10 Ultimate Facts about Usain Bolt

“No matter how far you get ahead of me, I’m gonna catch you. That’s my mentality I go there with,” that’s what Usain “Lightning” Bolt said, and we know well that it was definitely his mentality when he ran on the track by looking at the world records he set. Not many know that Usain St. Leo Bolt was a fan of cricket when he was young. He has shown his talent on the pitch against famous cricketers like Chris Gayle and Yuvraj Singh. And, as if that was not diverse enough, Bolt owns a music and sports bar in Jamaica and has an app credited to his name. Gossip mills in the past had been churning with whispers about Bolt signing a contract with Manchester United after he bids adieu to track and field. Here are some ultimate facts about Usain Bolt that reveal more about his interesting life for you to read.

1. Bolt’s career began after he made a bet with his close friend who was known as the fastest runner then. They ran to prove who could run the fastest among them with “free lunch” as the prize. Bolt won.

Bolt’s childhood picture
Image source: Dailymail

When the world champion was 12-years-old, he got into an argument with his friend, Ricardo Gedes, about who was the fastest runner among them. A priest, Reverend Nugent, overheard the two and decided to resolve the issue by putting a free lunch at stake. He asked them to contest for it. Both of them agreed.

When the young Jamaicans raced, Bolt won. Ricardo Gedes was considered the fastest runner before the race. So, when Reverend Nugent was leaving, legend has it that he told Bolt, “If you can beat Ricardo, you can beat anyone.” This was Bolt’s first taste of success and his career began. (source)

2. Usain Bolt’s coach, Pablo McNeil, who helped him realize his potential, never showed Bolt his stopwatch after a run. He was afraid that the “phenomenal times” Bolt ran in even before he had turned 15 would get to his head.

Usain Bolt’s coach, Pablo McNeil
Image source: gojamaica.net

Bolt had a lot of potential as a teenager, but that potential had to be channeled in the right direction. His coach and mentor, Pablo McNeil, did that. McNeil thought that Bolt was a “cut above the rest” and worked hard to ensure that he scaled the highest peak. When McNeil began training Bolt, the now-famous athlete was easily distracted and would leave the school grounds to take a taxi and flirt with girls. Without taking the sport seriously as a young boy, Bolt achieved phenomenal times, and McNeil decided not to share those times with him.

Until the age of 16, McNeil could coach Bolt, but after that, the Prime Minister of Jamaica took a personal interest in the athlete and moved him from Trelawny to Kingston. The then Prime Minister P.J. Patterson had publicly addressed Bolt as an “outstanding talent.” (source)

3. Bolt got a number of track scholarships from American colleges, but he turned them down to train in his homeland, Jamaica. He demanded that his ad shoots be done in Jamaica so that it would bring revenue to his country.

Bolt and Jamaica love
Image source: erki.nl

Usain Bolt has an undying love for his homeland, Jamaica. After Bolt turned professional in 2004, he had some good and some not-so-good performances on the tracks. Looking at his performances, American colleges offered him track scholarships, but Bolt was happy to stay in his home country. He trained in the surroundings of the University of Technology in Jamaica, the same university whose facilities had aided him when he was an amateur.

He has insisted that all the ad shoots that feature him be done in Jamaica so people there can be helped and get more jobs. In January 2017 when he appeared on a program called “Profile” on Television Jamaica, he revealed that when he started out, people wanted to do their shoots in Miami, Los Angeles, and all over the world. Sometimes, his shoots would bring a hundred to two hundred people to Jamaica over the weekend. (1,2)

4. His gait is asymmetrical. His left leg is longer than his right leg due to a spinal disorder called “scoliosis.” Scientists have not arrived at a consensus about whether his speed is because of the condition or in spite of it.

Bolt's gait
Image source: erki.nl

In his autobiography, Faster Than Lightning, Bolt revealed that he has suffered from a condition called “scoliosis” which causes the spine to bend sideways. This condition has made his right leg half-an-inch shorter than his left. The fastest sprinter in history, Bolt has an asymmetrical, nine-foot stride, and researchers at the Southern Methodist University have found out that his right leg strikes the track with 13% more peak force than his left, and his left leg remains on the track approximately 14% longer than the right.

Conventionally, it has been believed that an uneven stride slows down a runner, but that does not seem to be the case with the athlete as the asymmetry has become his natural gait, and an attempt to make it even would be unnatural for him. Questions like, “Would he be able to run faster than his record speeds if he had an even stride?” have been raised, but the answers haven’t been found. (source)

5. During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Bolt ate 1,000 chicken nuggets in the ten days amounting to 47,000 calories. Despite that, he managed to win three gold medals, setting the 100m and the 200m world records while competing.

2008 Beijing Olympics
2008 Beijing Olympics. Image credit: PhotoBobil/Flickr

“At first, I ate a box of 20 for lunch, then another for dinner. The next day I had two boxes for breakfast, one for lunch, and then another couple in the evening. I even grabbed some fries and an apple pie to go with it,” wrote Usain Bolt in his autobiography. Why did he eat only chicken nuggets during the 2008 Beijing Olympics? Because he thought that the Chinese food was “odd.” He even wrote jokingly that he should have got a medal for “chowing that down.”

Each 20-piece box of chicken nuggets contains around 940 calories. This means that every day he gulped down about 4,700 calories. We are not counting the accompaniments he had with the nuggets in that calorie count! Despite this diet, Bolt set the 100m world record completing the run in 9.69 seconds, and the 200m world record in a record time of 19.30 seconds. (source)

6. Usain Bolt, who claimed 19 Guinness World Records, set a world record for the 100m run in 2008 of 9.69 seconds with his left shoelace untied. He broke his own 100m record of 9.58 seconds in 2009, beating a prediction that such speed could not be achieved by a human before 2030.

Usain Bolt world record
Image credit: Tobi 87/Wikimedia

One major reason people remember Usain Bolt’s record-breaking run at the 2008 Beijing Olympics is because when Bolt reached the finishing line, the shoelace of his left shoe was untied. In 2009, when he broke his own record with tied shoelaces at the Berlin World Championship, there was a difference of 0.11 seconds.

But, this 9.58 seconds record or even the 9.69 seconds one is something biostatisticians feel to be supernormal for a human being. According to a mathematical model that was used by statisticians, this speed would not be possible before 2030. This model was not created based upon human physiology, but the assumption that human speed increases but is decelerating and would eventually come to a halt.

A physicist named Jonas Mureika at Loyola Mormont University in Los Angeles predicted Bolt-like speeds but did not think that his numbers were right and refused to publish his own study!(1, 2)

7. In a somewhat symbolic gesture, he adopted an abandoned three-month-old cheetah in Kenya in 2009 and named it “Lightning Bolt” which is Usain Bolt’s nickname.

Cheetah's cub
Picture for representational purpose only. Image credit: Pixabay

The animal kingdom’s fastest sprinter is the cheetah, and Usain Bolt, the faster sprinter in the human kingdom, adopted a baby cheetah in Nairobi, Kenya in 2009. He adopted the 3-month-old, male cheetah as a part of conservation efforts by Kenya’s wildlife authorities as cheetahs’ survival is threatened due to the changes in their habitat. The cub, whom he named “Lightning Bolt” after him, was adopted after Bolt paid $13,700 for it. Every year, he spends $3,000 to pay for its care at an animal orphanage in Nairobi.

“Lightning Bolt” was found with its two siblings after they were abandoned by their mother. Photos of Bolt feeding milk to the baby cheetah which was the size of an adult domestic cat were awe-inspiring. When Bolt was asked whether he was afraid of the animal he said, “Yes, I was, but not anymore.” (source)

8. According to the data collected during the 2009 Berlin World Championship, if Bolt were to participate in the long jump, he could theoretically beat the current record of 8.95 meters and set a new one at 14.68 meters.

Image credit: J. Brichto/Wikimedia, Wikimedia

Usain Bolt had once told his coach that he would like to try his hand at the long jump and that he would be good at it. This is true because in theory. The faster you run, the faster you take off, the longer is the jump. The data that was collected during the 2009 Berlin World Championship points out that Bolt managed to reach a top speed of 44.72 km/h (27.79 mph) at the 40-meter mark of the 100-meter run. This is approximately 15% greater than his average velocity. If he maintained that velocity during taking off for the long jump, the jump distance could be calculated.

Using elementary kinematics, assuming a take-off angle of 45 degrees and ignoring the effect of air resistance, the jump distance comes to an unbelievable 14.68 meters which is 5.73 meters more than the current record of 8.95 meters held by Mike Powell. (source)

9. Average humans in peak condition can run at the maximum speed of 10 mph to 15 mph. Usain Bolt’s record-setting sprint was at 27.79 mph, which is faster than the speed of the African elephant and nearly half (41%) of the speed of the cheetah.

Bolt's speed
Image credit: erki.nl

The cheetah, who is known as the fastest land animal, can run at a speed of around 68 mph while the African elephant has a speed of 15.5 mph. Humans are known to be incapable of achieving great speeds, but Bolt achieved a speed of 27.79 mph during the 2009 world record based on the split time of 1.6 seconds for the 20 meters between the 60-80 meter-marks. That is approximately 13 mph more than the average human speed. (1, 2, 3)

10. Out of the top-30-fastest 100-meter sprints, nine of them were clean and not associated with doping. All nine of them are by Usain Bolt.

Bolt sprint
Image credit: Stephane Kempinaire

Out of the 30-fastest running times recorded ever, the nine that were made by Bolt were completely clean. All the other 21 were made by other athletes who have tested positive for doping (testosterone, oxilofrine, etc.) at some point in their careers like Astafa Powell or Justin Gatlin. Bolt is seen as an inspiration because of his “clean image” and is regarded as a person who set a new trend in sports and proved that even without the use of drugs, sportsmen could do wonders.

As of August 2018, out of the top ten spots for fastest men runners in the 100-meter sprint, five are held by Jamaicans. The same is in the case of women athletes. Jamaica, Bolt’s birthplace, is breeding great sportsmen. (1, 2)

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