We often talk about people that have ‘it,’ that natural, incredible talent to do things that defy our sense of what is possible. It may be the genius of a scientist who discovers something that changes the world. It may be the ingenuity of an entrepreneur who builds a global business, or it may be someone like Usain Bolt, arguably the most gifted athlete the world has ever seen.
Michael Johnson, one of the world’s most celebrated Olympians said of Usain, “There is no athlete that can compete with him … he’s a global superstar…” great praise indeed, but not without reason. We’re talking here about someone who is regarded as the fastest human ever timed- the first man to hold both the 100 metres and 200 metres world records since fully automatic time became mandatory.
Usain created history at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio when he achieved the ‘Triple Triple’, three gold medals at three consecutive Olympic Games. His journey to worldwide stardom started at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing where he won the 100m, 200m and 4x100m, all in world record times. He followed this up with three gold medals in the same events at the 2012 Olympic Games in London to write his name in the history books as the world’s fastest man. Then one day before his 30th birthday he completed the same triple at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio to cement his legacy as a legend in world sport.
I caught up with Usain to learn more about what it takes to be the world’s fastest man…
Q: Why do you do what you do?
[Usain Bolt] I do what I do because I am good at it, I enjoy it and I have been successful doing it. God gave me a talent and I have worked extremely hard to fulfil this talent.
Q: What does success mean to you?
[Usain Bolt] Success for me has been the ability to change my life, change my family’s life and help a lot of other people. Athletics has brought me fame and fortune and I enjoy using it to help those around me and those less fortunate.
Q: How do you cope with the physical stresses of sport & travel?
[Usain Bolt] Travel is part of my job as track & field is a global sport and the competitions can be anywhere in the world. My team tries to plan my schedule so that I limit the amount of long haul flights I do in the months before a major championship but I have been doing it for a long time and am used to international travel by now.
Q: How do you look after your own mental health?
[Usain Bolt] I am not someone who puts a lot of pressure on myself. I love a challenge and live for the big stage of an Olympic Games or World Championships. Some people get nervous for the big events but I look forward to them.
I actually find the training much more mentally challenging that the competitions.
Q: What are the responsibilities of you- as a brand?
[Usain Bolt] I understand that I am a role model and my every move is watched and analysed. I have a good team around me who manage my brand from a commercial point of view. For me it is important that the kids see me for who I am – a good person who works hard but has fun.
Q: What does philanthropy and legacy mean to you?
[Usain Bolt] I work mainly with the Usain Bolt Foundation to help give opportunities to the next generation. I hope that my achievements can inspire people to work hard to be whoever they want to be whether that is in sport or business or entertainment or whatever. I feel that what I have achieved on the track – world records and three gold medals in three different Olympic Games – has cemented my name in sporting history.
Q: What inspires you?
[Usain Bolt] I see inspiration everywhere. My parents are a big inspiration for me. I remember how hard my Dad worked when I was young. My coach inspires me to train hard. I take inspiration from other leaders doing what they do whether that is in sport, entertainment, business, politics etc.
Q: Who are you?
[Usain Bolt] I am Usain. I am a proud Jamaican who can run fast and make people smile. I try to be myself whether I am hanging out with my friends or on the world stage. I try to enjoy life and treat people with respect.
Q: What would be your message to the generation after ours?
[Usain Bolt] I have shown that anything is possible. I always tell people not to limit themselves. Find out what you are good at or interested in and work hard to be successful in that. Have fun when you are doing it and life is better.