KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) — Eschewing delirious crowds at the airport, Olympic sprinting champion Usain Bolt returned to Jamaica in uncharacteristically low-key style.
There were no adoring throngs, none of his signature skyward points or other antics. There was just a quietly organized news conference Tuesday at Bolt's restaurant and night club in Kingston with a few dozen journalists, business people, and politicians in attendance.
Bolt's publicist, Carole Beckford, said the 6-foot-5 superstar quietly returned home Saturday, and nobody but his inner circle knew he was back in his Caribbean homeland, which adores him yet wants a piece of him at almost every turn.
Last week in Belgium, hours after his last race of the season, Bolt said he was a bit nervous about returning to Jamaica, where his countrymen celebrated each of his three victories at the London Olympics with intense enthusiasm. Crowds of impassioned Jamaicans danced, shouted and embraced in the streets as he dominated the competition.
"I've seen what Jamaican fans are like when I go back home. That is more scary than anything else," he told reporters in Brussels.
At the news conference in Jamaica's capital, the world's fastest man thanked his coach, his family and his fervent fans for their support, saying "there were a lot of doubters" after a sometimes challenging season. Speaking to the cameras, a subdued Bolt added, "I have one thing to say: Never doubt a champion."
For weeks before the Olympics, Jamaicans had been debating whether Bolt or his rival and teammate Yohan Blake would win in London. Blake, Bolt's blisteringly fast workout partner, had beaten Bolt in the 100- and 200-meter finals at Jamaica's Olympic trials and Bolt's subsequent withdrawal from a meet in Monaco set up one of the most anticipated story lines of the 2012 Olympics.
But Bolt delivered electrifying performances in London, just as he did at the Beijing Games in 2008. He said he accomplished exactly what he hoped. He competed in three events — and won gold medals in all three: the 100 meters, 200 meters and 4-by-100 relay.
"I am the best and will always be the best," he said Tuesday at Tracks & Records, his restaurant and night club, which features a DJ booth where he sometimes spins records, a 200-seat main floor with TVs, a bar, a few "VIP" areas and even a shop to buy Usain Bolt merchandise.
In more than a century of modern Olympics, no man had set world records while winning the 100, 200 and 4x100 relay — until Bolt did in Beijing in 2008. None had won the 200 meters twice, let alone completed a 100-200 double twice — until Bolt did it in 2008 and 2012.
Bolt repeatedly said his goal in London was to win three gold medals again and come home from London as nothing less than a "living legend."
Natalie Neita-Headley, Jamaica's Cabinet minister with responsibility for sports, compared him to the island's most revered son, reggae icon Bob Marley.
"Like Bob before him, he has achieved that legendary status," Neita-Headley said.
Asked if there is any downside to being a "living legend," Bolt responded: "I've just become a legend so I'll let you know in a few days."
David McFadden on Twitter: http://twitter.com/dmcfadd