Bolt chills out in Auckland

By Michael Brown

It wasn't the cool Auckland weather that gave Usain Bolt the chills today, rather a haka performed by staff at the Frucor beverages factory in south Auckland.

The world's fastest man was in town for a whistlestop tour to promote a sports drink and dropped in to the factory for the haka and powhiri.

Bolt was clearly fascinated by the performance, although he didn't want to get too close to the swinging taiaha.

"It was different, it was good,'' he said. "It gave me the chills, the energy they had. I would love to do something like that. I would love to learn.''

He later turned down the chance at the official press conference, believing ``I would look silly doing it'' without proper instruction, and instead stepped into more familiar territory in a coaching session with eight promising New Zealand track athletes at North Shore's Millennium Institute.

Bolt the Showman was never far from view. He often brought out his signature lightning bolt pose, matched his usual pre-race theatrics when challenged to a race and tried to psyche out his opposition.

He looked comfortable, which was in stark contrast to an earlier appearance at Breakers training when he was put on the spot and asked to show off his basketball prowess - he missed his first eight free-throws and only looked comfortable when slam dunking the ball. Which he did easily, of course.

"People always say I'm cocky,'' he said. "I don't know why. I guess it's because of what I do on the track. That's just for the fans. The original people loved it so I just do it for the fans because they are the ones who build us and make us who we are.

''[The inspiration behind the lightning bolt] pose just happened. The gimmicks I do are to make me relax when I get to the line and not worry about the competition because when you start worrying you get tense and you might false start.''

He had some sage words of advice for Tauranga's Joseph Millar, who is the national 100m and 200m champion. The 20-year-old is aiming to become the first New Zealander to go under 10 seconds (Bolt's world record stands at 9.58 seconds) and picked up some useful tips.

"It's definitely going to change the way I train,'' Millar said. "Just to see someone who runs that fast in the flesh is something special for me. I'm really, really happy I trained hard enough to get this opportunity.

"He's definitely the guy I look up to. It's not just the times he runs but the person he is at the same time.''

Bolt was charming, amiable and mostly relaxed, despite a highly regulated schedule. He arrived in Auckland from Australia this morning and was due to be in the country for less than 24 hours - only those with security clearance really knew what his plans were.

After a couple more photos, Bolt jumped into a helicopter and took off. Just like that, the public side of his visit to New Zealand was over. A bit like a lightning bolt, really.


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