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Usain Bolt Book Review: 5 things we learned from Bolt’s autobiography

Usain Bolt Book Review: 5 things we learned from Bolt’s autobiography

Posted by Shanelle Weir on March 25, 2014

Usain Bolt’s autobiography Faster than Lightning is a mighty fascinating read. Inarguably, one of the greatest athletes to have graced track and field, Bolt’s back-to-back triple Gold Medal haul (100m, 200m and 4x100m with Jamaica) in the 2008 Beijing and 2012 Olympics is unprecedented. He also holds the World Records in the 100 and 200m races. Along with that he has numerous other senior and junior records and has in the words of The Associated Press: ‘Almost single-handedly, Bolt has helped track transform itself from a dying sport to one with a singular, smiling, worldwide star.’ His autobiography gives us an amazing insight into what goes into making a world champion. We also read about some amazing anecdotes about growing up in Jamaica, his realisation that he had a gift and his refusal to take life too seriously. Here are 5 things we learned from the book:

Nurture and nature are equally important

Bolt was born to be a champion, winning a genetic gamble that gave him a unique set of genes which Michael Johnson calls ‘the slave gene’ which makes him athletically far fitter than other individuals. The story goes that only the fittest slaves were picked to make the treacherous journey by ship to the Caribbean and even the journey wiped out many of the shipmates. The descendants of those who survived are believed to possess the so-called slave gene and like Johnson, Bolt is likely to possess the same gene which marks him out to perform greater physical feats. However, Bolt says in his autobiography that another reason for Jamaica’s success in such events is the nationwide obsession for track and field which is similar to the craze for football in Brazil which has seen them produce so many greats. Essentially, this helps create a blueprint for scores of future Bolts who would go on to dominate that sport.

You’ve to sacrifice things

Despite possessing the stereotypical laid back nature that’s associated with Jamaicans and perhaps epitomised greatly by Bob Marley, Usain learnt early on that he would need to sacrifice if he wanted to be the very best. When he was younger, Bolt would often skip the gym or training to go to parties or play video games but he soon picked up that if he wanted to be the very best, he’d need to train like the very best. And he learned to do that, becoming in time a conscientious trainer but he’d still love to slack off from time to time. He also made sure never to drink too much alcohol and smoked a joint only once his life (which is amazing considering he grew up in a place where smoking up is almost a way of life)!

Obstacles must be overcome

Usain Bolt actually wasn’t handpicked by destiny to break world records. For example, his height 6’5’’ can be a big disadvantage for fast starts since it takes him to longer than other athletes who’re of a more optimum height when they need a power start in the beginning. However, his long legs allowed him to complete the 100m in 41 steps rather than the usual 44-45 it takes shorter athletes but it was something he had to work on. Another big problem was a spinal condition he suffered from called scoliosis which was quite severe. However, he learned to live and work around the condition. As his Coach Glen Mills put it: ‘You’re going to have to live with this condition Bolt. The muscles in your abs and back are weak and that affects your hip. When you run with the curvature in your spine, the hip pulls on the hamstrings, causing them to strain or tear.  But if we strengthen your back and abdominal muscles with exercise, they should help you withstand any dysfunction.’ This was in 2004 and strengthen they did!

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