Hubert Lawrence: Bolting into the future
It can only mean one thing. If Usain Bolt is contemplating an extension of his career beyond the 2017 World Championships, then his coach, Glen Mills, must have again set new acceptable targets for the tall man.
Mills has done it before, and the sport of athletics is breathing a slow sigh of relief because he is doing it again.
Had Bolt retired after his sport-altering 2008 and 2009 seasons, he would already have been the king of sprinters. It's a no-brainer. The world-record doubles at the Beijing Olympics and the Berlin World Championships were, and still are, the stuff of legend.
Mills had the tall man focused and led him on consistency. He came back to show how human he was with the infamous 100-metre false start at the 2011 Worlds and how brilliant he was with the rip-snorting Olympic double title defence in London almost four years ago.
When he retained his Olympic crown in the 100m, he did it in 9.63 seconds. That's inferior only to his world record of 9.58.
Had he retired then, he would still be the best sprinter of all time. After all, no one had done the Olympic sprint double twice. Had he retired then, he'd have missed the 2013 and 2015 World Championships, where he reigned supreme. In 2015, his absence would have left Justin Gatlin as World 100-metre champion.
Bolt will be 34 when the 2020 Olympics roll around. Glen Mills, however, has seen something in the athlete he has coached for more than a decade. Perhaps if and when Bolt loses the snap required to rule the 100m, they will concentrate on the 200 metres.
AIMING FOR A RECORD
If he doesn't break the 19-second barrier this year or in 2017, that will be one reason to continue. If that barrier is breached by next season, it's my guess that Bolt's retirement would probably come as originally contemplated at the end of the 2017 season. There would hardly be any reason to run another step.
The only target left would be the 400 metres. No one has ever won global titles at 100, 200, and 400 metres. If he sticks around past 2017, even with his well-known disinterest in the longest of sprints, Bolt could be the one.
• Hubert Lawrence has been amazed by Bolt since 2002.