Bolt takes T.O. by storm

Usain Bolt strikes his famous pose at the end of his workout at Varsity Stadium in Toronto on...

Usain Bolt strikes his famous pose at the end of his workout at Varsity Stadium in Toronto on Wednesday. (Sun Media/Craig Robertson)

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:48 AM ET

Olympic track superstar Usain Bolt was surrounded by a couple of beefy bodyguards yesterday when he made his way into an uptown Toronto hotel to meet the media in advance of this evening's Festival of Excellence at Varsity Stadium.

But he might want to consider beefing up his security detail a little bit more.

One of his rivals -- American Shawn Crawford -- has come up with an intriguing plan on how to beat the peerless Bolt, who electrified the world last year in Beijing by becoming the first man in history to win the 100 metres (9.69 seconds), 200 metres (19.30) and 4x100 metre relay (37.10) in world record time at the same Olympics.

"(This) morning," Crawford said, "I'm going down to the front desk and I'm going to tell them: 'My name's Usain Bolt'. Hopefully, they'll give me a key. I'm going to go up to his room, I'm going to tie him up, he's going to miss the meet, and it's going to make it easier for me."

Even with ropes around his legs, Bolt probably would bounce to victory.

There was a definite electricity in the air yesterday, unmatched in these parts for track and field since ... well, probably ever.

That last time track generated anywhere near this amount of hype was in June of 1997, when sprinters Donovan Bailey of Oakville and American Michael Johnson, who was on hand yesterday to present Bolt with the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award, met in a $2-million, 150-metre match race at the SkyDome -- which Bailey won after Johnson pulled up with an injury.

In the intervening years, the sport has been, for all intents and purposes, dead, despite some good performances internationally by such Canadian athletes as 2003 world champion Perdita Felicien and 2008 Olympic medallist Priscilla Lopes-Schliep, both in the hurdles.

In any other year, featuring any other athlete, this meet wouldn't have come off, probably wouldn't have even been considered. But Bolt is such a supreme athlete, with such universal appeal that it became a no-brainer, and a full house is expected tonight at Varsity.

Pre-Bolt, animosity, jealousy and cockiness ruled the sprint world.

Individuals such as Bolt and Crawford are refreshing changes.

Crawford reportedly gave his Olympic silver medal in the 200 to Churandy Martina when the Netherlands Antilles competitor was disqualified for a lane violation.

Even when admitting that he might someday run the 100 metres in 9.5, as he did again yesterday, Bolt comes across as humble and likable -- though he certainly isn't predicting a huge time tonight.

"This is my first major meet of the season," said Bolt, who ran a wind-aided 9.93 on March 14 in his native Jamaica. "I pretty much just want to go in and see where I'm at, and just say injury free."

Then again, the 22-year-old posted a world-best 14.35 in a 150-metre race on the streets of Manchester, England last month, at only 70% fitness.

It should be an intriguing next couple of years for Bolt, who has suggested that he will start concentrating more on the 400.

The world record (43.18 by Johnson) has been in the books for a good 10 years, but many track insiders believe that, once Bolt decides to focus on the event, it won't be long before he eclipses the time.

Insiders have predicted that Bolt could hit the wire in the 400 in 42.5. Bolt previously said that breaking the 400 record is a priority because he wants to become a true legend.

But yesterday, with Johnson standing right beside him, he backed off a little bit.

Bolt talked about how his life has changed since his golden performances in Beijing, how he no can longer walk the streets without getting mobbed, how he now has to send friends out to get food.

But even with the lack of privacy, the car crash earlier this year, and the minor surgery, he has managed to keep his sense of humour intact, like when he insisted that, no, he's not in a big hurry to have his picture put on the Jamaican dollar bill.

"They usually put your face on money after you're dead," he said with a laugh.


Videos

Photos