Rio Olympics: Politics to Puma, Usain Bolt considers his options
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Rio de Janeiro: As he blazed through the Rio Games, winning an historic third batch of three sprint gold medals, Jamaica’s Usain Bolt was clear this is his last time on the Olympic track, where he feels he has nothing left to prove.
Bolt, the most famous Jamaican since Bob Marley, has repeatedly declined to say what he will do after he hangs up his spikes. Unlike the reggae great, who died of cancer at 36, Bolt has the option of planning his next career move.
With his 30th birthday on Sunday, Bolt should have a long second career ahead of him and a lot of people, from his sponsor Puma to Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness, want a say in his plans.
“It’s important to use the fame and the achievement of Usain Bolt for the benefit of Jamaica. It does open doors,” Holness told the BBC during a brief visit to Rio on Monday.
Holness said he would have a seat in his cabinet ready for Bolt’s 1.96 metre (6’5”) frame, if the athlete would accept.
“Usain Bolt could be minister of anything he wants,” he said.
Bolt would be far from the first Olympian to make the jump into politics.
Former New York Knicks player Bill Bradley, a member of the 1964 US Olympic team, served 18 years in the US Senate after retiring from competition.
Fellow Rio competitor Wesley Korir is on a break as a member of Kenya’s parliament to run Sunday’s Olympic marathon.
Bolt has not said if he would consider the post, and in any case has committed to run at next year’s World Championships before bowing out from competition.
“I don’t know what I am going to do, you just stress me out,” Bolt told reporters in the early hours of Friday before leading his team to victory in the 4 x 100m relay, his third gold of the Rio Games.
The only thing he would rule out was coaching.
“I want to stay in the sport, I want to stay around the sport,” he said. “We will see what happens. Definitely not as a coach though.”
Some among the thousands of fans who turned out on Friday to see him race in the final leg of his “triple triple” said they did not much care what he did next, so long as he continued to create goodwill for the country.
“He’s been such an inspiration to Jamaican kids, showing them they can be so much more,” said Charles Russell, a 32-year-old from Kingston. “He should do whatever it is he wants to do. He’s earned it.”
George Freeman, 54, who was born in Kingston and now lives in Miami, said that Bolt had done much to improve Jamaica’s profile on the world stage.
“It’s a small country with limited resources. To be number one in something in special,” Freeman said.
“He has done a lot of good things for Jamaica. Whatever he does, I hope he continues to make a lot money and do a lot of good things for Jamaica.”
Bolt has already built the beginnings of a business empire, including sports bar Tracks & Records in the Jamaican capital.
He has also toyed publicly, though not with much seriousness, with continuing as an athlete in another sport, perhaps cricket or soccer.
German sportswear firm Puma, which has sponsored Bolt for half his life, hopes to lure him into a job, chief executive Bjorn Gulden told reporters just before the Games.
“Usain is part of the Puma family,” Gulden said.
“If he decides not to run, we will probably work even closer with him.”
Regardless of what he does next, the charismatic Jamaican has clearly been relishing his last Olympic performance, smiling broadly as he barrels toward the finish line.
“I just wanted to say goodbye.” Reuters