Bolt targets Olympic triple-triple in bid to rival Ali, Jordan and Pele

Usain Bolt believes he must win all three sprinting gold medals on offer in Rio in order to rival Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan and Pele as the greatest sportsman ever.

Bolt begins his hunt for an unprecedented triple-triple on Saturday as he competes in the 100m heats of what, in all likelihood, will prove to be his final Olympic Games.

After his clean sweeps at both Beijing and London, further golds in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m in Brazil would cement the 29-year-old's place as the most dominant track athlete of the modern era.

However, Bolt has far loftier ambitions. The Jamaican is determined to put himself in the pantheon of sporting greats before he retires, but is a Rio treble essential to that quest?

"Yeah," he told ESPN in London last month. "I think it would definitely help and push [my cause] because it's big.

"As any sports star, you have to continue winning, and as this is going to be my last Olympics, unless ... I think I definitely have to win to prove to the world that I am the best throughout the whole of my career.

"That's the focus and I'm going to get it done."

If Bolt celebrates his 30th birthday on Aug. 21 with another three gold medals draped around his neck, he will become the third track and field athlete to have won nine Olympic titles.

He would, though, become the first to claim those golds exclusively in sprinting events, and he has been equally impressive in world championships, winning 11 of the last 12 titles on offer.

It is that domination of the shorter distances that has edged him past other modern greats of the track, such as Carl Lewis -- who won four of his nine golds in the long jump -- and childhood hero Michael Johnson.

Like Pele, Bolt has dealt with early expectations and delivered on his promise, and like Ali, Bolt has paired his accomplishments with a personality that few of his peers can match.

But although Bolt has enjoyed a relationship with Puma since he was just 14 years old, he admits that building a sportswear brand to rival Jordan's may be beyond his reach.

"A lot of my friends have said, 'Usain, you should get your own shoe line,'" Bolt said. "But I said, 'Listen, Michael Jordan actually played in basketball shoes, so it's a lot different to track and field.

"I actually use spikes, so it's much, much different.

"But if I could get a shoe that could go out there, that would be awesome because I think I'm one of the few persons, like Michael Jordan, who actually has a symbol that people actually know, that stands out."

His playful antics in stadiums around the world -- including larking around London's Olympic Stadium with Mo Farah four years ago and colliding with a Segway in Beijing last year -- have helped cultivate his legend as much as his achievements on the track.

But as he contemplates turning 30 -- a prospect the Jamaican is less than ecstatic about -- Bolt is now the elder statesman of athletics. And, it seems, he is keen to help the next generation of sprinting talent.

"I've always tried to pass on information to younger kids," he said. "Especially because I started out at a young age and I've been through it all, the injuries, the doubts, the stress, all these things.

"I've always tried to encourage younger athletes and give them tips to try to explain to them what they need to do and how hard the road is going to be.

"I've really tried my best, and any athlete who comes up to me and asks me information, you know I'll give if they ask. Even [teammate Yohan] Blake, I've always tried to encourage him although he's one of my biggest rivals."