Jamaican sprint king Usain Bolt defended his flamboyant celebration after he won the 100m and 200m in world record fashion, having been criticized by International Olympic Committee (IOC) chief Jacque Rogge, who said Bolt did not act in the "spirit of the Olympic ideal".
Jamaican sprint king Usain Bolt
"I talked with those guys (other competitors) and most of them are OK with it," Bolt said during a promotion for Puma yesterday in Beijing. "I am just enjoying myself and people are here to see your personality. I am just showing my personality. That's just me."
Bolt's winning celebration, which Rogge called "showboating", has become one of the best-remembered images of the Beijing Games.
Apart from the usual moves - wrapping oneself in the national flag, holding up a "No 1" finger and running a victory lap - the 22-year-old also showed off his golden spikes and swayed to the reggae music playing in the stadium.
His actions during his 100m victory were even more dramatic, as he slowed in the final meters of the race, turned to the crowd and opened his arms in a gesture that could be perceived as mocking his seven opponents.
But Bolt said his personality is a major part of his appeal and insisted he would do it again.
"I won't change and I think people really enjoy watching my performance. So I will stay what I am because that's my personality," he said.
Bolt also acknowledges his behavior has inspired other athletes to better performances, including British high jumper Germaine Mason, who thanked Bolt personally after he won a silver medal.
"A lot of athletes came to me and said they have been inspired. I told them 'you just need to relax and this is what you are training for'.
"I think I made a little bit of an impact. People in the stadium are just trying to enjoy themselves and it's good for the sport," he added.
Even though his slow-down celebration might have prevented Bolt from recording a faster time - maybe even breaking 9.50 sec, a feat widely viewed as beyond the limits of a human being - Bolt said he has no regrets.
"I came here just to win. I don't regret it," he said. "I don't really think about the world record that much and I am just trying to put on a good performance."
Despite a historic 100m run in which he carved 0.03 sec off his previous world mark, Bolt still considers his victory in the 200m - and breaking American Michael Johnson's 12-year-old record - his best moment in Beijing. His coach Glen Mills persuaded Bolt to attempt the sprint double in Beijing and has helped him improve his 100m techniques since last year.
"200m means a lot more to me. 200m is the love of my life," he said. "I think the world record of 200m is pretty much harder to get. The track in Beijing is fast and that will be in my mind. I think the 100m record will be broken over and over again, but the 200m will be hard to get."
He also revealed he would try the 400m in the future.
Many consider Bolt to be one of the faces of the Beijing Games, alongside eight-gold winner superman Michael Phelps. But Bolt shrugged off such comparisons.
"I don't compare myself to Michael Phelps. I run, he swims. I will leave people to decide who is the better one of the whole Olympics," he said.
"I am not a phenomenon but probably a great athlete.
"I will still be young and I will work hard to stay on top as long as possible."
Jamaican sprint king Usain Bolt
(China Daily August 24, 2008)