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Track And Field
Usain Bolt and Glen Mills: Long, winding journey to a world record
LeVaughn Flynn, Staff Reporter
Usain Bolt and his coach Glen Mills have been on a near four-year journey, filled with revelations, growth and triumph.
Bolt, a wunderkind from high school, and Mills, one the world's best sprint coaches, created history on Saturday night in New York with a world record in the 100m.
Through the guidance of Mills, Bolt discovered there was more talent in his 6' 5" frame than he had shown in his junior years, with his meteoric rise in the 100 metres.
"Usain and I embarked on a journey from autumn of 2004 and I remember when we met just after the Olympics in Athens and he approached me to take over his coaching," Mills recalled yesterday, during a press conference at the Courtleigh Hotel in Kingston where Bolt received $1.8-million bonus cheque from his sponsors Digicel for breaking the world record.
"I must congratulate him on his choice (of coach)," he quipped, "though I'm yet to know how he recognised that I could be the person to guide him to such a level."
Before joining Mills, Bolt spent the previous year battling injuries and was an exceptional junior talent trying to make the transition to the senior level. Almost four years on, Bolt has a 200m World Championships silver medal, the national 200m record and the indomitable claim as the world's fastest man to add to his 200m world junior record.
However, the process wasn't as smooth as the 9.72 seconds he took to create history in New York on Saturday.
"Over the past three years we've had our differences and we've had our ups and downs," Mills said. "But I can say for him he never lost sight of what the big picture is and although we differ in what is hard work, we are always able to get things done."
Bolt snatched the record from countryman Asafa Powell, who ran 9.74 last year, setting up the prospect of a mouth-watering clash when the world's two fastest men meet.
"I got a call from Asafa and he said 'You've made things rough on me now'," Bolt joked.
With both men having achieved the world record, undoubtedly, there is an unrivalled hunger for an Olympic gold this summer in Beijing.
"You've got to be Olympic champion or world champion to really count," Bolt said. "I think the Olympics is the biggest thing and I just can't wait for the Olympics to come."
The story behind Bolt's 100-metre foray is classic. At the beginning of last season, Mills and Bolt made a bet. After consistent pleas by his athlete to run a 100m, Mills agreed under one condition.
"I told him if he broke the national 200 metres record, he can run a 100m," Mills said.
That was all the motivation he needed. At the 2007 National Championships in June, Bolt electrified the National Stadium with a 19.75 run, 0.11 second faster than Donald Quarrie's 36-year-old record.
"After the race he didn't even say thank you, he just said 'when is the hundred'."
So Bolt got his way and impressed with a 10.03 run in Rethimno, Greece. Even after that, the 100m was always the second option to his pet event, the 200m, but Bolt was insatiable.
Started with a plan
"We started out the year with the plan that he would be preparing to run the 200m at the Olympics and he has always had the passion to prove to me that he is a 100m runner," Mills said. "So I said we could achieve both goals; since I wanted him to get faster because the people who are beating him are doing faster times in the 100 metres, and if we are going to match them we have to get as fast as they are.
"So we mapped out a programme to improve his speed in the first part of the season and then we would switch over to improving his 200m for the Olympics.
"It has gone exceptionally well, to the point where he is the world record holder in the 100m and not the 200m."
The goal, however, is gold at the Olympics and while Mills admitted that Bolt would compete in the 100m and 200m at the National Championships, it's not a guarantee he will compete in both events at the Olympics.
"We have to look at how the preparations go between now and August, but we are keeping our options, open and, as a result, we will double in the trials," he said.
Due to the nature of professional sports today, phenomenal achievements, particularly those accomplished in short order such as Bolt's world record, the honesty of the feat deserves to be questioned.
"We will test any time, any day, any part of the body," Mills stated. "Usain doesn't even like to take vitamins; we have to give them away."
Such is the phenomenon called Usain Bolt and the equally genius Glen Mills.
The Bolt/Mills journey continues next Thursday when Bolt returns to the 200m in Ostrava, Czech Republic.
In August the road leads to Beijing, China, where they will go racing for gold.
100 Metre Record progression
The progression of the men's 100-metre world record with time, holder, country and date:
10.6 seconds, Donald Lippincott, United States, July 6, 1912
10.4, Charles Paddock, United States, April 23, 1921
10.3, Percy Williams, Canada, August 9, 1930
10.2, Jesse Owens, United States, June 20, 1936
10.1, Willie Williams, United States, August 3, 1956
10.0, Armin Hary, West Germany, June 21, 1960
9.99, Jim Hines, United States, June 20, 1968
9.95 (electronic), Jim Hines, October 14, 1968
9.93, Calvin Smith, United States, July 3, 1983
9.92, Carl Lewis, United States, September 24, 1988
9.90, Leroy Burrell, United States, June 14, 1991
9.86, Carl Lewis, United States, August 25, 1991
9.85, Leroy Burrell, United States, July 6, 1994
9.84, Donovan Bailey, Canada, July 27, 1996
9.79, Maurice Greene, United States, June 16, 1999
9.77, Asafa Powell, Jamaica, June 14, 2005
9.77, Justin Gatlin, United States, May 12, 2006
9.77, Asafa Powell, Jamaica, June 11, 2006
9.74, Asafa Powell, Jamaica, September 9, 2007
9.72, Usain Bolt, Jamaica, May 31, 2008.