Usain Bolt’s refreshing story

Cover of Usain Bolt's autobiography.

What a relief it was to be in a roomful of happy folks, applauding yet again the record-breaking races of the planet’s fastest man, Usain “Lightning” Bolt. Usain, still remarkably himself despite his multi-million dollar endorsements, had lots of books to sign at last week’s launch of his refreshing autobiography, Usain Bolt – My Story and subtitled 9.58 – Being the world’s fastest man. It is a must-read – a coup for Ian Randle Publications. Kudos to Bolt’s team for choosing a home-grown publishing firm for our hometown hero.

There are good lessons in this easy-like-Sunday-morning book, written in the first person and reflecting the track star’s laid-back style. On his preference for running: “I chose to be a sprinter, not only because I was the fastest kid in school, but also because I knew that politics couldn’t interfere. In team sports it can be down to opinion whether you are the best … But in athletics you are either the fastest or you aren’t.”

Bolt prefers to make the clock his judge. He says he is the best sprinter in the world “because that is what it says on the clock. There can be no dispute or argument”. He has a point there. This could be a metaphor for the whole issue of governance.

Bolt is big on family. He describes his childhood in Sherwood Content, Trelawny, and expresses gratitude for the loving guidance of his mother and father, extended family and dedicated teachers. “Mom and Dad were always at my races to cheer me on,” writes Bolt. “but while my mother Jennifer … spoiled me …Dad kept pushing to make sure I went to training.”

Although he was tall for his age, Bolt’s dad wouldn’t allow him to drive his car until he got instructions: “I had to have 30 hours of lessons at driving school on dad’s orders. He was so strict and expected rules to be obeyed. You could never get around him.”

Bolt recalls that in his childhood, “We didn’t have much money but we never felt deprived. Dad had his job with the coffee company and said that if you worked hard you would always survive without having to beg from anyone.”

Even with their son’s new wealth, Wellesley and Jennifer Bolt prefer their quiet life: “They never lived a grand life and didn’t want to move to some flash place away from the community, so I’ve helped them to extend their house … My dad … doesn’t ask for anything and prefers to work for his money.” What does his mom ask for? “Mom will ask but that might only be for the bus fare back to Trelawny from Kingston.”

Bolt gives kudos to teachers, coaches, especially Glen Mills and Manager Norman Peart who relocated to Kingston to take Bolt professional while ensuring that he finished his CXC subjects. At the signing, I saw Harry Smith who, as then marketing manager of Digicel, signed on a young Usain Bolt after his triumph in the Junior Games, and stayed in his corner, despite subsequent setbacks.

Our star speaks with enthusiasm about his fellow Jamaican team members, including Asafa Powell, Maurice Smith and Veronica Campbell-Brown. You can read about his romantic attachments as well – we expect that after recent tabloid reports, his handlers will give him some timely guidance.

Family, community, team spirit, discipline, humility, honesty, perseverance – these permeate the Usain Bolt story, demonstrating that it was no fluke of nature that made this young phenomenon the fastest man in the world. He thrived because of his family’s traditional values, values that have been tragically eroded by the still enduring “donmanship”, well protected by certain politicians. Thank God, Usain’s parents kept him safely at home and out of the clutches of those evil beings.

It is a shame that were it not for the nefarious dealings of undercover criminals, there would be many more young achievers. Politicians are bitter at the media for their harsh criticism, but when we consider that there are 60 MPs and 60 other wannabes in this fruitful, beautiful country, we know that we can do so much better. They should resolve to shake off their unsavoury attachments and live honest lives like the humble Bolt family, if they want to earn our respect.

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