Puma nearly dropped Bolt
Bolt is now widely regarded as the fastest sprinter ever, having won both the 100m and 200m races at the last two Olympic Games. In both years he was also part of Jamaica’s gold medal winning 4x100m relay team. Bolt also holds eight World Championship gold medals.
However, according to a report, Jochen Zeitz, former CEO of Puma, told CNBC that he considered dropping the Jamaican athlete after he failed to shine at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and was criticised for his unprofessional approach.
"We said, 'Well, he's a young guy, but he doesn't really want to train as a hard as he should. He has all the potential but he does get injured. If he doesn't practice he's never going to be great,'" Zeitz said.
According to the report, Zeitz had a meeting with his team at Puma and they decided it was time to release Bolt, who had joined the brand in 2002. However, the decision did not sit well with Zeitz, who reversed it soon afterwards.
"It was only a couple of weeks later that I said, 'Well, I don't think that's a good idea. Let's just stick with him. I'm sure he can pull it off,'" he told CNBC. "'He's great. He has a great personality. He's a great guy and if he gets a good coach he can do miracles, and let's just stand by him and support him in these difficult times.'"
Shortly afterwards, Bolt was working with new coach Glen Mills, who has since been credited with helping Bolt become a world champion.
The rest, as it is said, is history.
"I would have certainly bitten myself if we had continued to actually let him go, so (I am) very thankful for that spark of inspiration," Zeitz said.
Puma recently renewed its contract with the sprinter until after the 2016 Olympics Games in Rio de Janeiro and is said to be paying Bolt US$10 million a year, the biggest such deal in athletics.