RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – The “Usain Bolt Variety Hour” hit Brazil, big time, on Monday.
The closing number said it all: After talking about life, sprinting and the Olympics – and yes, Bolt insisted the Rio de Janeiro Games will be his last – the 6-foot-5 Jamaican pulled out his cell phone and started taking selfies while he shimmied off stage, surrounded by more than a dozen thong-and-headdress-wearing Samba dancers.
The evening with Bolt also included his now-immortalized “To The World” pose, a few serious questions about racing and doping, along with one reporter who said he had no question, but pronounced: “I really love you, man,” then poetry slammed the following: “I hope you win. I hope it’s your day. I hope you will go even though you get hit by a Segway.”
The now-famous Segway incident occurred after Bolt’s victory in the 200 meters last year at the world championships. While taking a victory lap, a multitasking photographer slammed into the back of Bolt’s legs with his scooter. Bolt bounced up and was no worse for wear.
In the lead up to the Rio Olympics, his legs haven’t fared as well. He pulled out of his national championships last month with a sore hamstring, which he has been trying to rehabilitate in time to put on a show in Brazil.
Bolt takes to the track Saturday for the early rounds of the 100 meters. If he wins the 100, 200 and 4x100 relay, the way he has at the last two Olympics, he’ll close his Olympic career with nine gold medals.
By now, though, it’s as much about the show as the results, and Bolt said as much Monday night.
“I’m definitely a sprinter first, but I like to entertain,” he said. “That’s what people come out to see. They like it when I do crazy stuff. I try to entertain and make it different, help people enjoy it.”
By doing that, he has obliterated the decades-old image of the sullen, skulking sprinter – and has also offered a much-needed breath of fresh air in a sport devoured by doping scandals that have dominated the lead-up to the Olympics.
“I think we’re going in the right direction,” Bolt said. “I must say, we’re weeding out the bad ones. I think people should have faith. We have to go through the rough times before we get to the good times.”