“Learning the mind is as important as understanding the body.”Usain Bolt
Usain Bolt has been dubbed the fastest man on earth and the greatest sprinter of all time. He was born on 21 August 1986 in Sherwood Content, a small town in Jamaica where his parents ran the local grocery store. As a child Bolt spent his time playing cricket and football in the street, later saying, “when I was young, I didn’t really think about anything other than sport”.
As a schoolboy, his passion was playing cricket and, although he was fast, his height was a serious disadvantage to being a sprinter especially coming out of the blocks. As Bolt later said, “there are better starters than me, but I’m a strong finisher”. However, luckily a teacher spotted his talent and incentivised an unconvinced Bolt with a prize of a box lunch if he won the school sports day 100m race. It was an inspired incentive because according to Bolt a box lunch was “The Real Deal”. He won the race and his journey to becoming the world’s fastest man had begun.
Bolt suffers from scoliosis, a curvature of the spine that affects his hamstrings. It didn’t affect him much when he was young but as he grew the condition worsened and regular injuries started to prevent him from completing a full professional athletics season. Bolt turned professional in 2004 and approached the 2004 Athens Olympics with confidence. However, he was hampered by a leg injury and was eliminated in the first round of the 200m. Later Bolt said: “my spine’s really curved bad … in the early part of my career, when we didn’t really know much about [scoliosis], it really hampered me because I got injured every year”. However, knowledge is power and by learning about the condition, and keeping his core and back strong, Bolt learned to control it to avoid injury.
Bolt said: “I’ve worked hard over the years, I’ve been injured and I’ve worked hard through it, and I’ve made it”. But hard work isn’t the only reason for his success because, as he acknowledges, “the mental aspect is very important and contributes to 50 per cent of my success”.
Before the age of 30, at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Bolt had won 19 Olympic and World Championship gold medals in the 21 events he had entered, a staggering tally that makes him the greatest sprinter of all time. This included an unprecedented triple gold medal win in the 100m, 200m and 4 x 100m in three successive Olympics (Rio, London and Beijing), a feat that may well never be repeated. He has retired from professional sprinting but still holds the world record for the 100m and 200m.
His success has generated Bolt vast wealth from sponsorship deals but for over a decade he has used his celebrity and wealth to help disadvantaged young people. Early in his career, he established the Usain Bolt Foundation which aims to create opportunities through education and cultural development. The foundation has invested millions of dollars, particularly in Jamaica, into community development projects that enhance the health and education of the young people involved.
Usain Bolt is our Rewire Hero of the Week.
“The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in determination”Usain Bolt
Photo By Jmex60 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4586614 (Adapted to B&W)