London — There is no doubt who Usain Bolt will cheer for if the battle for the world 200m crown he has relinquished comes down to a shoot-out between Wayde van Niekerk and Canadian star Andre de Grasse.
Speaking at a press conference in London organised by his sponsor‚ Puma‚ the Jamaican spoke warmly about Van Niekerk‚ but was elusive over De Grasse‚ whose representatives recently accused the Jamaican of running scared.
Asked who might replace him as the headline act of world athletics‚ Bolt‚ gearing up for his final world championships before retiring‚ replied: "I think Wayde is doing a pretty good job.
"Wayde van Nie‚ van Niekerk‚" he said‚ briefly stumbling over the 400m world record-holder’s surname.
"He’s now going to run the 200m so for me that’s going to be exciting.
"I think he wants to be a sprinter really bad so I think he’s one of the persons to watch out for.
"I think he’s going to be a really good athlete and I’m pretty cool with him and he’s a really nice guy and he’s really chilled.
"He just has a really enclosed personality."
Bolt had been less generous when asked earlier which of the British sprinters he felt might fill his shoes.
"I’m not going down that road.
"The last guy I said was going to be great disrespected me so I’m not going to say who’s going to be great."
Bolt did not name the athlete who disrespected him‚ but suspicion seemed to fall on De Grasse‚ who twice shared the Rio Games podiums with Bolt in 2016 as the Olympic 100m bronze and 200m silver medallist.
In the build-up to the Monaco Diamond League meeting in July‚ De Grasse’s agent accused Bolt of being protected by having the Canadian thrown out the 100m.
De Grasse‚ competing in the 4x100m relay there‚ denied he had been scheduled to run in the individual event.
And how does Bolt describe his relationship with De Grasse?
"I don’t know. I see him around‚ I say ‘hi’. That’s it‚ I guess‚" replied Bolt.
"I don’t know how to describe that‚ I don’t have his number or anything."
De Grasse is likely to be one Van Niekerk’s toughest rivals in the 200m final on next Thursday‚ along with Bolt’s countryman‚ Yohan Blake.
Asked to elaborate on his comment about the athlete disrepecting him‚ Bolt seemed to backtrack somewhat.
"I’ve said a lot about a lot of athletes‚ a lot of up-and-coming athletes‚ I mean I didn’t single out any one person so‚ yeah‚" he said with a chuckle.
The sponsor organised a video of sports stars and celebrities wishing Bolt well for the future‚ and the sprint legend laughed when actor Samuel L Jackson called him a motherf..ker.
"Thanks for all the thrills‚ thanks for all the chills‚ thank-you for being the outstanding‚ dope-assed motherf..ker‚" he said in the pre-recorded message that left Bolt laughing.
Bolt is retiring after the championships where he will compete in only the 100m and 4x100m relay in London.
He has given up the 200m title he has won four times in a row starting from 2009.