A Determined and Driven Athlete
Usain holds more than fifty awards and recognitions in his career, including the six gold medals that he won in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games. He has been named as the World Athlete of the Year by the International Association of Athletics Federations as well as a Laureus World Sportsman of the Year for three consecutive times. Usain has also been invited numerous times to speak at various conferences to inspire many people to always aim for the best and push forward to reach the top. These, among all other achievements, prove just how influential and inspirational Usain has been throughout his life.
Two words can be used to describe the attitude that Usain has that enabled him to become the champion he is today—determination and focus. Throughout his life, Usain has faced numerous obstacles that try to derail him from arriving at his destination and goal, but he never once allowed these distractions to make him astray; once he sets his eyes on the finish line, he keeps focused on it until he gets there. He also does not let negative side comments or criticisms weigh him down, but instead just lets people believe what they want to believe. In an interview, Usain says:
“You can only do your work and let people believe what they want. I work my hardest because I know what it takes to be a champion. I know what I want and I'm focused on what I need to do to win.”
With all of Usain’s achievements, he remains a humble person down to the very core. For him, it is not so much about winning and trying to prove that he is the best; it is more about being at his best and enjoying what he does. In fact, whenever he is interviewed about his status as the “fastest man alive,” Usain simply says that while he is the one who is documented, there are others out there who may be faster than him, like this interview:
“I always think about that. I thought about it and thought suppose there's one strange guy out there, probably a janitor and he's just extremely fast. But so far, I've been documented as the fastest man ever.”
Hard work is one of the most powerful values that Usain holds dear because it is what helped him achieve success in every event he has competed in. And sure, while Usain’s physical speed and agility comes naturally to him, he still firmly believes that without the hard work he put in, he would not have gotten to where he is today. This is why whenever he is interviewed about what makes a champion, at the top of his list is hard work:
“When you go through a lot it helps because you can say all these things happened for a reason. The key thing to remember is that hard work does pay off. If you put the work in, it will definitely pay off in the long run.”
Like everyone, Usain has gone through very difficult challenges—some even beyond what we can endure or persevere from. And yet, in spite of all the seemingly overwhelming odds that come his way, Usain is able to hold his ground, keep a positive attitude and emerge from these difficulties victoriously because of his focus and determination. To him, adversities and trials are not there to bring you down—they are there to make you stronger, given that you have the right perspective of them. In an interview where he is asked how he is able to shrug off negative comments about him, Usain simply says:
“It gets annoying but, after a while, you get used to people making their own comments and just judging you. But I'm always positive. I know what I want. I know what I am capable of. But it makes you stronger when you have to work so hard to get better and you have to go through all these trials. So I don't stress. I just focus on what is necessary.”
Ultimately, it is having the right attitude that enables one to accomplish great wonders, and Usain definitely agrees with this. Having the right start is one of the most important factors not just of the race, but also in everything else you do because it determines the direction of any kind of journey that you are in. Both in and out of the track, there are certain rules and laws in place that can help you anticipate what needs to be done. This is what Usain often says in interviews:
“Rules were made. For me to make a mistake does not now allow me to say we should change that rule. My coach always explains that it's not about anticipation. It's about being professional and getting it done and when you're out there you should listen because the starter is the judge and jury. You should just focus on getting the start right.”
Behind every great athlete is a very colorful story, and this goes for Usain as well. Usain Bolt was born on August 1986 in the small town of Sherwood Content, Jamaica to parents Wellesley and Jennifer Bolt. Wellesley and Jennifer managed the local grocery store, which in a way gave a fairly good life to Usain and his two siblings, his brother Sadiki and sister Sherine.
Even at a very young age, Usain already exhibited a tremendous potential in sports by participating in various sports activities in their locality, most specially the game of cricket and sprint. An outgoing and hyperactive child, Usain often ran to the nearby town of Falmouth to play arcade games, which developed his leg muscle strength. During his stay at Waldensia Primary, Usain began to publicly show his potential for sprinting by competing in the national primary-school’s meeting. When Usain was twelve years old, he became Waldensia Primary’s fastest 100-meter sprinter, which was a great feat considering his age.
Probably one of the reasons why Usain had so much love for sports was because since he was a child he always looked up to men who competed in various sporting events. In an interview with him, Usain recalled his childhood heroes:
“When I was growing up it was definitely Don Quarrie and Michael Johnson, look at those guys! Right now for me my father is one person, he's one of my role models he really pushes me to do well. But also Kevin Garnett, he plays basketball. He is such a good role model for me and he's a champion, a true champion. If you watch him when he plays he really puts his all into it and he always try to rally his team-mates. One special thing for me was when he was injured and out, he was always on the bench shouting 'you can do this, you can do better' always motivating. So for me he's a really strong motivator.”
Trained by the Best
After graduating from primary education, Usain entered the William Knibb Memorial High School. During his time there, Usain began to display interest in other kinds of sports like cricket and football, but it was his speed that truly got him the attention of those who watched him perform in various sports events. In fact, because of Usain’s remarkable agility and physical speed, his cricket coach encouraged Usain to try out on track and field events, where he met Pablo McNeil, who was a former Olympic sprint athlete. Along with Dwayne Jarrett, another famed trainer, Pablo saw the remarkable potential that Usain had and decided to coach Usain, advising him to focus on developing and improving his energy and athletic abilities.
Little did Usain know how his fateful meeting with Pablo and Dwayne would change his life from that moment on. Through the efforts put by Pablo (who, in spite of being occasionally frustrated over Usain’s display of lack of dedication to his training and his practical jokes, decided to devote his time and energy to help the young athlete unleash his true potential), Usain greatly improved his running abilities that when he competed for the high school championships in 2001, Usain won the silver medal in the 200 meters category, finishing with a time of 22.04 seconds.
This encouraged Pablo to train Usain further, and he decided to become Usain’s primary head coach. Since then, Usain and Pablo developed a friendship that lasts up to today. Pablo devoted his time and efforts in making sure that Usain would be able to reach his full potential while Usain, encouraged and empowered to be the best that he can be, heeded Pablo’s instructions and pushed himself beyond his limits.
All the time and energy spent during trainings and practice paid off, and when Usain competed in the CARIFTA (Caribbean Free Trade Association) Games in 2001, the first ever Caribbean regional event that he competed in, Usain won two silver medals in both the 400 meters and 200 meters events.
Usain did have his share of mischiefs during this same year, such as when he was arrested for doing a practical joke by hiding in the back of a van instead of training for the finals of the CARIFTA Games; the incident caused the local community to blame Pablo, but after Usain stepped up to defend his coach the issue subsided and he was able to win the finals for the 200 and 400-meter events, setting new records for the categories he competed in. Usain also dominated the Central American and Caribbean Junior Championships by winning the 400 meter and 200 meter events, also setting records in these categories.
Due to these accomplishments, Usain caught the attention of P.J. Patterson, the former Prime Minister who acknowledged Usain’s talents and arranged for him to be included with the Jamaica Amateur Athletic Association in Jamaica’s University of Technology at Kingston.
In 2002, Usain began his rise to the top when he won the gold medal for the 200 meter event of that year’s World Junior Championships, making him the youngest junior gold medalist in the world. During the event, the expectations from the crowd made Usain feel so uneasy that he actually wore his shoes in the wrong manner! This experience helped Usain to realize the problems with having pre-race nerves, and decided to train to never have it ever again. Usain also brought home two silver medals for the 4x100 meters and 4x400 meters relay, having become a part of the Jamaican sprint relay team.
Usain’s rise to prominence did not stop there, and the following year he continued his winning streak by getting four gold medals at the CARIFTA Games, earning him an Austin Sealy Trophy for being the most outstanding athlete. Usain also won a gold medal at the World Youth Championships that year, impressing even Michael Johnson, who previously held the world record for the 200-meter event. At the Pan American Junior Championships, Usain set a record for the 200-meter that stands up to today.
Usain’s performances caused him to become a celebrity, so much so that he was called as “the most phenomenal sprinter ever produced” in Jamaica by Howard Hamilton, a famous personality who was appointed as the Public Defender by the Jamaican government.
Going Professional: Earning the Moniker, “Lightning”
Sometime in 2003, Pablo stopped being the coach of Usain and gave him over to Fitz Coleman. By 2004, Usain started to compete professionally, winning championships at that year’s CARIFTA Games. He did encounter some disappointments during that year, such as not being chosen to participate in the World Junior Championships (due to a hamstring injury) and being eliminated in the first round of the 200 meter event at the Olympic Games. In spite of these disappointments, Usain was not deterred in his goal to win—instead of being a stumbling block, these failures became stepping stones for Usain to build upon for his next challenges. In the same year, Usain received several invitations for track scholarships from different colleges and universities in the United States, but he refused them all, choosing to stay in the University of Jamaica.
The year 2005 gave Usain a fresh start due to having both a new coach (Glen Mills) and a new attitude towards his career and training. Glen was quite stricter compared to Usain’s earlier coaches, and put effort into removing Usain’s unprofessional approach to sprinting. Glen had Usain train with more seasoned sprinters like Dwain Chambers and Kim Collins, enabling Usain to set several records in various professional sprinting events for the first half of the year. It was not all cloud nine however, as Usain had a couple of setbacks due to the injuries he received. For the next two years, Usain would have both wins and losses, and could not completely compete professionally due to suffering injuries from time to time. In the midst of these setbacks, Usain never lost his focus and continued to improve his performances, earning him the fifth place in the worldwide rankings of the most outstanding athletes.
Throughout his remarkable performances in 2006 and 2007, it was his record-setting run in the Osaka World Championships of 2007 that really launched him into international attention. After months of training, Usain finally showed off when he set a new personal record of 9.76 minutes in the 100-meter event. Usain’s performance shocked many viewers (including himself); Tyson Gay, one of his rivals, praised Usain for his remarkable form and technique, while Michael Johnson applauded Usain’s improvement over the 100 meter distance.
The First Jamaican to Win a Gold Medal in the Olympic Games
Afterwards, it was just up for Usain. Prior to the start of 2008, his coach Glen already predicted that Usain would be able to beat his own record in the following year, and he was right. In the Reebok Grand Prix at New York City, Usain set a world record on the 100 meter event after finishing 9.72 seconds, beating the record of 9.74 seconds set by his compatriot Asafa Powell. During the Olympic Games held in China, Usain dominated the 100 and 200 meter events (9.69 and 19.30 seconds respectively), setting new world records and bringing honor to his country (Usain’s win was the very first time that Jamaica had won a gold medal at the Olympic Games). He also ran as the third leg of the 4x100 meters relay, along with teammates Michael Frater, Asafa Powell and Nesta Carter, and set a new record for the event.
One of the things that enabled Usain to really do it right at the Olympic Games was his changed attitude towards the sport and his way of dealing with failures and mistakes. In an interview made with him, Usain said:
"Things happen throughout the season that throw you off sometimes but you have to learn from your mistakes. I just need to put things in place to make sure it doesn't happen at the Olympics. I just try and get over it and get my confidence up to a level where I'm comfortable at the Games.”
Usain’s success in the 2008 Olympic Games made him not just an international celebrity but also one of the most successful sprinters of all time. In fact, Usain’s achievements gave the international community a new perspective of the sport because of all the scandals that the previous champions have faced. Most of the scandals involved the use of banned substances, but when Usain stepped in, he proved that such feats can be done as a result of hard work and determination.
Setting an “Unreachable Record” in the 100 and 200 Meter Event
In the following years of 2009 and 2010, Usain continued to improve his performance, bringing awe to crowds with his tremendous speed at the 100, 200 and 400 meter tracks. One of the most memorable moments that Usain had in the World Championships was when he set a new record in the 100 and 200 meter event by finishing at 9.58 and 19.19 seconds respectively (effectively disproving expert claims that no one can run below 9.60 minutes), wowing even his fellow competitors. Usain suffered some setbacks due to injuries in 2010, but he never let them hamper his training. Throughout those two years of competing, Usain showed no wavering of interest in winning, doing the best he can to show people what he is really made of.
It seems that as time passes on, Usain simply gets better and better. This is because of Usain’s attitude about life. Instead of looking at how far he has to go, Usain has this attitude of appreciating how far he has gone. He appreciates every little training session and sees himself improving because of those sessions. In an interview, Usain describes his activities:
“Each training session I'm getting better and better. I have no other duties now, no worries, it's all about training, eating and sleeping. I have a lot more time and can put a lot more effort into training. I'm feeling better every day. As long as I'm feeling myself I'm definitely in no doubt I can go to the Olympics and win.”
Successfully Defending the 100 and 200 Meter Olympic Sprint Titles
And he did. In 2012, when Usain joined the Summer Olympic Games held in London, he not only set new Olympic records (breaking his previous records at the last Olympic Games), but he also became the first person ever to defend the 100 and 200 meter Olympic sprint titles. What made his win more significant was that, it happened just a few hours before the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of Jamaica’s independence from the United Kingdom, resulting in Usain being hailed by USA Today as a Jamaican National Hero.
Today, Usain is ever more passionate in doing what he loves to do—sprinting. Throughout his life, Usain has been an inspiration to many through his achievements and the way he handles disappointments. Usain’s career is one gigantic lesson for us to always believe in the power of determination and faith.
“I am lucky that I have a lot of natural talent, but my success is all down to hard work. I could run under 10sec now even if I didn’t really train, but to win medals it’s all about training on the track, working hard in the gym and improving my technique.”
Organizations and Programmes Supported
- Usain Bolt Foundation
- Your Dollar Our Future Campaign
- Chain of Hope Jamaica
- Sherwood Content Health Centre
Awards and Achievements
- 2002: Won the 200-meter event of the World Junior Championships
- 2003: Won the 200-meter event of the World Youth Championships
- 2003: Won the 200-meter event of the Pan American Junior Championships
- 2004: Won the 200-meter event of the CARIFTA Games
- 2005: Won the 200-meter event of the Central American and Caribbean Championships
- 2008: Won the 100-meter event of the Summer Olympic Games
- 2008: Won the 200-meter event of the Summer Olympic Games
- 2008: Won the 4x100-meter relay event of the Olympic Games
- 2008: Named World Athlete of the Year by the IAAF
- 2008: Named Track & Field Athlete of the Year
- 2008: Named the BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year
- 2008: Conferred the title Commander of the Order of Distinction
- 2009: Named World Athlete of the Year by the IAAF
- 2009: Named Track & Field Athlete of the Year
- 2009: Named the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year
- 2009: Named the BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year
- 2009: Conferred the Order of Jamaica
- 2009: Won the 100-meter event of the World Championships
- 2009: Won the 200-meter event of the World Championships
- 2009: Won the 4x100-meter relay event of the World Championships
- 2010: Named the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year
- 2011: Named World Athlete of the Year by the IAAF
- 2011: Won Gold medal in the 200-meter event of the World Championships
- 2011: Won Gold medal in the 4x100-meter relay event of the World Championships
- 2012: Named World Athlete of the Year by the IAAF
- 2012: Named the BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year
- 2012: Won the 100-meter event of the Summer Olympic Games
- 2012: Won the 200-meter event of the Summer Olympic Games
- 2012: Won the 4x100-meter relay event of the Summer Olympic Games
- 2013: Named the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year
- 2011: Honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of the West Indies Mona
Wikipedia (Usain Bolt)
Biography (Usain Bolt)
The Guardian (Usain Bolt: 'Legends have come before me, but this is my time')
Shortlist.com (Usain Bolt Interview)
Soccer Bible (Usain Bolt Exclusive Interview)