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From the Bottom to the Top: An Athlete’s Journey #1 – Usain Bolt

Discover the story of an athlete who started with nothing and reached the top with this article tracing Usain Bolt’s journey. From a humble childhood in Jamaica, he pushed his way to victory through courage, hard work and determination to become the greatest sprinter of all time!

An Athlete from the Beginning: Usain Bolt’s Youth in Jamaica

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Born on 21 August 1986 in the parish of Trelawny in North-West Jamaica, Usain Bolt grew up in Sherwood Content, a quiet country town. His parents were grocers, and his aunt ran Miss Lilly Bolt’s, a popular bar and shop in the area. The young Usain played basketball, cricket and street football as a midfield defender. His parents enforced strict discipline and emphasised the importance of school.

A very common activity in Jamaica, he naturally discovered sprinting while at school. The young Usain started athletics at the age of 12, and his extraordinary abilities were quickly recognised. Coached by Pablo McNeil and Dwayne Barrett, he finished second in the 2001 William Knibb High School national championships at age 15 with a 200m time of 22.04.

« You have to be focused and determined. Then you’ll get what you want. »

« Il faut être concentré et déterminé. Alors, vous obtiendrez ce que vous voulez. »

Usain Bolt

A Work in Progress: The Journey of a Rising Star

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In 2002, Usain decisively stepped into the spotlight when the 9th World Junior Athletics Championships were held in Jamaica. He became the youngest ever world champion in the 200m at the age of 16 with a time of 20.61.

Usain Bolt’s Early Successes

He continued his efforts and gradually attracted worldwide attention with remarkable performances in the 200m with the following results:

  • 20.25 (and 45.35 in the 400 m) at the Inter-School Championships in Kingston, Jamaica.
  • 20.40 with a 6 tenths lead over the runner-up at the World Youth Championships in Sherbrooke.
  • 20.13, the world’s best junior track and field performance, in the final of the Pan American Junior Championships in Bridgetown, a performance that earned him the title of successor to sprinter Michael Johnson.
  • 19.93 in 2004, a new world youth record, as he turned professional and continued training with Fitz Coleman.

Injuries and Setbacks

Throughout his career, Usain Bolt has suffered from several health problems that have slowed his progress:

  • When he was 17 years old, he was diagnosed with scoliosis. His spine was bent due to rapid growth and overtraining. He suffered from this throughout his career.
  • While he was hoping for gold at the Athens Olympics in 2004, he was eliminated after the first 200m sprint, suffering from thigh pain. He returned to Jamaica disappointed.
  • At the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki, he underperformed due to health problems (26.27).
  • A hamstring injury caused him to withdraw from the 2006 Commonwealth Games.

« For me, I’m focused on what I want to do. I know what I need to do to be a champion, so I’m working on it. »

« Je suis concentré sur ce que je veux accomplir. Je sais ce que j’ai besoin de faire pour être un champion, alors je travaille là-dessus. »

Usain Bolt

The Most Successful sprinter of All Time

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Unwilling to accept defeat, Usain Bolt continued his efforts and changed his coach. His new coach, Glen Mills, offered him a challenge: if he managed to beat the Jamaican 200m record of 19.86, he would let him do what he had wanted to do for a long time: attempt to compete in a 100m race. The challenge was met in 2007 with a record of 19.75 in Kingston.

Qualifying for the Osaka Olympics, he won his first international victories and became known to the world as the “lightning bolt” or “thunderbolt”, winning victory after victory with apparent ease, though behind his success was a great deal of hard work. Despite further joint pain in 2015, he became a true legend among athletes and made sports history:

  • Usain Bolt was the first athlete to win all three events (100m, 200m and 4×100m) in the same Olympics at the Beijing games in 2008, a feat repeated at the London Olympics in 2012
  • He is the only sprinter who improved the world record in the 100 metres three times in a row.
  • He’s the holder of an astonishing 8 Olympic gold medals and 11 world championships.

His global success is due to his exceptional performances and the fact that he has won the public’s admiration. During the races, he was expressive with a humble and straightforward demeanour. He played to the cameras, making faces at the crowd and put on a show while trying to communicate his passion with his fans. After retiring from the track in 2017, Usain Bolt fulfilled his dream of becoming a legend and among the best.

« There are better starters than me but I’m a strong finisher. »

« Au départ de la course, certains sont meilleurs que moi, mais je suis le premier à l’arrivée. »

Usain Bolt

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