London 2012 Olympics: Usain Bolt should retire from athletics now to protect his legacy
By Edwin Moses
13 Aug 2012
I think people are fantasising when they talk about Usain Bolt running the 400m in Rio in four years time. They are trying to find new things for him to do, new records for him to break when the reality is that he should probably quit while he is on top of his game.
From an athletic point of view it is very hard to see how he can improve on what he has already achieved. Once you have won everything and broken the world record in doing so, what is left?
People talk about Bolt stepping up to the 400m but I just cannot see that happening. Look at the expression on his face when he was finishing the 200m. Look at the expression on his face when he was running the last leg of the relay.
That was Bolt hurting, pushing himself. He would have to do that every single day to compete in the 400m. There would be a lot less smiling, a lot less laughing.
They said the same about me — why didn’t I start running the 800m? I was capable of getting the times but hurdles are such a speciality that it took my full dedication. To step up from sprinting to the 400m would require absolute conviction. There could be no goofing around. I just can’t see him putting himself through the kind of pain it would take to make the transition.
The speed of a sprinter does not necessarily translate over a longer distance. You cannot just go out there and blast a 43sec 400m. you might do it once but doing it consistently takes huge amounts of training.
It would tear you to pieces.
I also do not think he will come back and defend his titles when the Olympics come to Rio in four years' time. I think he has a lot of thinking to do, about where athletics is going to fit into his life at this point. He has commercial opportunities pouring in from all over the world and if he takes advantage of them, that is going to mean a lot of travel, a big-time commitment.
When you are delivering the kind of performances Bolt has been delivering, it becomes very difficult to maintain that level, let alone think about improving it.
I don’t think anyone can run as fast as him right now but those guys are closing the gap. I think Yohan Blake is not far away, running within two tenths of a second. Can Bolt sustain the kind of effort it is going to take to hold off this younger runner over the next four years?
Bolt will be 29 by the time Rio comes around but that in itself is no obstacle to him continuing to compete. It is more about what he wants from his life, what he thinks he can still do in the sport. When Michael Johnson talks about bowing out at the top, it is hard to disagree. I am not sure it would be wise for Bolt to carry on.
What if you miss out? What if you lose? There is a lot at stake for someone who has already created his legacy. What would be his motivation in carrying on?
I understand that it can be hard when the sport goes out of your life. Some athletes find that very difficult. It depends on how you approach the sport and what else you have done with your life.
I had other things I was professional at in my life that had nothing to do with sport. What happened to me was my hobby turned into my job — I was back into athletics.
At first it was hard to make the money to sustain myself but things changed in my career because I made it happen. I was earning more as an athlete than I was as an engineer and that was better than great as far as I was concerned.
If you see life only through the lens of athletics, it can be quite a lot to deal with. Bolt has huge commercial opportunities and of course national hero status in his own country.
But there does come a point — it can be 15 or 20 years down the line — when you look in the mirror and ask yourself what you are doing with your life. That can be hard for an athlete who has achieved so much so young.
For now, though, Bolt can have a lot of fun. I heard he wants to try to play soccer and asked Manchester United if he could play for them — these are the kind of things you can do when you are famous.