This story appears in the Dec. 12, 2011, "Interview Issue" of ESPN The Magazine.
Howard: What does it feel like to run at a speed that no human being had ever achieved before?
Bolt: You can't really tell; it's
just very smooth. But I do like
to see the slo-mo. When they zoom in on the legs, the amount of time you spend in the air is
like a couple of seconds -- you're flying and it looks so good. But you can't really tell how you're feeling; you're just focused on getting to the line.
When does it hit you?
When you get to the lines and you look at the clock. You keep staring at that clock and you're like, Wow.
What's going through your mind in one of those big races?
I've learned over the years that if you start thinking about the race, it stresses you out a little bit. I just try to relax and think about video games, what I'm gonna do after the race, what I'm gonna do just to chill. Stuff like that to relax a little before the race.
So you think about video games, huh? What sort of video games do you play?
Right now I'm on
"Call of Duty" -- that's all we play. Black Ops [laughs].
How about during the race? What do you see? What do you hear?
The first 40 or 50 meters, I'm aware of almost everything because that's the weakest part of my race, so I always check immediately if I got a good start. Maybe after 20 meters, I check again -- trying to tell myself to keep my technique right. I look around a little bit,
but I don't really hear the crowd much over 100 meters because I'm so focused.
You said the first 40 is probably the weakest part of your race. What are you doing to improve your starts?
It's been a lot of work over the years -- working on technique, the first three, four steps, getting my center of gravity right. My head's not pointing straight down -- it's
at an angle -- so I've been working on that a lot.
You've been diagnosed with scoliosis. How has that affected your training?
When I was younger it wasn't really a problem. But you grow and it gets worse. My spine's really curved bad [makes "S" shape with finger]. But if I keep my core and back strong, the scoliosis doesn't really bother me. So I don't have to worry about it as long as I work hard. The early part of my career, when we didn't really know much about it, it really hampered me because I got injured every year.
Do you have a pregame meal?
Chicken McNuggets from
McDonald's? That's your pregame meal?
It depends on where I am.
So you change your pregame meal depending on where you are?
Yeah, if I'm at a championship, like in Korea, Japan and these places where the food is not normal food, I always have nuggets. So when I was in Beijing, I had nuggets. When I was in Daegu [South Korea], I had nuggets. When you eat what you know, your stomach won't get upset.
What's your dance? Is it the
In Daegu, I did the Swag.
When you do stuff like that, it makes it enjoyable to watch your sport. That's what I'm saying. When people see your personality come out, they feel so good, like they actually know who you are.
That's a beautiful thing. It takes a lot of courage to do it because a lot of people ...
Don't like it.
Who's your biggest competition?
The talented guys right now
are Tyson Gay, an American; Asafa Powell, a Jamaican; and this young kid coming up right now, Yohan Blake. We train together, and he's gonna be great in the future. But anybody who steps into the lane beside you is the biggest competition because they made it to the finals.
Tyson Gay, what's the beef?
I don't know. Tyson -- we were cool, then after a while people wanted a rivalry and Tyson
went with it [laughs]. I guess when you're a rival, people don't want to talk no more. 'Cause you're my main rival, we got to be "aaargghhhh" [makes Robert DeNiro's "I'm watching you" motion from "Meet the Parents"]. For me, it's cool.
What's next for Usain Bolt?
I want to do wild things at the Olympics coming up in London. That's my focus. I want at the end of the championship for people to turn the TV off and say, "Did that really just happen?"
Desmond Howard is college football analyst for ESPN. He conducted this interview on Oct. 10. Follow The Mag on Twitter @ESPNmag and like us on Facebook.