Triple world and Olympic champion Usain Bolt has confirmed that he plans to retire after the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro because he wants to go out "on top of my career". Bolt, who runs his last race of the season when he competes in the 100 metres in Friday's Diamond League meeting in Brussels, says his mission is to continue his domination of the sprint events for the next three years but admits that winning another Olympic gold medal at the Rio Games would be the perfect way to bow out.
"I think if I am in great shape, I'll go there and do what I have to do," he told a news conference yesterday. "I think it will be a good time to retire on top and having dominated for so long."
The Jamaican has spoken on numerous occasions about his dream of clinching the Olympic 100 and 200m double for an unprecedented third time, though he still has other goals before then. Although he has yet to draw up his 2014 schedule with his coach, Glen Mills, he already has eyes on winning his first Commonwealth title in Glasgow in the summer and he also wants to lower his own 200m world record of 19.19sec, which he set, along with the world 100m mark, at the World Championships in Berlin four years ago. "The 100m world record is the hardest to break because it is more technical," he said.
"In the 200m, if I can master the bend and stay injury-free, there is room for improvement." Although there is no global championship next year, Bolt will not make the mistake he made in the last non-championship year in 2010 when he cut back on his pre-season training and paid the price by suffering a back injury midway through the summer. "If I want to continue to dominate on the track, I can't afford an off season," he said.
"That is a lesson that I've learnt. Now that I'm getting a bit older, I know that I have to stay injury-free, maintain focus and act responsibly." Injury issues surfaced at the start of this summer when Bolt struggled with a hamstring problem and he suffered a rare defeat at the hands of American rival Justin Gatlin at the Rome Golden Gala. He was unbeaten thereafter and went on to win 100m, 200m and 4x100m titles at last month's World Championships in Moscow, but he admits he did not have a "perfect" season and that he did not win "in Usain Bolt fashion". Part of the problem, he said, was rediscovering his motivation following his triple triumph at the London Olympics. "I couldn't find that goal, that drive to get going again," he said.
"I sat down and thought to myself, 'What do I really want?' and 'What can I do in this sport some more?' "I've made up my mind that if I want to be among the greats of Ali, Pele and all these guys, I have to continue dominating until I retire. "I'm really focused on getting every season correct, trying not to get injured, and just continue dominating so at the end of my career people will put me among the greats."
Bolt showed signs of end-of-season fatigue when he struggled out of his blocks in Zurich last week and had to come from a long way behind to win his 100m race in 9.90sec. He will not be able to relax in tomorrow's race in Belgium as he comes up against five other 100m finalists from the World Championships. Among them is Britain's James Dasaolu, who will be hoping for an improvement on his eight-place finish in Moscow and, weather permitting, his third sub-10-second performance of the summer.