Glasgow, Scotland – Jamaican sprint star Usain Bolt on Saturday proclaimed himself ready for his Commonwealth Games debut after an injury-plagued early season, albeit solely in the men's 4x100m relay.
“Yes I'm here to run. I'll be running, definitely,” Bolt told a media scrum during which he batted back questions not only about his track comeback after a lingering foot injury, but also kilts, Scottish independence, the World Cup, Manchester United and the situation in Gaza.
Bolt, world record holder in both the 100 and 200m as well as double Olympic and world champion, said he had not felt under pressure from sponsors to make an appearance in Scotland, and said he would unusually run in the heats of the relay.
Should he not, and his teammates drop the baton, the Jamaican would face the prospect of not even making an appearance on the track at Hampden Park.
“I'll be running the heats,” Bolt stressed. “I think I need to run because it's the first race of the season so I really need to get it going.
“The injury's completely gone. Fitness wise, I've done a lot of training over this past month, I've been really pushing myself and I'm in pretty good shape.
“But I'm not yet in running shape, hence why I'm running the heats.”
The presence of Bolt, arguably the biggest name in world sport, is a major boost for the Games in the absence of his injured teammate Yohan Blake and British middle-distance king Mo Farah, a late withdrawal.
Bolt's last competitive race was at the Brussels Diamond League on September 7 last year, and this season has been hampered by a foot injury, meaning he has had to twice nix returns to the track, in Ostrava and Paris.
He also had to skip the Jamaican national championships, which acted as a trial for the Commonwealths, but was included on the relay squad.
Bolt insisted that it was personally “very important” that he make his Commonwealth debut after missing the last two in Melbourne and New Delhi.
“I've always wanted to compete in a Commonwealth Games,” he said of the multi-sport event that draws competitors from 71 nations, mainly former British colonies.
“The first one I strained my hamstring so I didn't get to go to Australia.
“The second one was in India and it was in October/November which was a bad time for me because the world championship was coming up.
“And now I got injured early in season, I didn't want to try to take anyone's spot because I didn't get to go to the trials, so I decided 'why not come here and do the 4x100m'.”
A Commonwealth medal is certainly a glaring absentee from the trophy cupboard of a sprinter who has won six Olympic gold medals and eight world titles.
He swept Olympic gold in the 100m and 200m and 4x100m relay at the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympics, took the same three world crowns at 2009 in Berlin and last year in Moscow and won 200m and relay crowns at Daegu, South Korea, in 2011.
Bolt, who set the 100m world record of 9.58 seconds and the 200m record of 19.19 at the 2009 worlds in Berlin, was also keen to play down a potential paucity in quality in the Commonwealth track line-up.
“As long as there are athletes and eight lanes, there's always competition,” he said.
“I finally get the chance to compete in one (Commonwealth Games) so I'm very happy to be here.” – Sapa-AFP