Usain Bolt seeks new sort of yam power
Usain Bolt's love affair with the yam will literally step up a level early Sunday (NZ time) when the Jamaican starts his world championship campaign in newly-designed glitzy orange spikes named after the humble root vegetable.
After Bolt's triple gold and world record success at last year's Olympics his father said that the locally-grown yams had been a staple for his son, and Bolt junior said today that he still had a soft spot for them.
In recognition of the fact, his shoe sponsor, Puma, have shod their prize asset in yam orange as he goes for another hat-trick of golds.
Even the venue for the launch was called the YAAM club, though it turned out to have nothing to do with Bolt's favourite tuber and stood instead for Young African Art Market.
Less impressive than the spikes were the giant foam arms shaped to mimic Bolt's trademark celebratory pose with which he lumbered on to the stage for today's news conference.
"I'm ready and I've got some new stuff," said the Jamaican, proudly holding up his footwear and, as ever, seeming completely relaxed two days before starting his 100 metres campaign.
"I don't really enjoy all this stuff but I know it comes with being a champion so I try to be cool with it," he said.
"I just want to run, I'm just itching to. I've been training hard, I've put the work in and I'm fully fit. I'm confident, but not too confident."
After his astonishing performances in Beijing, Bolt knows that everyone who lines up against him, even double defending sprint champion Tyson Gay, will have half an eye on his yellow vest.
For his part, Bolt said he would continue to stay loose and enjoy the crowd interaction that has helped propel him to superstardom in the sport.
"I know what I'm out there for, the time to get focussed is when the starter says 'get set'," he said.
"The crowd is fun and it's also fun to see some of the guys at the line. They are really tense but there are no worries for me, I've done it hundreds of times."
Gay, who has the world's best times over 100 and 200 metres this season, will be sure to keep Bolt honest but the Jamaican said that there had been no talk of world records.
"I've set a standard to myself and want to live up to it but you never know what will be good enough to win -- the last worlds was won 9.85 (by Gay in Osaka in 2007)," he said.
"I'm just focussed on getting the championship. Maybe next season when there is no championship we can focus on times."
Bolt said recent problems in the Jamaican camp, such as the missed training session that led to a threat to expel former 100 metres world record holder Asafa Powell and the positive drugs tests of five team members, would not affect their chances of adding the sprint relay world title to the Olympic gold.
"We have a good team, everybody is here," he said. "We are looking good in practice and I'm not worried."