We think we know a lot about Usain Bolt. Science tells us he can run at 27mph, unleash 2,619.5 watts of power and produce 81.58 kilojoules of kinetic energy in a 100m sprint – that’s 50 times more than a bullet leaving a Magnum handgun. Sports fans know he has six Olympic gold medals and eight world titles, business experts have calculated he earns $24m a year, and broadcasters know his 100m victory at London 2012 attracted two billion viewers. But with fame and success come strange legends, wild stories and tabloid rumours which are harder to verify. So how much do we really know?
Here, fresh from his triumphs in Moscow, the man himself tells us what he thinks about the stories that have shaped his public image.
RUMOUR 1: He’s secretly training for both the long jump and 400m at Rio 2016
“After last season I sat down with my coach [Glen Mills] and we discussed what to do. We always thought this season would be the chance to try something new, like the long jump. But he said that my back is really bad. And he said: ‘You’re tall, so you’ll probably get knee problems because of all the hammering down.’ So we decided to not do the long jump. He talked about trying the 400m but I said, ‘Coach, don’t even go there.’ No way was I going to run all the way around the track. So we decided to concentrate on sprinting and continue dominating.”
RUMOUR 2: He eats nothing but cookies, KFC and chicken nuggets
Verdict: False! Sort of.
“Not so much now because I have a chef. We call him ‘Dougs’ – although his right name is Keron. Coach tells him what to cook. I have nothing to do with it. I can’t tell him, ‘I need pizza now’ because coach will say: ‘He needs to get this. Don’t give him that.’ So no matter what I say, it won’t help. Coach is not going to be too happy if I try to fire my chef. So I just go along with it pretty much. It is true that in Beijing I probably ate about 1,000 chicken nuggets. But I did have good stuff, too. I remember sitting at the table with one sandwich and two boxes of chicken nuggets and dipping them in barbecue sauce. [Jamaican hurdler] Brigitte Foster-Hylton said: ‘Yo, you need to eat some vegetables!’ I said, ‘Nah, it’s not going to happen.’ So she went off and brought me a salad. I said, ‘I’m not going to eat that.’ So she said, ‘Try a dressing.’ I think it was a ranch dressing – you know, the orange one? When I poured that on to my salad it was perfect.”
RUMOUR 3: He genuinely thinks he could play football for Manchester United and cricket for the West Indies
“Yes! I am definitely open to the possibility. I would like to play as a striker. But Robin van Persie is working out, isn’t he? If I get the chance to play cricket for a big team it would be something fun, too. The Australian guys [in the T20 Big Bash League] have said if I am there and I want to do it, they will make it happen. When I started running fast as a kid it helped my cricket. Running definitely got me out of trouble and it gave me quick bowling too, so it worked out well. I’m a pretty fast bowler.”
RUMOUR 4: He regularly competes in dance battles in Kingston nightclubs
Verdict: False! At least these days…
“I’m not into those dance battles now. We used to have crazy ones in Quad [a Kingston nightclub]. When you are younger it’s always fun, but then you start noticing girls and girls start noticing you and it is just not cool doing a dance in a club, sweating and going absolutely crazy. So now I’m just standing there, looking cool in my nice shirt, and watching. I may dance with the girls but it is more that I let them dance. The older you get, the more you go, ‘Hmm, no. I’m cool just standing here.’”
RUMOUR 5: He became so obsessed with Spanish girls that he started learning the language
“Spanish women are wonderful. Really wonderful. So I tried to learn Spanish. One day I bought a Rosetta Stone computer program thing. I made the effort. But I think I didn’t upload it very well because all the talk was in Spanish. It just kept on talking in Spanish, so I was like, ‘You have got to tell me the English too!’ At least I can say some stuff in Spanish now – I just don’t know what I’m saying.”
RUMOUR 6: He really did almost die in that car crash
“It was terrifying. I was driving my BMW M3 [in 2009] and it was a Champions League day so I wanted to watch Manchester United against Bayern Munich or somebody. I had been in the countryside and I had an hour to get to Kingston to watch the game. And suddenly, out of nowhere, it was just, whoosh, raining real hard. So I slowed down. But while driving along I think I accidentally turned the traction off because there is no way a BMW could spin off. I felt the car wobble a little bit and I thought: ‘That’s not normal.’ I remember the back just started spinning around and the car started sliding backwards off the road. I was thinking, ‘Please don’t flip.’ And then it flipped. I put my hand on the roof and it was so scary. When I realised I was OK, my first instinct was to help the other people in the car. When I look back now, I am just so p*ssed that I broke my car.”
RUMOUR 7: He has a new celebration lined up to replace the ‘Lightning Bolt’
“I have been thinking quite far ahead, I know, but how cool would it be to win the 100m gold in Rio, grab a girl and just start samba dancing? How cool would that be? Seriously, man. To dance samba. With a girl. In Brazil. It would be awesome. I’m going to learn and have already worked this one out. It would be such a cool thing to do. The crowd would go crazy.”
Faster Than Lightning: My Autobiography by Usain Bolt is out now, published by HarperSport (£20)
(Image: Rex Features)