Athletics
Rob Bartlett, ESPN UK Associate Editor 80d

Usain Bolt hopes for 'unbeatable, unstoppable' legacy after swansong

LONDON -- "Unbeatable, unstoppable -- Usain Bolt."

That is the headline the Jamaican sprinter wants to see after his swansong race at the upcoming IAAF World Championships in London. With eight Olympic gold medals, 11 world titles -- a tally that may increase this weekend -- a world-record time of 9.58 seconds and a reputation as one of the greatest athletes to have entertained the planet, the end is finally nigh.

There is no question that the sprint king is ready to embrace retirement. Bolt, 30, said as much when asked at his London news conference Tuesday. Should he fail to defend his 100-meter world crown at Olympic Stadium, the scene of that mesmerizing 2012 triple Olympic triumph, the answer was no chance.

"We're not going to have that problem -- don't worry," he joked in front of roughly 500 journalists and camera crews. "It's a [world] championships, it's all about who can keep their nerve. I have been here a lot of times."

This time, though, there is a cloud of vulnerability. Bolt has only run sub-10 seconds once in three attempts this season and his rivals will be as inspired as ever to spoil the big soiree.

But while the image of Bolt passing the torch to a younger generation is arguably romantic, it is a far cry from what is at the forefront of his mind. After everything Bolt has achieved, after the cloud of doping hanging over the sport -- only nine of the 30 fastest 100 times have been run clean, all by Bolt -- there is still a willingness in him to win.

"I'm comfortable calling myself a legend because I've proven myself," said Bolt, who is set to compete in the 4x100 relay along with the 100.

Other legends agreed; during his news conference, Bolt was shown a compilation video of good luck messages from various athletes and celebrities ahead of his grand finale. Thierry Henry, Virat Kohli, Cara Delvigne, Asafa Powell and Samuel L. Jackson were just some of the names to pass on their well wishes. "It's great to be recognized by great people," Bolt said.

When all is said and done, Bolt is a global superstar, but he feels and shows emotion just like the other great competitors before him. And he is not afraid to shy away and hide that.

On Tuesday, he talked tales of watching cricket as a child with his father -- getting up in the middle of the night to watch the West Indies tour abroad -- and why his proudest memory remained winning his first race (before he became a professional) in front of his home crowd in Jamaica because he proved to himself that he could do it.

There were moments of reflection over the death of his close friend, Olympic high-jump silver medalist Germaine Mason, earlier this year, and how it hit Bolt so hard he couldn't bear the thought of training. He also showed disappointment when the topic of doping came up again, knowing his sport, his livelihood, is still trying to find a way back from rock bottom. He expressed how he wants to help his sport improve, a desire that may see him remain in athletics and pass on his wisdom to the new generation.

"Stop pressuring the kids -- let them develop and enjoy their sport," Bolt said. "I want to explain to them what I've been through, try to motivate them, try to help other people get into the sport."

It was a passionate farewell from a man who believed anything was possible. This man will wear specially designed spikes for his long-awaited finale, displaying his school colors of purple, where it all started, and gold, where it will end.

"Anyone who decides when they need to walk away from anything they do is a great feeling," Bolt said. "It means you are satisfied and feel accomplished."

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