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Best friend gives insight on Bolt's true potential

Published:Saturday | September 12, 2015 | 12:00 AMAndre Lowe
Usain Bolt with executive manager Nugent Walker (left).

BRUSSELS, Belgium:

IMAGINE. Usain Bolt has not quite achieved his full potential.

Ridiculous. Surely. Or is it?

There are very few people who know Bolt as well as this fellow does, but despite the athlete's glittering CV, which includes a decade of sprinting dominance at the junior and senior levels, world records in the 100m and 200m, as well as six Olympic and 11 World Championships gold medals, his best friend and executive manager, Nugent Walker, believes the Jamaican superstar has not maxed out and is yet to fulfil on his abilities.

Imagine that.

Walker, fully assured in his long-time friend's capabilities, was perhaps the coolest man in Beijing as Bolt, despite a troubled season up to that point, successfully defended his 100 and 200m titles at the IAAF World Championships.

However, Walker, who spoke to the athlete's challenges in 2015, believes track and field's poster boy has actually underachieved, with injuries and other factors hampering what he thinks is the sprinter's full potential.


Grounding element


Wild celebrations in the stands aside, Walker, who was asked by Bolt to join his team after his heroics at the 2008 Olympic Games and 2009 IAAF World Championships, has long been a grounding element in the sprinter's life, and having spent every success, scare and sacrifice by his side, the trained educator-turned-high-level manager sees in Bolt a machine waiting to be pushed to red-line speed.

"We always trouble him that he underachieves on the track. I don't want to name any times, but 9.58 and 19.19 isn't the best of Usain, so it's somewhat of a banter among us," Walker mentioned recently during a chat with The Sunday Gleaner.

"Injuries have always prevented that, but we are hoping that next year we can have a decent-enough season where we can show the world his true best.

"Usain has spoken about this. He has repeatedly stated that he wants to run sub-19 seconds in the 200m, and the coach has the programme in place. He (Bolt) has the talent to make that happen, so we hope we can get there. Usain is praying, and we are trying to support him that he can have a season where there is no injury or limited amount of injury that won't set him back, and once we can get a season like that in, the mind can't imagine what Usain can achieve on the track," added Walker, who went on to share the secret behind fuelling the fire that drives the world's fastest man.

"We always try to tell him a couple things; people we know who can tick him off, we'd say 'hey, this person said so and so about you'; we would whisper that to him, and that also gets him fired up. So we always try to keep a balance in what we share with him because he is not a person who is really involved in the media, he doesn't watch the news every day or read the papers every day, so we streamline what we feed to him," admitted Walker, when asked about the athlete's reaction to public doubt.

"Usain lives for competition. I don't know that we can say that enough, so we actually laugh when people say that he is a coward or afraid or backing down. His record shows otherwise. Outside of that, he is always like 'let's show them that it can be done again'. He has no problem when it is said that he is not healthy or that he is not running fast, but when his competitive edge is being questioned, that always drives him," said Walker, who has been friends with Bolt since the age of four.

"Our role in Usain's life as members of his team is to try to get his body in the best physical condition, so that when he gets to the championships, his body can do what his mind tells him, because he has such a strong mind. So once you get him to the championships strong and ready, his mind will take over, and that's what separates him from everyone else.

"Even the races at the World Championships, there were other people who were fitter than him, but his mind power and that will to win, that drive, made him win," Walker added.


Never doubted Bolt


"He worked hard with his coach, and the reward is now on the table for everyone to see, so he's really very happy about the way the season ended. The team has never doubted Usain's or the coach's ability. There was a concern from the New York meet about what was happening to him physically or medically. Obviously, we figured there was some amount of niggles taking place; injury is a big word, because he was still able to train, but he just could not maximise his potential," Walker explained.

"Doubt? Usain never doubts his ability!"

Next year's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, will perhaps present the last big stage for Bolt to truly floor his pedal, and if Walker is right, it won't be long before the Jamaican speedster gives the historians some more work.