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AP Interview: Bolt slowing down _ off the track

SHARE AP Interview: Bolt slowing down _ off the track

LONDON — With only two months to go before the London Olympics, Usain Bolt is slowing down.

Only off the track, though.

While still only 25 years old, the triple Olympic champion is realizing he doesn't have the energy levels he once enjoyed. Late nights are out, and getting to bed by 11 p.m. is the new regime.

"When you become older it's the fact you don't have enough energy like once," Bolt said in an interview with The Associated Press on Friday. "I could stay up all night and (then) go running, but now it's not the same. You need enough rest, and for me that's OK because you learn. You live and you learn."

The Jamaican sprinter may be known for his relaxed attitude and fun-loving antics, but he's dead serious when it comes to what actually matters: defending his three Olympic gold medals in London in August.

"You have to look at it seriously," he said. "I have a goal. I want to be a legend. And this Olympics, I think, will be the one to make it (so) because it's in London, it's central, it's where everyone is watching."

Track and field fans are watching every time Bolt runs these days, and they weren't too impressed with his start to the European season last month. Bolt clocked a downright slow — by his standards — 10.04 in winning a 100-meter race in Ostrava, Czech Republic. However, the world record-holder's blistering pace returned on Thursday night, when he electrified the Diamond League meet in Rome with a season-best 9.76.

"Take my eye off the ball? It was just one of those things," Bolt recalled in a London hotel, wearing a Bob Marley T-shirt. "I came to Europe and didn't get enough rest and it was an off day in (Ostrava).

"Now that I know that if I don't get enough sleep in Europe ... I will be off form so I am happy it happened when it happened," Bolt said. "I wouldn't call it a blip, but a learning experience."

And what he learned all goes back to getting a good night's sleep.

"I try not to sleep in the days, I really try to stay up because that's the problem," he said. "Normally when I felt I want sleep I just go to sleep in the middle of the day, and then when night comes I'm wide awake.

"So now I try to stay awake — wide awake — until probably 11, have a shower and just go to bed."

But his new quest for plenty of rest isn't going to take anything away from his Olympic experience. Bolt has insisted on staying with the Jamaican team in the Olympic village among the thousands of other athletes during the July 27-Aug. 12 games, even though his star status could possibly become a distraction.

Staying somewhere more private just wouldn't be nearly as enjoyable.

"People who stay outside the Olympic Village for me are weird because why wouldn't you want to stay with your friends, with your teammates, laugh and just have fun — play dominos, just chit chat about everything, motivate the other person," Bolt said. "There are so many things to do in the village and it keeps, it gets you closer to your teammates, it gets you closer to people. You might pick up a few things."

Bolt is yet to visit the Olympic Stadium where he hopes to "stamp my name in history." He hasn't been avoiding the track. He just doesn't seem to have been invited.

"I would love to go there," he said. "I like to walk the track at least once. ... For me, I stop at the 100 meters and look down the straight and then visualize for 20 seconds, 1 minute, just to think about it."

On Friday, he had to think about it all from a hotel just a seven-minute train ride away from the Olympic Stadium after striking some of his trademark poses on the runway during a launch of the Jamaica gear he'll be wearing at the games. The green, yellow and black Puma outfit was designed by Bob Marley's daughter, Cedella Marley.

Bolt established himself as a global superstar at the 2008 Beijing Games, winning both the 100 and 200-meter titles in world-record times, and helping Jamaica win gold and set another world record in the 400-meter relay. His latest world records of 9.58 in the 100 and 19.19 in the 200 were set at the 2009 world championships in Berlin.

Most people are taking for granted that he'll win both races again in London — the only question is: how fast can he go?

"Everybody wants 9.4, I heard people talking about running 18 (in the 200)," Bolt said. "So for me, the key is just to take my time, work my way up. I'm 80 percent now and I'm going to go back home and work on my technique, work on my strength, speed endurance a little bit more and get up to 100 percent.

"So hopefully when I get to 100 percent those times could be possible."

In Beijing, Bolt drew some criticism for completing the 100 race with arms outstretched while pounding his chest, and then marking his triumph in the 200 by putting his face inches from a TV camera, raising an index finger and yelling, "I am No. 1! I am No. 1!"

While he's likely to go full speed to the finish line this time, there's no way that Bolt's natural instinct to be an entertainer will be subdued.

"I give them a show, they don't mind," he said. "It's not like I run, wave and go home. It's fun at the start line, I'm laughing ... there are so many different ways I interact with the crowds. It makes it easy for me, and easy for them to love me."

Rob Harris can be reached at http://twitter.com/RobHarris