New deal makes world-record holder Usain Bolt best paid athlete in track and field history

By Chris Lehourites, AP
Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bolt renews sponsorship contract with Puma

LONDON — The world’s fastest man signed the fattest contract in track and field history Tuesday, with Usain Bolt extending his Puma sponsorship through 2013.

The world-record holder at 100 and 200 meters will be tied to the German apparel company through the 2012 London Olympics, where he is expected to try to win gold medals again in both sprints.

“It’s good, man. I’m happy. I’m very happy with the figure,” Bolt, who turned 24 on Saturday, told The Associated Press by phone.

Although contract terms were not released, Puma chairman and CEO Jochen Zeitz said Bolt would be the “best-paid athlete in track and field history.”

“He’s an iconic global sports star and as such he’s now remunerated,” Zeitz said.

Bolt became a worldwide superstar at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, winning the 100 and 200 in world-record times, and helping Jamaica win another gold and set another world record in the 4×100 relay. A year later, he again set world records in the 100 and 200 at the world championships in Berlin.

Bolt is sitting out the rest of this season because of a tight lower back, but looking toward a return next year for the world championships and then the 2012 Olympics.

“I’m trying to make myself a legend,” Bolt said. “People are really looking forward to me breaking records. I’m going to go run hard to win, that’s my aim. And every time I go out there and run hard to win, I get records.”

At the Bird’s Nest in Beijing, his effusive personality endeared the lanky Jamaican to fans, but not to IOC president Jacque Rogge.

In the 100, Bolt surged away from the field and slowed over the last few meters, even taking time to slap his chest before crossing the line in 9.69 seconds. A few days later, Bolt ran 19.30 in the 200 and then made little effort to congratulate his opponents before taking a victory lap and shouting “I am No. 1!”

“I have no problem with him doing a show,” Rogge said during the Beijing Games. “I think he should show more respect for his competitors and shake hands, give a tap on the shoulder to the other ones immediately after the finish and not make gestures like the one he made in the 100 meters.”

At the worlds, Bolt’s showboating was muted, but his star was rising. He lowered his world record in the 100 to 9.58 and in the 200 to 19.19.

“He’s not just an athlete that promotes performance products but he’s also an athlete that transcends well beyond his sport into lifestyle, and that’s where we see the opportunity,” Zeitz said.

Bolt said this month he would cut his 2010 season short because of his ailing back. The announcement came days after he lost a 100-meter race in Stockholm to Tyson Gay — his first loss in an individual race in two years, also in the Swedish capital.

“Stockholm is not my favorite place,” said Bolt, adding that it was good for the sport for him to lose once in a while. “Tyson was in good shape. He really wanted to beat me.”

As for his injury, Bolt said he has been pain-free in Jamaica while spending time with his family and resting his back. For the first time in years, he got to celebrate his birthday in his country.

“I didn’t know what to do,” he said. “So I just chilled. We went out and had a couple of drinks.”

The early end to Bolt’s season will keep him from running at the Commonwealth Games in India.

“We would have loved to see him perform in the Commonwealth Games, but it wasn’t really part of his training schedule and race schedule anyway,” Zeitz said. “It’s unfortunate that he’s missing a few races, but we all know that 2011 and 2012 are the really important years.”

Zeitz said Puma intends to make Bolt the central figure in its Olympic marketing program and use him to help develop footwear and other apparel.

Bolt first signed with Puma, which also sponsors the Jamaican Olympic Association and the Jamaican Amateur Athletic Association, when he was 16.

“We’ve been together since forever,” Bolt said. “I like the fashion, so they try to make it fashionable for me. … I’m looking good, but I’m also prepared.”

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