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Why Usain's race is very nearly run

Susan Griffin finds out all about the king of sprint ahead of his World Championships swansong and airing of a documentary

Discipline is key: Bolt was born on August 21, 1986, and raised in the laid-back parish of Trelawny, Jamaica. His parents, particularly his father, instilled the importance of discipline. "Anything you want in life, you've got to work for it," Bolt recalls being told.

Early inspiration

Bolt first demonstrated his athletic prowess during a sports day at William Knibb Memorial High School. The school coach promised a free lunch if he could come out on top during a race - and he did.

Memorable moment

He recalls walking out for the 2002 World Junior Championship Under-20s and hearing the crowd chant "Bolt". The then 15-year-old "instantly got nervous", revealing he even put his spikes on the wrong feet. When the gun went off, he breezed through the race to win gold in front of a home crowd. This remains one of his favourite moments because, as he says "it's where it all started".

Coping with setbacks

His career's been punctuated with injury, and back in 2004 there were concerns he'd never fulfil the promise he had shown as a junior. He credits his "genius" coach, Glen Mills, for always finding a way to get him ready to race.

Close team

The king of sprint prefers a small team around him. Bolt's agent, Ricky Simms, describes it as a triangle with coach Mills, "his second father", at the top. Then there's Bolt's childhood friend and manager, Nugent Walker Jnr, who insists on always telling him the truth whether or not he wants to hear it, and Simms and his staff.

Adrenaline junkie

When he's not running, Bolt's passion is quad biking because "it gives you that same sense of adrenaline", he says.

Losing's not an option

Although he lost out at the World Championships in 2007, it proved a turning point because he never wanted to feel that way again. The following year he won three gold medals - in the 100 metres, 200 metres and the 4 x 100 metre relay - at the Beijing Olympics.

Facing your fear

Even now, Bolt admits to feeling nervous before the first race of the season, asking himself: "Am I still fast? Am I still the fastest man in the world?" His confidence grows the more he competes. "I hate the training, but I love competing so much," he says.

No pain, no gain

Ahead of the London Olympics in 2012, Bolt was beaten by fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake in both the 100 metres and 200 metres at the Olympic trials in Jamaica. "For the next month, the work I put in to make sure I could silence all these doubters was just unbelievable. I vomited daily because I was pushing myself to the ultimate level," he says.

In a class of his own

At London 2012, he won another three Olympic golds (in the 100 metres, 200 metres and 4 x 100 metre relay). Seb Coe, chairman of the London 2012 Olympics, says in the documentary: "I think London established him for all time. I don't think I can remember anybody since Muhammad Ali that has just grabbed the stage in any sport in the way Usain has."

Easing the pressure

After a bad start in the 100 metre semi-final at the World Championships in Beijing in 2015, Bolt only just made it through to the final. Coach Mills gave him a pep talk, telling him to relax and claim back the control. Bolt went on to beat his number one rival, the American athlete Justin Gatlin, and claim the gold. He beat him in the 200 metres too.


Bolt missed out on two months of training in the lead-up to the Rio Olympics in 2016 after the renowned party boy rolled over on his ankle in a nightclub. His team knew it was paramount his rivals didn't get wind of the injury and use it to their advantage.

The triple treble

When he was forced to pull out of Olympic trials in 2016 with a hamstring injury, the Jamaican officials issued Bolt with a medical pass so he could still compete in Rio. Fuelled by jibes made by some of his fellow competitors, including Gatlin, he went on to make history by taking the triple treble in Olympic gold medals.

A lonely pursuit

Bolt admits that at this point, having achieved so much, he has a harder time trying to motivate himself. Retired sprinter Michael Johnson, who appears in the documentary, says: "It gets to a point where it's less about competing against others, and more about competing against yourself. It's a much more lonely pursuit."

Back to reality

Bolt, who turns 31 this summer, admits it's "not as much fun as it used to be". The training feels tougher, the sacrifices are bigger and the partying has to be restrained. "I hate doing something that I don't really enjoy so I just want to get back into the real world," he remarks. Bolt is set to retire after the World Athletics Championships in London this August.

I Am Bolt airs on BBC One on Monday, July 31, at 8.30pm. The World Athletics Championships begins on BBC One on Friday, August 7, at 7pm

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