'Usain Bolt has to be considered as the greatest'

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London, March 9: Athletics legend Michael Johnson of the United States has heaped praise on Jamaican sprinter and mutliple Olympic and world champion Usain Bolt decribing him "the greatest".

Johnson, who is a member of the Laureus World Sports Academy, while speaking to Laureus.com, said Bolt cannot be stopped by anyone at this year's Rio Olympics if he stays healthy.

A file picture of Usain Bolt

Bolt, who holds the 100 metres and 200 metres world records, has won 6 Olympic and 11 world golds so far. He is likely to be competing in his last Olympics this year in Brazil.

Bolt, a 3-time winner, is again nominated for the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award. Other nominees include tennis No.1 Novak Djokovic, triple Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton and five-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi. They are joined by first time Nominees Stephen Curry, star of NBA's Golden State Warriors, and golf's world No.1 Jordan Spieth.

The awards ceremony will be held in Berlin on April 18, 2016.

Here are the excerpts from Johnson's interview to Laureus

The Laureus World Sports Awards, which celebrate the outstanding achievements of sportsmen and sportswomen around the world, will return to Europe in 2016. The Awards will be hosted in Germany for the first time, held in Berlin on April 18, 2016.

Question: Presumably it is no surprise to you that Usain Bolt has been nominated for the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award?

Johnson: Yes and no. To be honest last year wasn't one of his best years, when you look at it in comparison to some of his previous years. There is no doubt about it, he is a special athlete and he deserves to be here because of what he did last year, but he wasn't in the best shape and had the most competition that we've ever seen and the fact that Justin Gatlin was having a great season, but he was still able to pull out a victory even though he wasn't at his best. That was the one thing about last year for him, what made it special and why he deserved to be here. It's easy to win when you're the best and you're in the best shape. He showed that he can win when he's not at his best and when he has a real challenger. That was impressive.

Question: He's up against guys like Stephen Curry, Novak Djokovic, Lewis Hamilton, Lionel Messi and Jordan Spieth for the Laureus Award. Who do you think might be his most serious competitor?

Johnson: I would say that when you look at Curry and what he did last year, winning the NBA Championship, league MVP and just doing unbelievable things, where there are so many great athletes, he still stood out against the field. You take track and field and there aren't a lot of global super stars. Usain Bolt is a name that everybody knows, but Curry is in a sport where there are a lot of big names, global super stars and he was, through his performance, able to rise above all of them.

Question: There's never been an individual Laurerus Sportsman of the Year winner from a team sport. Could Curry, or Lionel Messi, be the first to achieve that this year?

Johnson: I think the team sport athletes have a little bit of a disadvantage, but when I vote I try to look at the individual performance in the context of their sport and not compare necessarily one athlete to the other. One of the things about being a team athlete is making those around you better, and that's what Stephen Curry does and that's what Lionel Messi does. In the same context you take a Lewis Hamilton and we know that you have a guy like that who is considered an individual sport athlete, but it takes a lot of other people around him to get that car ready.

Michael Johnson

Question: Injuries and false starts apart, can anyone stop Usain Bolt winning three more Olympic gold medals in Rio?

Johnson: If he's healthy, I don't think that anyone can stop him. He's proven that last year when he wasn't at his best and it was very competitive, but he was still able to go into the races and produce the best performances he could, and so given that, and that he's a little older going into Rio, injuries are always going to be a problem and trying to stay healthy becomes more difficult.

Question: If Bolt wins the three gold medals, historically can any other sprinter come anywhere near to him? Five times he's won the sprint treble in global competitions.

Johnson: There may be somebody that will come along. You think of the great sprinters of the past who have done things that have never been done before like Jesse Owens, winning four gold medals, and Carl Lewis, doing that as well, and myself being the 200 metres and 400 metres world record holder and Olympic champion. So those are the names that you think of, the amazing sprinters of the past. But none of us has produced, in my opinion, the consistency and longevity that Bolt has and so to this point he has to be considered the greatest.

Question: You talked about the threat of injuries as you get older. You didn't have many injuries in your career, but if you did, how did you recover?

Johnson: I was fortunate. I didn't have any injuries that kept me out of any championship, but as I got older from 1996 to 2000, the last four years of my career, I was always dealing with lots of different injuries. It becomes a maintenance issue, trying to keep your body as healthy as possible.

That was part of the reason I retired, simply because it gets to a point where it's not as much fun because you're not going to training every day saying 'what can I do today to be faster tomorrow', that's fun, that's a blast and that's how it was for most of my career. But the last couple of years it was focusing on holding myself together and mitigating injury risk. Once that comes into the equation it starts to take away the one thing that makes it fun, getting better. Once that starts to dominate, it's a real problem. For me that's where it got to at the end.

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