Usain Bolt looks a little frustrated coming out of his last ever press conference. Ahead of his final race Bolt agreed to open questions to a floor of the world’s media. Countless queries about Andre Grasse ensued, “Describe your relationship with Grasse” one asks “Well I don’t have his phone number or anything so we don’t text!” says a visibly frustrated Bolt. He quickly shakes off the question and the large iconic smile returns as he chooses another raised hand. “Do you think Andre Grasse will be the next Usain Bolt?” – “What if you don’t win your last race?” – “Is Grasse your biggest competition?” – “Do you think you’re still the fastest man on earth?” – Of Course he does, because he is. Fact.
I was shocked at how many poorly worded and headline grabbing questions this legend of sport was faced with. He has announced his retirement and is about to run his last race, his career is full of epic moments that will be marked in history forever, why on earth would you take this opportunity to ask him about Grasse, someone he’s clearly kinda fallen out with.
The press conference was a massive success, a huge turn out (obvs, it’s Bolt) and super well organised, but as I lay on my princely positioned yoga mat (lying low so as not to ruin the shot of cameras above) I wished the questions from the floor weren’t so harsh. I couldn’t help but think, Please don’t piss him off before my one on one interview with him!
I was about to sit down with the fastest man on earth and I did not want him to be sick to death of the British media before I even began. I wasn’t going to ask him anything about Grasse that’s for sure. I wanted to know what he’s going to do next, how’s he going to fulfill the adrenaline his career has brought him so far and is he going to slow down…
Thankfully this global super star has his media game nailed and strolled into our interview calm and focused uttering the words “Man those guys are trying to kill me!” I reassure him that this interview for ESPN worldwide was going to be focusing on the positives. He smiles, sits down and and puts his microphone on. He knows he has countless more obligations that day. He spots a Jamaica cap on our camera girl and asks if she’s Jamaican – ‘No’ she replies, ‘I’m Canadian’. He rolls his eyes. I promise him we’re not going to focus on a certain Canadian and we begin.
It’s a strict 5 minutes which is counted by a powerful PR lady whose stood in my direct line of vision. She starts tapping her watch as if time is up after about 60seconds. After 3minutes she signals for me to wrap up. I completely ignore her. She’s got a long day ahead of her and it’s her job to rush everyone, she’s running a tight ship, it’s mine to slow it down and get my questions answered. Every junket is like this. We all know the game.
“Why so many cameras?” Bolt asks, eating into my 5mins. I explain that this room is pre-rigged with ten news channels so as not to waste time – as soon as my 5 mins is up I hop out and another presenter takes my place and starts his interview. He won’t need to set up and Bolt won’t need to move as it’s all ready in one rig. It’s an interviewing factory, it’s media en mass, Puma have gone big! The BBC are now waiting behind me and Al Jezeera are next in line. It’s a tight ship and it works. Bolt looks almost surprised that his final race has attracted so much attention and he settles down happier. “My goal is to be remembered as one of the greatest sportsmen ever ” he explains. “Not just track and field but overall in all sports, hopefully at the end of this race people will consider me as one of the greats”
You already are Bolt, you already are.
*Photos by Jimmy Wixtrom www.aftonbladet.se