Skip to content

What will it take to motivate Usain Bolt?

Jun 11, 2013, 10:46 AM EDT

778778459

The work ethic of the all-time sports greats has been well-documented through the years: Michael Jordan trained tirelessly every summer to prove his doubters wrong, even after the world began to worship him. Tiger Woods has constantly evolved his game as he’s aged. And Tom Brady famously watches more film than anyone else can stand.

And yet, despite losing to 31-year-old bygone Olympics champ Justin Gatlin in Rome last week, Usain Bolt doesn’t seem any worse for wear. Three days later he was sitting cooly in a box at the French Open, waiting to hand out the champions trophy. It was an opportunity fame had afforded him due to work already done. So why race back to the track for training?

“I would say my determination is not as much as it used to be,” Bolt admitted to the BBC following last week’s loss. “You have to try to find things to motivate you and to push yourself harder. Starting the season was the roughest part for me – trying to drive myself. I am taking my time and working my way there. Every season it goes right back to ground zero.”

To be fair, the race in Rome – a full three years from Rio – was only notable because Bolt lost. And only by 0.01 seconds coming off a slow start to 2013 that was hampered by a mild hamstring strain. Otherwise, he’s won all six Olympic finals he’s competed in between Beijing and London, and all but one world championship race he’s entered, after being DQ’d for jumping the gun in Daegu back in 2011.

He also owns the world records in all three races, so he’s not worried about the 31-year-old bygone champ who will be 34 when Rio comes around. Or about Tyson Gay, who will be 33 in 2016 and has never medaled in an Olympics 100m. Or even young world champ Yohan Blake, who won the race Bolt was DQ’d from, and then beat Bolt twice last year at the Jamaican trials. Bolt took him in London.

Bolt has already dubbed himself a “living legend,” and such high praise, even from your own mouth, makes it difficult to strive for more. So what will it take for Bolt to put in the effort to break his own records? To run 9.4-seconds in the 100m, like he said he one day would? It will take more than a loss. It will take an embarrassment, and one that I’m not sure the current world field will be able to lay on him before his career is done roughly three years from now. And certainly not from a 31-year-old bygone champion.

And if that’s true, we might have already seen the best of Usain Bolt.

Latest Posts
  1. Missy Franklin returns to Colorado, coach Todd Schmitz

    May 26, 2015, 8:13 AM EDT

    Missy Franklin Getty Images

    She may change coaches after the World Championships.

  2. James Magnussen out of World Swimming Championships

    May 23, 2015, 7:40 PM EDT

    James Magnussen Getty Images

    Nathan Adrian’s biggest rival in the 100m freestyle could still be an Australian.

  3. Rulon Gardner on returning to wrestling training, getting his gold medal back

    May 22, 2015, 3:44 PM EDT

    Rulon Gardner Getty Images

    The 2000 Olympic champion continues to struggle with weight loss.

  4. Rome mayor wants 2024 Olympic medal ceremonies in Colosseum

    May 22, 2015, 9:57 AM EDT

    Rome Colosseum Getty Images

    “We want to rebuild the arena of the Colosseum so that the athletes can be lifted in like the gladiators in the Roman times.”

  5. Olympians recall David Letterman appearances

    May 21, 2015, 11:49 AM EDT

    David Letterman, Tara Lipinski

    Skaters, skiers, gymnasts, track and field athletes and more.

  6. Russian Olympic boss sets Rio 2016 medal standings target

    May 21, 2015, 9:18 AM EDT

    Russia Getty Images

    Russia ceded its place as top challenger to the U.S. in recent Olympics.

  7. First set of Olympic rings unveiled in Rio de Janeiro

    May 20, 2015, 8:10 PM EDT

    Rio Olympic rings Getty Images

    They were a gift from a previous Olympic host city.

  8. Missy Franklin, more Olympians lead most marketable athletes list

    May 20, 2015, 3:07 PM EDT

    Missy Franklin Getty Images

    Usain Bolt dropped on the list and is no longer the top track and field athlete.

  9. German amputee keeps rivaling top long jumpers, eyes Olympics

    May 20, 2015, 1:38 PM EDT

    Markus Rehm Getty Images

    Markus Rehm jumped another personal best on Saturday, moving up the list of top active jumpers.

  10. David Letterman and the Olympics

    May 20, 2015, 1:09 PM EDT

    David Letterman Getty Images

    Letterman had a special correspondent at the 1994 and 1998 Winter Olympics.

  11. Caster Semenya: I can’t stop running because of gender controversy

    May 20, 2015, 12:53 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    The Olympic silver medalist has been off the elite competition radar for nearly two years.

  12. Gwen Jorgensen’s triathlon bike helmet includes Paul Bunyan, Bucky Badger

    May 20, 2015, 11:56 AM EDT

    Gwen Jorgensen

    The World champion explained the origin of her design.

  13. Justin Gatlin: ‘All is fine’ with Beijing meet organizers

    May 20, 2015, 9:15 AM EDT

    Justin Gatlin Getty Images

    Gatlin’s agent also called the sprinter “misunderstood.”

  14. Roger Bannister’s shoes from 4-minute mile set for auction

    May 20, 2015, 8:21 AM EDT

    AP AP

    A stopwatch used to time Bannister’s feat was also recently auctioned.

  15. Emily Seebohm, top rival to Missy Franklin, dislocates knee

    May 19, 2015, 12:41 PM EDT

    Emily Seebohm Getty Images

    Seebohm took silver behind Franklin in 2012 and 2013 but was faster last year.

  16. Justin Gatlin ‘kicked out’ of Beijing track meet

    May 19, 2015, 7:47 AM EDT

    Justin Gatlin Getty Images

    “They didn’t have any respect for me.”

  17. Michael Phelps self-assessment: ‘horrendous,’ ‘garbage’ after winless Charlotte meet

    May 18, 2015, 6:30 PM EDT

    AP AP

    The 22-time Olympic medalist finished first or second in zero events at a meet for the first time since the Sydney 2000 Olympics.