‘Lightening Bolt’ is the fastest sprinter in history. So, what motivates him?
Born in Trelawny, Jamaica in 1986, Usain Bolt grew up in a loving household with Christian parents. Wellesley and Jennifer Bolt ran the local grocery store and while they were certainly not wealthy in financial terms, Usain was a happy child who spent much of his free time playing cricket and football in the street with his brother. Usain says,
“When I was young, I didn’t really think about anything other than sports”.
As a child, he attended Waldensia Primary School where his sprinting ability first surfaced.By the age of 12 Bolt had become the school’s fastest runner over 100 metres.
At High School, he focused on a number of sports, but the cricket coach noticed Usain’s speed on the pitch and urged him to try track and field events. He won his first major events as a 15-yeal-old in 2001, winning both the 200 and 400 metres events at the CARIFTA Games where he set new championship records in both events. The CARIFTA Games is sponsored by the Caribbean Free Trade Association and was originally started in 1972. The teenage Usain was now six feet five inches tall (1.96 metres) and stood out physically from the other competitors.
Rise to prominence on the World Stage
The 2002 World Junior Championships was held on home turf in Kingston, Jamaica. Usain won the 200m gold medal, in a time of 20.61 seconds, just 0.03 seconds slower than his personal best. His win made him the youngest world-junior gold medalist ever.As a member of the Jamaican sprint relay team, he also took two silver medals and set national junior records in the 4×100 and 4×400 metres relays. The medals continued to flow that year with four gold medals at the2003 CARIFTA Games, and he was awarded the Austin Sealy Trophy for the most outstanding athlete of the games.
Bolt continued to improve as a sprinter over the next few years and in 2007 he took silver medals in the 200m and 4x400m relay events at the World Championships, putting him firmly in the world athletics arena and showing that he could be a serious Olympic medal contender.
In May 2007 Usain broke the world record for the 100 metres sprint twice. Later that year he also broke the 200 metre world record.
Then in 2008, the 22 year old set the world ablaze by winning three gold medals at the Beijing Olympics in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay, all of them in new world record times! The world fell in love with the cheeky young athlete who gave thanks to God by getting on his knees to pray on the track when the media cameras were on him. He also mentioned his Christian faith in interviews.
Bolt took three more gold medals at the same events in the 2009 World Championships and set new world records again for the 100m and 200m events. There was a slight hiccough in the 2011 World Championships when he was disqualified in the 100m for a false start, but that didn’t stop him from winning two golds in the 200m and 4×400 relay events. The medals continued to come in with three golds at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, three golds at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, a gold in the 100m at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, three golds at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing, and another three golds at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio! Many have already hailed Usain Bolt as the greatest sprinter ever.
Usain is a very popular athlete and very vocal about his Christian faith, which he talks about openly and sensitively. Amazingly, the media seems to be at pains to keep his faith a secret. The BBC in particular were criticised after the Rio Olympics for outwardly focusing on the Moslem beliefs of British double gold medalist Mo Farah whilst apparently deliberately suppressing the beliefs of Usain Bolt. They referred to Usain’s prayer on the track as ‘a moment to himself.’ Bolt’s public relations team were mystified at the lack of mention of his faith by mainstream media, stating;
“Usain Bolt is a Bible-believing, God-honouring, Jesus-worshipping Christian. But not a whisper from the BBC; not a word of explanation of the real significance of these ‘moments to himself.’”
Usain Bolt’s faith in God has always played a prominent role in his life and success. His parents, instilled him with a deep trust in Jesus Christ and taught him to give thanks to God for everything. Bolt prays before every race, and immediately praises God when he’s finished. He does this without fail. His Christian upbringing equipped him with the passion to become the legendary world athletics performer that he is today.
Bolt’s parents taught their children the importance of the ‘fruit of the spirit’ referred to by the Apostle Paul in Galatians chapter 5, teaching the young Usain to be a gracious and thankful young man. He has been a good example to others, having stayed faithful to his humble roots despite such great success and acclaim by the standards of the world at large.
At the 2012 Olympic games Usain famously sent a message to his fans on twitter. It read,
I want to thank God for all that he has done for me ‘cause without Him this wouldn’t have been possible.
On another occasion in 2014 he posted the complete Lord’s Prayer along with a personal comment, “give thanks for another day” – for the world to read.
On Good Friday 2015 he posted,
Never forget the true meaning of the day.
And then during the stressful buildup to the 2015 World Championships, he shared;
Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou are with me.
Overcoming Physical Impairment
Usain Bolt was born with scoliosis (curvature of the spine) which could have been a major hinderance to him as an athlete. Although this condition has contributed to injuries at times, he has not let it hinder him from being a winner in life. He says;
I’ve worked hard over the years, I’ve been injured and I’ve worked hard through it, and I’ve made it. But if I keep my core and back strong, the scoliosis doesn’t really bother me,”
His faith has also given him a deep respect for all people. He has a deep conviction that all people should be treated with honour and courtesy. He says that life in Jamaica, and his faith in particular, taught him to respect others;
“Manners is the key thing. Say, for instance, when you’re growing up, you’re walking down the street, you’ve got to tell everybody ‘Good Morning.’ Everybody. You can’t pass one person.”
Even as a child, Usain realised that his ability to run very fast was a gift from God. His parents may not have know that he would someday be a world athletics phenomenon, but without their Christian faith and teaching he may not have made it at all. Their guidance not only taught him to be respectful and thankful, it also gave him the confidence to know that God was with him wherever he went, including on the track.
In his career, Usain Bolt had amassed a whopping 26 gold medals in major championships including nine Olympic golds. He has also broken seven world records, and won seven silver medals at major international games.
Story by Ralph Burden