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Jamaica's Usain Bolt Captivates World Athletics Fans

Jamaican Usain Bolt is making his case for being the greatest sprinter of all-time at the World Athletics Championships in Germany. In addition to his enormous talent, there are many other facets to the young runner's personality.

Who exactly is Usain Bolt? The facts are easy. He is from Jamaica, 1.96 meters tall, has a charismatic smile and celebrated his 23rd birthday Friday. And in his last five major finals going back to the Olympics, he has won five gold medals and set five world records.

On first impression, Bolt may seem to be a show-off. He smiles at the television cameras, sticks out his tongue with antic poses and hand gestures, strikes his "lightning bolt" pose, and tells reporters that he is on his way "to being a legend."

He can take another step in that direction Saturday when the Jamaican four-by-100 relay team is expected to give Bolt a chance for his sixth straight gold. But then another side of Bolt becomes apparent. The team must qualify Friday, and despite being the favorites, Bolt told VOA Sports he respects all of his competitors and takes nothing for granted.

"It is going to be a team effort, so as long as the team gets the baton around… that's the main focus, getting the baton around. Because last year the (Jamaican) girls were the favorite to win and they dropped the baton. So you've got to get it around the track," he said.

Bolt has been blessed with amazing talent, and his height gives him a long stride. But he says there's more to it. "It has been hard work. Year after year, after year, after year of work. So that's what get me so good," he said.

But when you spend time with Bolt, another attribute becomes apparent. He has a great personality and just loves to tease and have fun. He recounts a phone call with his mother before taking the 200-meter gold in record time Thursday night.

"My Mom said that I was going to break the record, and I asked her if she was the one running. Ha! But I decided I was feeling good in the warm-up, so I decided, 'let's just try for it,' so I did it," he said.

He's also friendlier on the track than many of the past champions - think American Carl Lewis and Canadian Ben Johnson, who tried to intimidate opponents with their dagger-like glares. Bolt jokes around and teases his competitors before races, as 200-meter bronze medalist Wallace Spearmon of the United States explains.

"He was telling me I need to finish second, and he was also telling me 'Don't step on the line,' and he was also telling me, 'Just try to stay close.' They shot the gun and I saw him for about maybe two or three seconds. And then he got so far ahead of me that I couldn't see him anymore. Then I looked at the clock and it said 19.19. Yeah, yeah, he's fast. He's "the Big Jamaican" and he's very, very fast," he said.

So who is Usain Bolt? He's a mixture of talent, charisma and fun. Oh yes, and quite possibly the greatest sprinter ever.