.76 seconds.

‘Oh my God,’ I thought. ‘What a time!’

I could hear the buzz around the track. People were cheering, screaming, going wild. But there was also a feeling of disbelief, like something unusual had happened. That time was second only to Asafa’s world record which stood at 9.74, and as the result was broadcast around the planet, a lot of track and field fans were thinking the same thing: ‘What the hell?!’

When word got back to the States, the backchat began almost straightaway. My time was dismissed. People claimed the clock had been broken and the judges had given me an incorrect time. That was crap. The clock in the Kingston National Stadium was renowned for displaying the wrong time before suddenly switching to show the accurate recording. The criticism wasn’t altogether unexpected, though. The rivalry between the USA and Jamaica had been going back and forth for quite a while in track and field, mainly because we had started to challenge their dominance in the sprint events.

But it wasn’t just the fans that were vexed. Some time later, Wallace called to explain that he’d been in trouble with his team because we’d been hanging around together on the track. They didn’t like the fact that we were conversing at meets, especially in an Olympic year. His coaches hated it whenever he spoke respectfully about me in interviews, and at one stage they apparently threatened him.

‘Do not speak good things about Usain Bolt!’ came the order. ‘Say you’re going to beat him! Stop saying Usain Bolt is a great athlete. Stop smiling when you’re on the TV and stop messing around with him. Get serious.’

Their complaining over the clock was another example of the two nations’ ongoing rivalry. They wanted to put my result down by picking holes in Jamaica’s time-keeping. When I raced 9.92 seconds in Port of Spain a couple of weeks later they used it to dismiss my speed in Kingston.

‘See? He wasn’t as good as everyone thought!’ they yelled.

My attitude? Whatever – I don’t care.

And why the hell would I? I was 21 years of age, it was only my fourth race in the 100 metres and I had surprised even myself. The fact that I had also surprised the Americans was good news as far as I was concerned. It meant I was flashing on their radar in a big way.

***

Listen up: a lot of luck goes into breaking a world record. It’s not all about pure talent, though that helps. Today, when I think about my fifth 100 metres race in New York, the Reebok Grand Prix, it always amazes me because it established me as a serious contender for the Olympics. But the craziest thing about that race was the way in which a lot of factors fell my way at exactly the right time. It could quite easily have been just another meet. Instead it was a crazy-assed ride that made me The Fastest Man in the World for the first time.

My opening slice of good fortune was the location. New York had long been a Jamaican stronghold; there were a lot of ex-nationals living in and around the Five Boroughs, so when I showed up at the Icahn Stadium, a not too glamorous arena in Randall’s Island, the place was stacked. ‘Sold Out’ signs hung outside the bleachers, the seats were rammed and hundreds of people stood on a grass bank by the back straight. I had plenty of energy to feed on.

That was surprising to me, because a lot of heavy rain had come down that night. An electrical storm lit up the sky and thunder rumbled overhead. A superstitious man might have taken that as an omen, but I was hyped. I knew a wet track was sometimes better for an athlete because the surface delivered more bounce, more spring.

I wasn’t worrying about personal bests, though. All my focus was on the man alongside me on the start line: Tyson Gay. Tyson was The Man and a World Champion in both sprint events. He was strong, the definite favourite that night, which was good news for me because there was absolutely zero pressure on my shoulders. The only thing I had to do was show up, compete and put in a decent performance.

That was my second stroke of good fortune. Psychologically, I had been placed in pole position because I had nothing to lose. I was going up against the best and I wanted to know if I could beat him. If I did that, everybody in the stands would be happy. If I didn’t, who would care apart from me? But I sensed Tyson was worried because of my time in Jamaica. It was faster than his quickest race of the season so far. He had to be thinking, ‘S**t, maybe this kid’s the real deal? It could hit the ceiling tonight …’

My mind was in a cooler place. I was confident because I had trained well; there were no doubts because I was fit. I was a little nervous, but that was understandable because it was my first real test in the 100 metres, and New York was my chance to show the world and Tyson what I could do. Apart from that, I was pretty cool. I was not thinking about breaking the world record, not even for a second.

Seriously, it was something I had never considered before any of my races in the 100 or 200 metres, and deliberately so. I knew that to smash the top times an athlete had to be chilled, relaxed and definitely smooth. Setting ambitions as grand as a world record time before any race only heaped unnecessary pressure on a guy. After that way there was stress. With stress, there was no way of making an easy run.

I could also see that pressure was a problem dogging some of the other Jamaican athletes, including Asafa. When he’d first broken the world record in ’05, I don’t think that he was even considering the clock. He was just going out there to win; the time had been a cool bonus. After that landmark day, though, his thinking changed and at every major race he looked tense on the start line. It was as if he was ordering himself to repeat his success in order to win gold medals: I’m going out there and I’m going to break that record again and come home in first place. He built up pressure for himself, he stressed, and after that there was no way he was going to make a relaxed stride. He had broken the record again in September 2007, but he never showed up in the big events, like the World Champs.

My mindset in New York was the complete opposite. I was hungry to be in the race and I wanted to make sure that I beat the others, but time was not an issue. Win first, worry about the clock second, that was my thinking. I just wanted to execute.

I settled into the blocks: ‘C’mon, do this.’

I heard the call: ‘Get set.’

I got hyped: ‘Let’s go …’

Bang! The gun went, but in a heartbeat I was slowing down, we all were. Someone had false started across the lanes and the race had been stopped but, believe it or not, that was actually good news for me because when I’d first heard the pistol’s Crack! my reaction was too slow, like I’d been caught off guard. My first instinct was to think, ‘What was that?! Oh s**t, the gun! Go, go, go!’ I’d been left in the blocks. That false start was another lucky break, and I knew it.

‘Yo, I need to react,’ I told myself as the athletes dropped to the track and reset their positions. ‘I can’t be two steps behind again, so come on …’

Bang! This time I got it, the perfect start. My reaction had been smooth, quick and powerful. As I rose out of my drive phase, my thighs and calves bounced off the wet track and the arms pumped hard. After 30 metres I’d crept into the lead, and when I peeped across, I couldn’t see Tyson. I couldn’t even hear him on my shoulder like I had in Osaka and everyone seemed to be falling away behind me. Then the weirdest thing happened: I powered towards the finish, knowing the race was done. It was over, and my only thought as I busted the line in first place was ‘Yeah! Got him!’

I just kept running and running, my heart was in my mouth, my legs felt lighter than air. It felt like I could have gone another 100 metres at the same pace, hell, maybe even 300. I was that hyped. Then I looked up and saw the time:

1/BOLT: 9.72 seconds.

A new world record.

‘Oh my God?!’

Chaos. My head span, I lost my mind. I didn’t know how to feel, or what to do. Should I stop and wave? Should I jump and run around like a crazy-assed person? Should I throw myself into the crowd? I slapped my chest, I pointed to the fans and dropped to my knees, resting my head on the track. It must have looked like a silent prayer of thanks. It probably was.

Coach was hyped, too. He sprinted over to me, his legs going faster than I’d ever seen him move before, and as he hugged me, the shouting began.

‘I knew you could do it!’ he yelled. ‘I knew you were going to beat him.’

The man looked so happy, but he had every right because this was his big score, his greatest success so far. In a way, Coach was like a football manager. Results mattered, and my win in New York was as important to him as winning the Champions League was to Sir Alex Ferguson, the former Manchester United manager. Still, the record was a shock. Neither of us had expected it from me when I first mentioned my running the shorter distance.

Tyson was not happy at all, and when he congratulated me, I could tell it was the end of our friendship – if you could call it that. The smiles and nods at the start line were gone for ever. I can’t remember what was said, or where and how he said it, but that was the last time we really spoke. I wasn’t ‘Usain Whoever’ to him any more, I was the enemy, and it was never cool between us again. But I wasn’t surprised at the cold shoulder. I knew that an athlete should never be surprised about competition, because everybody reacted differently to winning and losing. Some people wanted to kill their nearest rival, others didn’t care. I understood why Tyson was pissed, because if somebody had stepped up to me and taken my place in the next race, I would have been angry too, but I wouldn’t have freaked out. I would have stepped up again. I would have trained harder to win in the next championship.

That attitude came from Coach. In one of our many meetings, he had explained to me how I had to be mentally if I wanted to be a winner.

‘The one thing you have to get into headquarters is that every athlete has their time,’ he said. ‘Tyson is having his time, Asafa has had his, and before him, the 100 metres Olympic champs Maurice Greene and Donovan Bailey. But that time passes and another champion steps in. If you can understand that, when you lose, you won’t lose it.’

I learned that there were some benefits to being a world record breaker, though. My result in New York had given me an extra level of confidence for the Olympics, as had my victory over Tyson. All of a sudden, the only person that slightly worried me was Asafa. He was now the one I feared, despite his mental state on the start line at major competitions, because I had watched the guy train. I had seen the way he exploded out of the blocks and I could not figure out why he wasn’t running faster. His starts were ridiculous. I knew that if I could have made a start like Asafa, just once, I would have run 9.30 seconds, easily. And I wasn’t thinking about running hard, but of a race where I chilled down the track, because when it came to bursting out of the start line, he was immaculate.

One time I even watched him break a set of blocks. It was in ’06 and we were warming up before a meet. Asafa was practising start after start after start, when – Bam! – suddenly, his blocks just cracked.

‘What the hell?!’ I thought. ‘What happened there?’

The next thing I saw was Asafa dangling the steel foot-plates in the air. They were mangled in two, and those things do not break easily. The force he had put into the track must have been ridiculous.

I figured Asafa might be deadly in Beijing, a killer, if he could focus his mind right, but I still hadn’t tested my form against him in a 100 metres race. That chance came in Stockholm in July, just weeks before the Olympics were due to start. The meet proved to be a huge lesson for me, mainly because everybody was saying to watch out for the starter judge. Apparently he was quick, which was a new deal for me. I ran the 200 metres, and most of the time a starter was a starter. They were pretty much the same wherever I’d been. But as soon as I’d got into the blocks, the guy shouted, ‘Set!’

Then, before I’d even drawn breath, the gun had gone and I was left behind, dead last, my feet stuck in the blocks. The first thing I did was panic. I’d only just started competing in the 100 and I was inexperienced, so my first reaction was to stand up and sprint because that’s what my mind had told me to do.

‘Run, you idiot!’ it screamed. ‘Get me outta here!’

That was it, the race was over. As soon as a sprinter abandoned his drive phase, the competition was lost, not that I knew it at the time. I ran, making ground on the pack and soon caught Asafa who was in first place. When we reached the final few metres I was hot on his tail, and I knew that if I leaned in I would take him at the line, but then my brain shut me off. It told me to forget it.

‘Nah,’ I thought. ‘I don’t want this one.’

I let him take first place.

OK, what I’m going to say next sounds wild, but it gives an insight into how I think about performance. Because my start had been poor, I felt like I didn’t deserve to win. I’d been crap, I had abandoned my drive phase; my form was all over the place and nothing about that race had been good. But I was happy to give it up because I had gained some invaluable knowledge, not only about my style, but about Asafa’s. Even with my stupid start, I had caught him at the line and he’d only beaten me by a fine margin.

‘Ah, he’s not so bad,’ I thought. ‘Let’s not worry too much about this guy in Beijing.’

When I told Coach, he was pissed.

‘What? You’re giving out Christmas presents early now?’

But I knew it had been a good move. I felt extra confident about my 100 metres performance at the Olympics. I had belief. I knew Asafa would always beat me to 40 metres because of his powerful start, but as my races in Kingston and New York had proved, I could win at the line because of my longer legs. Mathematically, I had the edge; it was my 41 strides to his 44.

Psychologically I had played a good hand, too. The result in Stockholm convinced Asafa that he had enough in his game to take me and, by that turn, Tyson as well. The win had given him confidence, maybe a little too much. But in my head I knew it was over.

***

In track and field, coaches have rivalries with other coaches, and race clubs have rivalries with other race clubs. Sometimes to the outside world, athletes might have looked like a bunch of individuals whose mantra was ‘Every Man for Himself’, but the reality was different. There was team pride at stake and plenty of grudges to go with it.

Every rivalry was different, but in the same way that Manchester United battled against City, or Roger Federer went against Rafa Nadal in tennis, each one had its own intensity and unique back story. In this case, Coach’s biggest rival was Stephen Francis, or Franno, from the Maximising Velocity and Power Track Club (or MVP), which operated out of the University of Technology in Kingston, where I had first started. Franno was known for training Asafa. Because Coach trained me at Racers Track Club, which worked from the University of the West Indies, the competition was based on the strengths of their prized athletes, as well as the educational establishments involved. Well, that’s how it looked to the outside world anyway.

The story ran deeper than that, though. Apparently, Coach and Franno had previously worked together. Coach used to work with Franno, but for a reason I’ve never really discovered, the pair of them split up. From that moment on, there was a competition over who could be the most successful coach. Once I’d started running the 100 metres, I remember everybody saying that Coach would never get me to be as strong as Asafa, and that had bugged him. My record-breaking night in New York had stopped the talk, dead. Suddenly, Coach was the man with The Fastest Dude on Earth in his portfolio.

I guess that rivalry was great for Jamaican athletics, because it was pushing the national standards up and up. It kept everybody working. Whenever new kids showed up at Racers Track Club I would always give them a clear message: ‘You’re not in high school any more, you’re in the Racers camp, and when you go to international meets don’t think you’re representing Jamaica, you’re representing Racers. You’ve got to show everybody that, “Yo, I’m training with Usain Bolt: this is the quality we have.” You have to show up and prove to those guys that you mean business. And if you lose, don’t come back!’ I was only half joking.

Then there was the big debate about who had the better athletes. People wanted to know which club had the most medals in the major champs. When the Olympic trials came around every four years, the question wasn’t, ‘Who’s going to make the Jamaican team?’ Most people were more concerned with how many Racers and MVPs were going to get there. That’s how serious it was.

The moment the world record was claimed in New York, I’d settled a battle for Coach. Funny thing was, I’d created an even bigger one for myself.

Tyson.

And it was going to be big.

* I guess this is as good a time as any to set the record straight about why I wanted to compete in the 100 metres. Some people believed my only motivation for breaking into the shorter distance was money, but that was never the case. Yeah, the riches on offer were high for a successful 100 metres sprinter – I’d seen that with Asafa. But I didn’t care about the prize funds. My only aim was to avoid running the 400. That was it, period. And I didn’t imagine for one second that I would be a killer at it.

† Here’s the anatomy of my race in the 100 metres: Pow! From the start I go into my drive phase, the first 30 metres of a race where I leave the blocks and propel myself down the lanes – I keep my body forward, my head down and I push hard. I can get myself into the race from there even if my first few steps from the gun are poor.

After that, I get tall as I run. My head comes up, my knees are lifted high and my shoulders go down as I sprint. That’s when I hit top speed. At 50 metres, I glance left and right to see where I’m positioned in the race. After that, I become a monster. I dominate the competition. It doesn’t matter who you are or how good you are, the last 40 metres of my race is the strongest part of my game and if I’m ahead of you, it’s over. You will not catch me. With ten metres to go I check to the right and check to the left again. I ask a question: can I stop running? I know in that stage whether I’ve won a race or not because in that moment, it only takes me three and a half strides to clear those final 10 metres. If there’s no one ahead of me, it’s done.