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Page last updated at 10:08 GMT, Thursday, 14 May 2009 11:08 UK

What makes Usain Bolt tick?

Usain Bolt

By Leon Mann

The Beijing Olympics could not have asked for a more captivating character than Usain Bolt.

Three gold medals, three world records and some memorably exuberant celebrations provided a potent cocktail of athletic excellence and uninhibited emotion that just blew us away.

Most people know that Bolt hates training - and loves fast food and late-night partying. But as he gets his 2009 outdoor season under way, does anyone know what really makes him tick?

After spending the best part of a week with the triple Olympic champion in Jamaica recently, meeting his friends and family, I got a chance to find out.

On the dance floor with Usain Bolt

Music is a big part of Jamaican culture and perhaps unsurprisingly, Bolt was at his most relaxed at The Quad nightclub in Kingston.

To say the 22-year-old was in his element is an understatement. With his sunglasses perched on top of his head, singing along to his favourite tracks and calling out for a "reload!", he could not have been happier.

And it's fair to say that Bolt takes his dancing almost as seriously as his sprinting!

While he is travelling the world competing he practises his moves in the mirror, listening to the latest reggae dancehall tracks on his iPod, sent to him by his brother.

It helps him relax away from the rigours of training and intense competition. Bolt is a man who values downtime.

The partying doesn't bother those closest to him. His manager and mentor Norman Peart could not help but smile broadly as he told me: "He partied a lot last year and look at the success!

He arrives at the club at 2am and leaves at 5am - so it's not like 10 hours wild partying or anything

Manager and mentor Norman Peart

"I guess it works for him. He arrives at the club at two in the morning and leaves at five - so it's not like 10 hours wild partying or anything."

Few know Bolt as well as Peart. It seems like he's the cog that holds the Bolt engine together. A full-time government tax auditor, he's very much been an unsung hero in the world-record holder's story.

Peart has mentored Bolt since the age of 15, helping him with his studies as well as his training. He always knew Bolt had a gift, although there were times he questioned his application.

But after seeing his young protégé run 20.25 seconds in the 200m final of the Jamaican High School Championships in 2003, he began to plan out a strategy.

"After that 20.25 you dream big and I thought he needed a certain structure around him. We kept it small but effective," Peart enthused.

The plans certainly paid dividends. His strategy has seen disciplinarian coach Glen Mills take charge of Bolt's training and PACE Sports Management's Ricky Simms become the young star's competition agent.

Bolt 'will continue being humble'

Bolt was born with scoliosis - a condition in which the spine is curved from side to side and something that has led to a series of injuries in his career.

Peart paid particular attention to addressing the problem and keeping Bolt's engine well oiled.

A masseuse never leaves the sprinter's side, travelling all over the world with him, warming him up before and after training and at every race.

"We don't let anyone else touch him, and to keep on top of [the condition] he has two or three check-ups a year with a specialist in Germany," said Peart.

Before Peart took on a young Usain he insisted on meeting with his parents to get a measure of where the youngster was coming from. I travelled back to where that first meeting took place, the Bolt family home.

606: DEBATE

Outside the house there are signs of their son's success. An extension is being finished off, doubling the size of the house, and a new wall is being built by the road.

Inside, the house is modest with Usain's trophies and medals won as a youngster taking pride of place beside the television.

His mother, Jennifer, recalled her earliest memories of Usain.

"He was very strong", she beamed. "At three weeks old he fell off the bed when I had left the room, and by the time I got back he was pushing himself around the place. It was from there that we noticed he was hyperactive!"

Down the road at the family's grocery shop his father, Wellesley, sported a President Obama baseball cap and, between serving customers rice, vegetables and fish, told me his son's hyperactivity as a child was a cause for concern.

"Once I had to take him to the doctor because I did not realise what was happening.

The doctor reassured me that he was just hyperactive and I should be careful with him by the road

Wellesley Bolt, Usain's father

"But the doctor reassured me that he was just hyperactive and I should be careful with him by the road."

Bolt regularly goes home to Sherwood Content in Trelawny to visit his parents and confesses it's one of the places he can "just go and be himself".

They are humble people from the countryside - respect, good manners and honesty are important to them.

The post-race showboating doesn't worry his parents. He earned the right to be a little flashy - and guess who taught him how to dance so well...

The influence of his parents is clear. He manages to succeed where so many sportsmen and women fail, combining confidence with a courteous manner.

The only cause for concern to those who know him best is his need for speed. Not on the track, but on the road.

Peart and Simms were so worried that they insisted Bolt took specialist driving lessons in Germany to learn how to handle a powerful BMW.

Despite this, those fears were realised last month when the man known to Jamaican taxi drivers as 'lead foot' had a narrow escape from a serious car accident. The BMW is no more.

Bolt 'taught to respect people'

Since Beijing, Bolt has become a national treasure and the Jamaican government have even assigned two undercover policemen to be by his side at all times.

The softly spoken officers, both the same age as Bolt, wear trainers, jeans and baggy T-shirts.

They told me no-one would dare trouble Bolt; the people love him too much.

The bulk of their work is making sure his fans don't get too excited when they see him and ensuring Bolt doesn't spend too much time signing autographs.

In many ways Bolt is the archetypal 20-something, finding his way in life while having a good time so, given his position of fame, it makes the roles of those around him that much more important.

The talents he possesses are a combination of fortune and hard work. But essentially it is the combination of the individuals around him that have kept him on track.

From his parents and mentor to his agent and coach they've all played a part in keeping Bolt ticking.

Watch Usain Bolt run in the Bupa Great Manchester 150 on Sunday at 1820 BST, live on BBC Two.



see also
Bolt upbeat over Manchester race
11 May 09 |  Athletics
Temporary track for fastest man
14 May 09 |  Sussex
Bolt withdraws from Jamaica race
30 Apr 09 |  Athletics
Bolt can break my 400m record - Johnson
30 Apr 09 |  Athletics
Bolt grabs third gold and record
22 Aug 08 |  Athletics
Bolt claims 200m gold with record
20 Aug 08 |  Athletics
Bolt surges to gold in new record
16 Aug 08 |  Athletics


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