Remember those cartoons where the roadrunner would whiz past the coyote? The one in which he would be running so fast and his legs would be such a blur. The roadrunner would always leave the coyote looking surprised in his wake.
The show celebrated speed, wits, and cheek! There is one very accomplished person with all these qualities, an Olympian whose wins take many pages. Usain Bolt! True to his surname Usain charges around, sprinting with speeds we never thought were achievable. As a child, Usain was always running up the tree, round the bend and pretty much everywhere. Identified as a great talent, he was mentored and trained and before long he was the rising star of athletics. Bolt was winning, but getting bogged down by expectations; timely advice helped him understand he had to keep things light, enjoy his running and not focus on the winning, but giving his best.
The Boy Who Learned to Fly captures this lesson that Bolt learnt to his great advantage.
That Usain was fast was noted early on. His mother Jennifer recounts,
He weighed 9.5lb at birth. One day I left him on the bed, and when I came back he was close to falling off, so from then I was saying, ‘What kind of a child is this? I’ve never seen that’
Usain had running in his genes. His parents were sprinters, and by the age of twelve, he was outrunning everyone at Trelawney, his birthplace. His favourite food was yam, native to his beloved Jamaica.
Usain had many mentors, starting with his parents who helped train him and become the best of the best. Bolt suffered from scoliosis (curved spine of the lower back) which made him highly prone to injury. In order for his 6 ft 5″ frame to be fast, he has had to work on his core strength and a regime of rigorous practice. He does leg- raises, side- sweeps, reverse- crunches, side- plank- clams as part of his fitness routine. He also tries to stay away from his favourite junk food chicken nuggets and wings to stay fit and lean.
Usain almost did not become a runner. He loved playing cricket and kept at it. It was his PE teacher at William Knibb High School, Lorna Thorpe who encouraged him to pursue running. Usain recalls.
When I was in high school she looked out for me, she was always on me in school, making sure everything was OK, always focused. So she played a very big part for me
By 15 Usain was the winner at the 2002 World Junior Championship title. He decided to go pro the very next year, rather than taking up a university education. His agent Ricky Simms says it was tough on Bolt, who would often cry with nervousness before his races. His mother often consoled him and prayed for him, with Bolt promising to give his best and he often did. Usain did poorly at the Athens Olympics in the year 2004 and turned to coach Glenn Mills to help him.
Glenn captured Usain’s movements and showed him his areas of improvement. Usain keen on improving his game listened, learnt and corrected. His parents drilled into him the need to be kind, respectful and hard working. Usain is paying back to the community that supported him by providing computers and a bus to his old school. He is also involved in the rebuilding of the health facility in his village.
The boy who learnt to fly, clearly keeps his feet on the ground.