Forty meters into the 100-meter semifinal at the 2012 London Olympics, Ricky Simms broke out with a vocal "Yes!" in the stands that caught the attention of the Usain Bolt sponsors sitting alongside him.
"The race isn't over yet," one representative said to Simms.
He was right, but Simms noticed Bolt had hit the acceleration he was looking for in training sessions and the preliminary round in order to eventually capture gold in the final.
"I watch Usain from a very technical point of view," Simms said. "Everything is based what the coach has been telling him. I'm not a sprints coach, but I'm a distance coach and I've been doing this for a little while now."
It is a relationship that has panned out for almost 12 years and goes beyond the conventional athlete-coach alliance.
The Come Up
Simms did not have a traditional path to becoming an agent to the stars of track and field. He studied as an undergrad and earned his postgraduate certificate in education in physical education from the University of Ulster in Jordanstown, Ireland. Because Simms placed high enough in his class, he was awarded a job as a physical education teacher when he finished school.
"My under-14 girls field hockey team were killer," Simms said. "They were so good. They were training in the morning and evening until I had to say, 'Stop training.' They'd go at it before school and I think that was the most fun I had in those days."
Simms also maintained a connection with the Athletics Federation of Ireland through Patsy McGonagle, who coached him and served as the Olympic team manager. He agreed to bring Simms along to international events to help out as an assistant before Simms found a job with the National Coaching and Training Centre, now known as the Irish Institute of Sport.
He soon found himself unofficially working as an agent for a few Irish athletes.
"I'd be calling up meets and getting these athletes into races," Simms reflected. "It was actually costing me money."
A close friend invited Simms to work with world-renowned agent Kim McDonald. Simms' wife, Marion Steininger, had previously worked for him in 1998 and 1999 and thought it was an excellent opportunity. The role grew into a full-time job until the agent's untimely death in 2001.
"It was a completely shock since he was so young," Simms said. "He was probably the most powerful agent in the world at the time. We didn't know what to do. The athletes were saying 'Let's keep doing it.' We worked as if he was still alive."
As a collective effort, clients like American track star Bob Kennedy, Irish distance runner Sonia O'Sullivan and British sprinter Mark Lewis-Francis stepped up their performances on the track to win in his memory the following spring. Kim McDonald International Management was still running.
The staff interviewed other executives to fill McDonald's shoes, but no one fit their needs. Simms was chosen as the new face of the agency soon to be known as PACE Sports Management.
"While Kim was alive we had a plan to diversify," Simms said. "The company was comprised of mostly long-distance and Kenyan athletes. As a business with prize money coming in, you need to have athletes in all the events."
There was a kid in Jamaica who would soon come knocking.
Simms was working at the 2002 Monaco Diamond League meet when all the chatter by agents, athletes and coaches in the warm-up area was about the latest world junior 200-meter champion.
"Everyone as talking about this raw talent just running with his head back," Simms said. "I didn't really think too much about it."
Simms was still focused on keeping his agency afloat. Puma's director of running, Pascal Rolling, approached PACE about Bolt's decision to forgo the collegiate ranks for a professional career. Simms and his company sat down with Bolt's family and reached an agreement ahead of the 2004 Olympic Games.
"Puma always had a reggae concert for the Jamaican team and there he was on stage as a 17-year-old just dancing," Simms said. "I thought, 'Wow. He's confident for his age.'"
After running a world junior record of 19.93 for 200 meters in early 2004, Bolt injured a hamstring, which led to trips to doctors and physiologists in London, and he spent time with Simms.
"Long-distance athletes are very regimented with morning runs and evening runs," Simms said. "He was laying in bed until 1 or 2 in the afternoon because of the time difference and he didn't want to get up. He played video games all night."
Simms was still regularly working out at a high level and so when he finally got Bolt out of bed one day, they decided to test his hamstring with a couple strides on the track.
"His steps were twice mine," Simms said. "I thought 'This guy's a freak!' He was eating up the ground. This was something else."
Bolt only ran in the preliminary heats of the 2004 Olympics, but four years later he would rewrite the record books.
Return to the Big Apple
Bolt touched down in New York City on Wednesday evening from Jamaica and braced himself for the madness that would ensue over the next two days. Bolt can walk the streets of Monaco by himself and has even gone for solo strolls in Berlin, but cities like New York and London are a different animal.
"People recognize him [in New York] and it's almost like they just want to say hi," Simms said. "In places like Munich, people look but they don't touch."
On Thursday morning, Bolt headed out to Icahn Stadium for a pre-meet workout with coach Glen Mills, where he worked on running the 100-meter curve for the start of his race. (More work needs to be done as after the race, he called it the "worst ever" run of his career.)
Awaiting him at the track were select media outlets that agreed to conduct sponsored interviews through Gatorade, which has sponsored Bolt since after the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Simms and the entourage got in their private car back to the Grand Hyatt Hotel on 42nd Street and quickly allowed for Usain to change and head off to their next commitment.
"We go everywhere together," Bolt said. "He stalks me pretty much. If I go to the doctor, he's there. Meets? He's there. Sponsorship things? He's there."
Not much has changed since his quick rise to fame into the public spotlight in 2008, as hundreds of fans packed the fourth floor of the Macy's in Herald Square, where the world's fastest man was caught in traffic and arrived over 40 minutes late to a Puma-sponsored autograph signing.
He went most of the day without eating after his training session and closed out the day with a VIP reception hosted by NASDAQ.
Friday brought a 25-minute press conference followed by rounds of individual television interviews with channels from around the world. Simms was around to monitor his client's time, but also chimed in during a Swedish television station's interview when they asked Bolt what his favorite thing about their country was. The jokes never stopped.
"We laugh about everything," Bolt laughs. "He's a lot crazier than you think. If you hang out with him and hear the things he says, you'd never think he's an agent. That's why he's so cool. It's not like dealing with a professional person all the time."
On Saturday morning, Simms sent Bolt a text message at 10:30 a.m. to check if the world's fastest man was awake. A few minutes later, he checked again and the message was still unread, so he headed up and woke him up for breakfast and their departure at noon.
Laughs were shared as the crew joked around in the private ride to Randall's Island from Manhattan, which is no different from the routine before an Olympic final.
"Everyone warming up is doing their strides and sweating while being serious," Simms said. "We were just slacking off and having banter on man things. I remember his masseur [Everald Edwards] said there were 20 minutes until the call room and Usain was cackling on the floor hysterically. He hadn't thought this was the Olympics."
Simms also shared that Edwards was the same person that supplied Bolt with his daily dose of McDonald's chicken nuggets and salad throughout the 2008 Olympics.
"We have so much fun together over the years," Bolt said. "From the start, he's always treated me the same way with the same respect. I think that's the biggest reason why I've stayed with him so long over the years."
By 1 p.m., the Bolt entourage of Mills, Nugent Walker Jr. and Simms entered the Icahn Stadium warm-up grounds.
Bolt greeted his fans, but when approached by a photographer in the warm-up area, he declined a photo op, said "I'm working" and continued about his warmup. Just like in the Olympics, Simms remains in the warm-up area as a familiar face to accompany his athlete.
He watched from a distance along with the nearly sold-out crowd as Bolt won the men's 200-meter dash in 20.29, edging rising star Zharnel Hughes by .02 seconds into a strong headwind.
The world's fastest man did not appear as dominant as he did on his last trip to New York in 2008, where he set the 100-meter world record in 9.69. He has not looked sharp through his first nine races of 2015, and even he recognizes it.
"I really don't know what's happened today," Bolt said. "I guess we just have to go back to the drawing board and figure that out."
Bolt answered questions at a post-race press conference and then prepared to discuss his next plans with Mills and Simms to put him in the best position to defend his gold medals at the IAAF World Championships in August.
The Farewell Tour
In 2017, the track and field community will bid adieu to its biggest star, with Bolt planning to retire from competition one year after the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro.
A documentary is already planned to follow him around his final Olympics, but that's as far as Simms has looked ahead to his client's future.
"The Olympics is the most important thing for him," Simms said. "If everything goes well in the Olympics and he wins, it depends on how much he wants to train in the winter of 2016-2017. He may not want to train much. He gets so many opportunities to play celebrity soccer and basketball games and he loves that sort of stuff."
Simms says he could explore the option of traveling to places that Bolt has never raced before or following the model set by Michael Johnson of running relays at a lot of meets in his final year.
Bolt joked about having a bit more fun along the circuit in his final year.
"I've told him when the last season comes, we should just do crazy things --and ask for like random things and be a diva," Bolt said with a smile. "I think in 2017, we should change it up and ask for blue Skittles when we get to meets. Evian water only. Stuff like that."
"He's too nice to do that," Simms said.
Simms' cellphone buzzes with emails and text messages on occasion and he reads them all. Opportunities to attend red carpet events and award shows in Japan, South Africa or Germany are among the events that are passed up, and there are days when Simms' battery is dead by 11 a.m. For the most part, Bolt and Simms remain loyal to their sponsors and are carefully selective of new opportunities.
"I'd like to take credit for all the nice marketing things that he's done like holding up his spikes after the Olympics in 2008," Simms said. "He had no idea and there was nothing to do with Puma, but that's marketing gold. I'd love to say that all those ideas are mine, but a majority of it comes from Usain's natural ability."
Bolt and Simms have struck the perfect balance between athlete and agent as well as best friends and family.
"He's been so much a part of my life. He's become a part of my family and we have a small family in the track and field life," Bolt said. "He says he's going to retire when I retire, but I know he's lying. He's trying to make me feel good."