Overview of life
Usain St Leo Bolt, OJ, CD (/ˈjuːseɪn/; born 21 August 1986) is a Jamaican sprinter. He is the first person to hold both the 100 metres and 200 metres world records since fully automatic time became mandatory. He also holds the world record as a part of the 4 × 100 metres relay. He is the reigning world and Olympic champion in these three events. Due to his unprecedented dominance and achievements in sprint competition, he is widely considered to be the greatest sprinter of all time.
An eight-time Olympic gold medalist, Bolt won the 100 m, 200 m and 4 × 100 m relay at three consecutive Olympic Games, although he subsequently lost one of the gold medals (as well as the world record set therein) nine years after the fact due to teammate Nesta Carter’s disqualification for doping offences. He gained worldwide popularity for his double sprint victory at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in world record times. Bolt is the only sprinter to win Olympic 100 m and 200 m titles at three consecutive olympics (2008, 2012 and 2016), a feat referred to as the “triple double.”
An eleven-time World Champion, he won consecutive World Championship 100 m, 200 m and 4 × 100 metres relay gold medals from 2009 to 2015, with the exception of a 100 m false start in 2011. He is the most successful athlete of the World Championships and was the first athlete to win three titles in both the 100 m and 200 m at the competition.
Bolt improved upon his first 100 m world record of 9.69 with 9.58 seconds in 2009 – the biggest improvement since the start of electronic timing. He has twice broken the 200 metres world record, setting 19.30 in 2008 and 19.19 in 2009. He has helped Jamaica to three 4 × 100 metres relay world records, with the current record being 36.84 seconds set in 2012. Bolt’s most successful event is the 200 m, with three Olympic and four World titles. The 2008 Olympics was his international debut over 100 m; he had earlier won numerous 200 m medals (including 2007 World Championship silver) and holds the world under-20 and world under-18 records for the event.
His achievements as a sprinter have earned him the media nickname “Lightning Bolt”, and his awards include the IAAF World Athlete of the Year, Track & Field Athlete of the Year, and Laureus World Sportsman of the Year (four times). Bolt has stated that he intends to retire from athletics after the 2017 World Championships.
Bolt was born on 21 August 1986 in Sherwood Content, a small town in Trelawny, Jamaica, and grew up with parents Wellesley and Jennifer Bolt, his brother Sadiki, and his sister, Sherine. His parents ran the local grocery store in the rural area, and Bolt spent his time playing cricket and football in the street with his brother, later saying, “When I was young, I didn’t really think about anything other than sports”.
As a child, Bolt attended Waldensia Primary, where he first began to show his sprinting potential, running in the annual national primary-schools’ meeting for his parish. By the age of twelve, Bolt had become the school’s fastest runner over the 100 metres distance.
Upon his entry to William Knibb Memorial High School, Bolt continued to focus on other sports, but his cricket coach noticed Bolt’s speed on the pitch and urged him to try track and field events. Pablo McNeil, a former Olympic sprint athlete, and Dwayne Jarrett coached Bolt, encouraging him to focus his energy on improving his athletic abilities. The school had a history of success in athletics with past students, including sprinter Michael Green. Bolt won his first annual high school championships medal in 2001, taking the silver medal in the 200 metres with a time of 22.04 seconds. McNeil soon became his primary coach, and the two enjoyed a positive partnership, although McNeil was occasionally frustrated by Bolt’s lack of dedication to his training and his penchant for practical jokes.
Performing for Jamaica in his first Caribbean regional event, Bolt clocked a personal best of 48.28 s in the 400 metres in the 2001 CARIFTA Games, winning a silver medal. The 200 m also yielded a silver, as Bolt finished in 21.81 s.
He made his first appearance on the world stage at the 2001 IAAF World Youth Championships in Debrecen, Hungary. Running in the 200 m event, he failed to qualify for the finals, but he still set a new personal best of 21.73 s. Bolt still did not take athletics or himself too seriously, however, and he took his mischievousness to new heights by hiding in the back of a van when he was supposed to be preparing for the 200 m finals at the CARIFTA Trials. He was detained by the police for his practical joke, and there was an outcry from the local community, which blamed coach McNeil for the incident. However, the controversy subsided, and both McNeil and Bolt went to the CARIFTA Games, where Bolt set championship records in the 200 m and 400 m with times of 21.12 s and 47.33 s, respectively. He continued to set records with 20.61 s and 47.12 s finishes at the Central American and Caribbean Junior Championships.
Bolt is one of only nine athletes (along with Valerie Adams, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Jacques Freitag, Yelena Isinbayeva, Jana Pittman, Dani Samuels, David Storl, and Kirani James) to win world championships at the youth, junior, and senior level of an athletic event. Former Prime Minister P. J. Patterson recognised Bolt’s talent and arranged for him to move to Kingston, along with Jermaine Gonzales, so he could train with the Jamaica Amateur Athletic Association (JAAA) at the University of Technology, Jamaica.
Rise to prominence
The 2002 World Junior Championships were held before a home crowd in Kingston, Jamaica, and gave Bolt a chance to prove his credentials on the world stage. By the age of 15, he had grown to 1.96 metres (6 ft 5 in) tall, and he physically stood out among his peers. He won the 200 m, in a time of 20.61 s, 0.03 s slower than his personal best of 20.58 s, set in the 1st round. Bolt’s 200 m win made him the youngest world-junior gold medallist ever. The expectation from the home crowd had made him so nervous that he had put his shoes on the wrong feet. However, it turned out to be a revelatory experience for Bolt, as he vowed never again to let himself be affected by pre-race nerves. As a member of the Jamaican sprint relay team, he also took two silver medals and set national junior records in the 4×100 metres and 4×400 metres relay, running times of 39.15 s and 3:04.06 minutes respectively.
The flow of medals continued as he won four gold medals at the 2003 CARIFTA Games and was awarded the Austin Sealy Trophy for the most outstanding athlete of the games. He won another gold at the 2003 World Youth Championships. He set a new championship record in the 200 m with a time of 20.40 s, despite a 1.1 m/s head wind. Michael Johnson, the 200 m world-record holder, took note of Bolt’s potential but worried that the young sprinter might be over-pressured, stating, “It’s all about what he does three, four, five years down the line”. Bolt had also impressed the athletics hierarchy, and he received the IAAF Rising Star Award for 2002.
In his final Jamaican High School Championships, in 2003, he broke both the 200 m and 400 m records with times of 20.25 s and 45.35 s, respectively. Bolt’s runs were a significant improvement upon the previous records, beating the 200 m best by more than half a second and the 400 m record by almost a second. While Bolt improved upon the 200 m time three months later, setting the still-standing World youth best at the 2003 Pan American Junior Championships. The 400 m time remains No. 6 on the all-time youth list, surpassed only once since, by future Olympic champion Kirani James.
Bolt turned his main focus to the 200 m and equalled Roy Martin’s world junior record of 20.13 s at the Pan-American Junior Championships. This performance attracted interest from the press, and his times in the 200 m and 400 m led to him being touted as a possible successor to Johnson. Indeed, at sixteen years old, Bolt had reached times that Johnson did not register until he was twenty, and Bolt’s 200 m time was superior to Maurice Greene’s season’s best that year.
Bolt was growing more popular in his homeland. Howard Hamilton, who was given the task of Public Defender by the government, urged the JAAA to nurture him and prevent burnout, calling Bolt “the most phenomenal sprinter ever produced by this island”. His popularity and the attractions of the capital city were beginning to be a burden to the young sprinter. Bolt was increasingly unfocused on his athletic career and preferred to eat fast food, play basketball, and party in Kingston’s club scene. In the absence of a disciplined lifestyle, he became ever-more reliant on his natural ability to beat his competitors on the track.
As the reigning 200 m champion at both the World Youth and World Junior championships, Bolt hoped to take a clean sweep of the world 200 m championships in the Senior World Championships in Paris. He beat all comers at the 200 m in the World Championship trials. Bolt was pragmatic about his chances and noted that, even if he did not make the final, he would consider setting a personal best a success. However, he suffered a bout of conjunctivitis before the event, and it ruined his training schedule.Realising that he would not be in peak condition, the JAAA refused to let him participate in the finals, on the grounds that he was too young and inexperienced. Bolt was dismayed at missing out on the opportunity, but focused on getting himself in shape to gain a place on the Jamaican Olympic team instead. Even though he missed the World Championships, Bolt was awarded the IAAF Rising Star Award for the 2003 season on the strength of his junior record-equalling run.
Professional athletics career
2004–2007 Early career
Bolt at the Crystal Palace Meeting in 2007
Under the guidance of new coach Fitz Coleman, Bolt turned professional in 2004, beginning with the CARIFTA Games in Bermuda. He became the first junior sprinter to run the 200 m in under twenty seconds, taking the world junior record outright with a time of 19.93 s. For the second time in the role, he was awarded the Austin Sealy Trophy for the most outstanding athlete of the 2004 CARIFTA Games. A hamstring injury in May ruined Bolt’s chances of competing in the 2004 World Junior Championships, but he was still chosen for the Jamaican Olympic squad. Bolt headed to the 2004 Athens Olympics with confidence and a new record on his side. However, he was hampered by a leg injury and was eliminated in the first round of the 200 metres with a disappointing time of 21.05 s. American colleges offered Bolt track scholarships on the strength of his performances, but the teenager from Trelawny refused them all, stating that he was content to stay in his homeland of Jamaica. Bolt instead chose the surroundings of the University of Technology, Jamaica, as his professional training ground, staying with the university’s primitive track and weight room that had served him well in his amateur years.
The year 2005 signalled a fresh start for Bolt in the form of a new coach, Glen Mills, and a new attitude toward athletics. Mills recognised Bolt’s potential and aimed to cease what he considered an unprofessional approach to the sport. Bolt began training with Mills in preparation for the upcoming athletics season, partnering with more seasoned sprinters such as Kim Collins and Dwain Chambers. The year began well, and in July, he knocked more than a third of a second off the 200 m CAC Championship record with a run of 20.03 s, then registered his 200 m season’s best at London’s Crystal Palace, running in 19.99 s.
Bolt trailing behind Gay in the closing stages of the 200 m race, 2007
Misfortune awaited Bolt at the next major event, the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki. Bolt felt that both his work ethic and athleticism had much improved since the 2004 Olympics, and he saw the World Championships as a way to live up to expectations, stating, “I really want to make up for what happened in Athens. Hopefully, everything will fall into place”. Bolt qualified with runs under 21 s, but he suffered an injury in the final, finishing in last place with a time of 26.27 s. Injuries were preventing him from completing a full professional athletics season, and the eighteen-year-old Bolt still had not proven his mettle in the major world-athletics competitions. However, his appearance made him the youngest ever person to appear in a 200 m world final. Bolt was involved in a car accident in November, and although he suffered only minor facial lacerations, his training schedule was further upset. His manager, Norman Peart, made Bolt’s training less intensive, and he had fully recuperated the following week. Bolt had continued to improve his performances, and he reached the world top-5 rankings in 2005 and 2006. Peart and Mills stated their intentions to push Bolt to do longer sprinting distances with the aim of making the 400 m event his primary event by 2007 or 2008. Bolt was less enthusiastic, and demanded that he feel comfortable in his sprinting. He suffered another hamstring injury in March 2006, forcing him to withdraw from the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, and he did not return to track events until May. After his recovery, Bolt was given new training exercises to improve flexibility, and the plans to move him up to the 400 m event were put on hold.
Upon his return to competition, the 200 m remained Bolt’s primary event, beating Justin Gatlin’s meet record in Ostrava, Czech Republic. Bolt had aspired to run under twenty seconds to claim a season’s best but, despite the fact that bad weather had impaired his run, he was happy to end the meeting with just the victory. However, a sub-20-second finish was soon his, as he set a new personal best of 19.88 s at the 2006 Athletissima Grand Prix in Lausanne, Switzerland, finishing behind Xavier Carter and Tyson Gay to earn a bronze medal. Bolt had focused his athletics aims, stating that 2006 was a year to gain experience. Also, he was more keen on competing over longer distances, setting his sights on running regularly in both 200 m and 400 m events within the next two years.
Bolt (left) on the podium with his silver medal from the 200 m race in Osaka (2007)
Bolt claimed his first major world medal two months later at the IAAF World Athletics Final in Stuttgart, Germany. He passed the finishing post with a time of 20.10 s, gaining a bronze medal in the process. The IAAF World Cup in Athens, Greece, yielded Bolt’s first senior international silver medal. Wallace Spearmon from the United States won gold with a championship record time of 19.87 s, beating Bolt’s respectable time of 19.96 s. Further 200 m honours on both the regional and international stages awaited Bolt in 2007. He yearned to run in the 100 metres but Mills was skeptical, believing that Bolt was better suited for middle distances. The coach cited the runner’s difficulty in smoothly starting out of the blocks, and poor habits such as looking back at opponents in sprints. Mills told Bolt that he could run the shorter distance if he broke the 200 m national record. In the Jamaican Championships, he ran 19.75 s in the 200 m, breaking the 36-year-old Jamaican record held by Don Quarrie by 0.11 s.
Mills complied with Bolt’s demand to run in the 100 m, and he was entered to run the event at the 23rd Vardinoyiannia meeting in Rethymno, Crete. In his debut tournament run, he set a personal best of 10.03 s, winning the gold medal and feeding his enthusiasm for the event.
He built on this achievement at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, Japan, winning a silver medal. Bolt recorded 19.91 s with a headwind of 0.8 m/s. The race was won by Tyson Gay in 19.76 s, a new championship record.
Bolt was a member of the silver medal winning relay team with Asafa Powell, Marvin Anderson, and Nesta Carter in the 4×100 metres relay. Jamaica set a national record of 37.89 s. Bolt did not win any gold medals at the major tournaments in 2007, but Mills felt that Bolt’s technique was much improved, pinpointing improvements in Bolt’s balance at the turns over 200 m and an increase in his stride frequency, giving him more driving power on the track.
The silver medals from the 2007 Osaka World Championships boosted Bolt’s desire to run, and he took a more serious, more mature stance towards his career. Bolt continued to develop in the 100 m, and he entered to run in the event at the Jamaica Invitational in Kingston. On 3 May 2008, Bolt ran a time of 9.76 s, with a 1.8 m/s tail wind, improving his personal best from 10.03 s. This was the second-fastest legal performance in the history of the event, second only to compatriot Asafa Powell’s 9.74 s record set the previous year in Rieti, Italy. Rival Tyson Gay lauded the performance, praising Bolt’s form and technique especially. Michael Johnson, who was observing the race, said that he was shocked at how quickly he had improved over the 100 m distance. The Jamaican surprised even himself with the time, but coach Glen Mills remained confident that there was more to come.
Bolt set a new 100 m world record on 31 May 2008. At the Reebok Grand Prix held in the Icahn Stadium in New York City, Bolt ran 9.72 s with a tail wind of 1.7 m/s. This race was Bolt’s fifth senior 100 m. Gay again finished second and said of Bolt: “It looked like his knees were going past my face.” Commentators noted that Bolt appeared to have gained a psychological advantage over fellow Olympic contender Gay.
In June 2008, Bolt responded to claims that he was a lazy athlete, saying that the comments were unjustified, and he trained hard to achieve his potential. However, he surmised that such comments stemmed from his lack of enthusiasm for the 400 metres event, and chose to not make the effort to train for distance running. Turning his efforts to the 200 m, Bolt proved that he could excel in multiple events—first setting the world-leading time in Ostrava, then breaking the national record for the second time with a 19.67 s finish in Athens, Greece. Although Mills still preferred that Bolt focus on the longer distances, the acceptance of Bolt’s demand to run in the 100 m worked for both sprinter and trainer. Bolt was more focused in practice, and a training schedule to boost his top speed and his stamina, in preparation for the Olympics, had improved both his 100 m and 200 m times.
2008 Summer Olympics
Bolt announced that he would double-up with the 100 metres and 200 metres events at the Beijing Summer Olympics, and the new 100 m world-record holder was the favourite to win both. Michael Johnson, the 200 m and 400 m record holder, personally backed the sprinter, saying that he did not believe that a lack of experience would work against him. Bolt qualified for the 100 m final with times of 9.92 s and 9.85 s in the quarter-finals and semi-finals, respectively.
Bolt holds a considerable lead over his rivals in the closing stages of the 2008 100 m final in Beijing.
“And a fair start, Asafa Powell, Usain Bolt is also out well. Here they come down the track. USAIN BOLT! SPRINTING AHEAD, WINNING BY DAYLIGHT!”
—Tom Hammond, NBC Sports, with the call for the men’s 100 metres final at the 2008 Summer Olympics.
In the Olympic 100 m final, Bolt broke new ground, winning in 9.69 s (unofficially 9.683 s) with a reaction time of 0.165 s. This was an improvement upon his own world record, and he was well ahead of second-place finisher Richard Thompson, who finished in 9.89 s. Not only was the record set without a favourable wind (+0.0 m/s), but he also visibly slowed down to celebrate before he finished and his shoelace was untied. Bolt’s coach reported that, based upon the speed of Bolt’s opening 60 m, he could have finished with a time of 9.52 s. After scientific analysis of Bolt’s run by the Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics at the University of Oslo, Hans Eriksen and his colleagues also predicted a sub 9.60 s time. Considering factors such as Bolt’s position, acceleration and velocity in comparison with second-place-finisher Thompson, the team estimated that Bolt could have finished in 9.55±0.04 s had he not slowed to celebrate before the finishing line.
Bolt stated that setting a record was not a priority for him, and that his goal was just to win the gold medal, Jamaica’s first of the 2008 Games. Olympic medallist Kriss Akabusi construed Bolt’s chest slapping before the finish line as showboating, noting that the actions cost Bolt an even faster record time. IOC president Jacques Rogge also condemned the Jamaican’s actions as disrespectful. Bolt denied that this was the purpose of his celebration by saying, “I wasn’t bragging. When I saw I wasn’t covered, I was just happy”. Lamine Diack, president of the IAAF, supported Bolt and said that his celebration was appropriate given the circumstances of his victory. Jamaican government minister Edmund Bartlett also defended Bolt’s actions, stating, “We have to see it in the glory of their moment and give it to them. We have to allow the personality of youth to express itself”.
Bolt doing the “Lightning Bolt” just before breaking the 200 m world record in the Beijing National Stadium.
Bolt then focused on attaining a gold medal in the 200 m event, aiming to emulate Carl Lewis’ double win in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Michael Johnson felt that Bolt would easily win gold but believed that his own world record of 19.32 s set at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta would remain intact at the Olympics. Bolt eased through the first and second rounds of the 200 m, jogging towards the end of his run both times. He won his semi-final and progressed to the final as the favourite to win. Retired Jamaican sprinter Don Quarrie praised Bolt, saying he was confident that Johnson’s record could be beaten. The following day, at the final, he won Jamaica’s fourth gold of the Games, setting a new world and Olympic record of 19.30 s. Johnson’s record fell despite the fact that Bolt was impeded by a 0.9 m/s headwind. The feat made him the first sprinter since Quarrie to hold both 100 m and 200 m world records simultaneously and the first to hold both records since the introduction of electronic timing. Furthermore, Bolt became the first sprinter to break both records at the same Olympics. Unlike in the 100 m final, Bolt sprinted hard all the way to the finishing line in the 200 m race, even dipping his chest to improve his time. Following the race, “Happy Birthday” was played over the stadium’s sound system as his 22nd birthday would begin at midnight.
Two days later, Bolt ran as the third leg in the Jamaican 4×100 metres relay team, increasing his gold medal total to three. Along with teammates Nesta Carter, Michael Frater, and Asafa Powell, Bolt broke another world and Olympic record, their 37.10 s finish breaking the previous record by three-tenths of a second. Powell, who anchored the team to the finishing line, lamented the loss of his 100 m record to Bolt but showed no animosity towards his Jamaican rival, stating that he was delighted to help him set his third world record. In January 2017 the Jamaican relay team were stripped of their gold medals after a blood sample taken from Nesta Carter – one of Bolt’s teammates in the relay – after the race, was tested again nine years later and tested positive for a banned substance. Following his victories, Bolt donated US$50,000 to the children of Sichuan province in China to help those harmed by the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.
Bolt posing and celebrating for newspapers’ photographers, after winning the 100 m final at the 2008 Olympics
Bolt’s record-setting runs caused commentators not only to praise his achievements but also to speculate about his potential to become one of the most successful sprinters ever. Critics hailed his Olympic success as a new beginning for a sport that had long suffered through high-profile drug scandals. The previous six years had seen the BALCO scandal, Tim Montgomery and Justin Gatlin stripped of their 100 m world records, and Marion Jones returning three Olympic gold medals. All three sprinters were disqualified from athletics after drugs tests detected banned substances in their systems. Bolt’s record-breaking performances caused suspicion among some commentators, including Victor Conte, and the lack of an independent Caribbean anti-doping federation raised more concerns. The accusations of drug use were vehemently rejected by Glen Mills (Bolt’s coach) and Herb Elliott (the Jamaican athletics team doctor). Elliott, a member of the IAAF anti-doping commission, urged those concerned about the issue to “come down and see our programme, come down and see our testing, we have nothing to hide”. Mills had been equally ardent that Bolt was a clean athlete, declaring to the Jamaica Gleaner: “We will test any time, any day, any part of the body… doesn’t even like to take vitamins”. Bolt stated that he had been tested four times prior to the Olympics, and all had tested negative for banned substances. He also welcomed anti-doping authorities to test him to prove that he was clean, stating, “We work hard and we perform well and we know we’re clean”.
I was slowing down long before the finish and wasn’t tired at all. I could have gone back to the start and done it all over again.
— Usain Bolt’s thoughts on his 100m sprint at the 2008 Olympics, published in his autobiography Usain Bolt 9.58
After the 2008 Olympics
The end of the 2008 athletics season saw Bolt compete in the ÅF Golden League, beginning in Weltklasse Zürich. Despite having the slowest start among his competitors in the 100 m race, he still crossed the finishing line in 9.83 s. Even though the time was slower than both his newly set world record and Asafa Powell’s track record, it was still among the top-fifteen 100 m finishes by any sprinter to that date. Bolt admitted that he was not running at full strength, suffering from a cold, but he had concentrated on both winning the race and finishing the season in good health. At the Super Grand Prix final in Lausanne, Bolt ran his second-fastest 200 m with a time of 19.63 s, equalling Xavier Carter’s track record. However, it was the 100 m final, featuring Asafa Powell, that drew the most interest. Powell had moved closer to Bolt’s world record after setting a new personal best of 9.72 s, reaffirming his status as Bolt’s main contender. Bolt’s final event of the season came three days later at the Golden League final in Brussels. This was the first 100 m race featuring both Bolt and Powell since the final in the Olympics. Both Jamaicans broke the track record, but Bolt came out on top with a time of 9.77 s, beating Powell by 0.06 s. Victory, however, did not come as smoothly as it had in Beijing. Bolt made the slowest start of the nine competitors and had to recover ground in cold conditions and against a 0.9 m/s headwind. Yet the results confirmed Jamaican dominance in the 100 m, with nine of the ten-fastest legal times in history being recorded by either Bolt or Powell.
On his return to Jamaica, Bolt was honoured in a homecoming celebration and received an Order of Distinction in recognition of his achievements at the Olympics. Additionally, Bolt was selected as the IAAF Male Athlete of the year, won a Special Olympic Award for his performances, and was named Laureus World Sportsman of the Year. Bolt turned his attention to future events, suggesting that he could aim to break the 400 metres world record in 2010 as no major championships were scheduled that year.
2009 Berlin World Championships
Bolt (centre) in the starting blocks before surpassing the world record for 150 metres (14.35 seconds)
Bolt started the season competing over 400 metres in order to improve his speed, winning two races and registering 45.54 s in Kingston, and windy conditions gave him his first sub-10 second finish of the season in the 100 m in March. In late April Bolt suffered minor leg injuries in a car crash. However, he quickly recovered following minor surgery and (after cancelling a track meet in Jamaica) he stated that he was fit to compete in the 150 metres street race at the Manchester Great City Games. Bolt won the race in 14.35 s, the fastest time ever recorded for 150 m.Despite not being at full fitness, he took the 100 and 200 m titles at the Jamaican national championships, with runs of 9.86 s and 20.25 s respectively. This meant he had qualified for both events at the 2009 World Championships. Rival Tyson Gay suggested that Bolt’s 100 m record was within his grasp, but Bolt dismissed the claim and instead noted that he was more interested in Asafa Powell’s return from injury. Bolt defied unfavourable conditions at the Athletissima meet in July, running 19.59 seconds into a 0.9 m/s headwind and rain, to record the fourth fastest time ever over 200 m, one hundredth off Gay’s best time.
Bolt beating Tyson Gay and setting a 100 m world record at the 2009 World Championships in Athletics in Berlin.
At the 2009 World Championships in August, Bolt eased through the 100 m heats, clocking the fastest ever pre-final performance of 9.89 seconds. The final was the first time Bolt and Gay had met in the season, and Bolt improved his world record with a time of 9.58 s to win his first World Championship gold medal. Taking over a tenth of a second off the previous best mark, this was the largest ever margin of improvement in the 100 m world record since the beginning of electronic timing. Gay finished with a time of 9.71 s, 0.02 s off Bolt’s 9.69 s world-record run in Beijing.
Although Gay withdrew from the second race of the competition, the Jamaican once again produced world record-breaking form in the 200 metres final. He broke his own record by 0.11 seconds, finishing with a time of 19.19 seconds. He won the 200 m race by the biggest margin in World Championships history, even though the race had three other athletes running under 19.90 seconds, the greatest number ever in the event. Bolt’s pace impressed even the more experienced of his competitors; third-placed Wallace Spearmon complimented his speed, and the Olympic champion in Athens 2004 Shawn Crawford said “Just coming out there…I felt like I was in a video game, that guy was moving – fast”. Bolt pointed out that an important factor in his performance at the World Championships was his improved start to the races: his reaction times in the 100 m (0.146) and 200 m (0.133) were significantly faster than those he had produced in his world record runs at the Beijing Olympics. However, he, together with other members of Jamaican 4×100 m relay team, fell short of their own world record of 37.10 s set at 2008 Summer Olympics by timing 37.31 s, which is, however, a championship record and the second fastest time in history at that date.
On the last day of the Berlin Championships, the Governing Mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit, presented Bolt with a 12-foot high section of the Berlin Wall in a small ceremony, saying Bolt had shown that “one can tear down walls that had been considered as insurmountable.” The nearly three-ton segment was delivered to the Jamaica Military Museum in Kingston.
Several days after Bolt broke the world records in 100 and 200 metres events, Mike Powell, the world record holder in long jump (8.95 metres set in 1991) argued that Bolt could become the first man to jump over 9 metres, the long jump event being “a perfect fit for his speed and height”. At the end of the season, he was selected as the IAAF World Athlete of the Year for the second year running.
2010 Diamond League and broken streak
Early on in the 2010 outdoor season, Bolt ran 19.56 seconds in the 200 m in Kingston, Jamaica for the fourth-fastest run of all-time, although he stated that he had no record breaking ambitions for the forthcoming season. He took to the international circuit May with wins in East Asia at the Colorful Daegu Pre-Championships Meeting and then a comfortable win in his 2010 IAAF Diamond League debut at the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix. Bolt made an attempt to break Michael Johnson’s best time over the rarely competed 300 metres event at the Golden Spike meeting in Ostrava. He failed to match Johnson’s ten-year-old record of 30.85 and suffered a setback in that his 30.97-second run in wet weather had left him with an Achilles tendon problem.
On his return from injury a month later, Bolt asserted himself with a 100 m win at the Athletissima meeting in Lausanne (9.82 seconds) and a victory over Asafa Powell at Meeting Areva in Paris (9.84 seconds). Despite this run of form, he suffered only the second loss of his career in a 100 m final at the DN Galan. Tyson Gay soundly defeated him with a run of 9.84 to Bolt’s 9.97 seconds, and the Jamaican reflected that he had slacked off in training early in the season while Gay had been better prepared and in a better condition. This marked Bolt’s first loss to Gay in the 100 m, which coincidentally occurred in the same stadium where Powell had beaten Bolt for the first time two years earlier.
2011 World Championships
Bolt during the 200 m final at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu.
Bolt went undefeated over 100 m and 200 m in the 2011 season. He began with wins in Rome and Ostrava in May. He ran his first 200 m in over a year in Oslo that June and his time of 19.86 seconds was a world-leading one. Two further 200 m wins came in Paris and Stockholm the following month, as did a 100 m in Monaco, though he was a tenth of a second slower than compatriot Asafa Powell before the world championships.
Considered the favourite to win in the 100 metres at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, Bolt was eliminated from the final, breaking “ridiculously early” according to the starter in an interview for BBC Sport, and receiving a false start. This proved to be the highest profile disqualification for a false start since the IAAF changed the rules that previously allowed one false start per race. The disqualification caused some to question the new rule, with former world champion Kim Collins saying it was “a sad night for athletics”. Usain Bolt’s countryman, Yohan Blake, won in a comparatively slow 9.92 seconds.
Bolt celebrating relay victory at the 2011 World Championships
In the World Championships 200 m, Bolt cruised through to the final which he won in a time of 19.40. Though this was short of his world record times of the two previous major tournaments, it was the fourth fastest run ever at that point, after his own records and Michael Johnson’s former record, and left him three tenths of a second ahead of runner-up Walter Dix. This achievement made Bolt one of only two men to win consecutive 200 m world titles, alongside Calvin Smith. Bolt closed the championships with another gold with Jamaica in the 4 × 100 metres relay. Nesta Carter and Michael Frater joined world champions Bolt and Blake to set a world record time of 37.04.
Following the World Championships, Bolt ran 9.85 seconds for the 100 m to win in Zagreb before setting the year’s best time of 9.76 seconds at the Memorial Van Damme. This run was overshadowed by Jamaican rival Blake’s unexpected run of 19.26 seconds in the 200 m at the same meeting, which brought him within seven hundredths of Bolt’s world record. Although Bolt failed to win the Diamond Race in a specific event, he was not beaten on the 2011 IAAF Diamond League circuit, taking three wins in each of his specialities that year.
2012 Summer Olympics
Bolt at the start of his record-breaking win during the 100 metres final at the 2012 Summer Olympics.
He began the 2012 season with a world-leading 100 m time of 9.82 seconds in May. He took victories over Asafa Powell with runs of 9.76 seconds in Rome and 9.79 in Oslo. At the Jamaican Athletics Championships he was outdone by Yohan Blake, first in the 200 m and then in the 100 m, with his younger rival setting world leading times.
However, at the 2012 London Olympics, he won the 100 metres gold medal with a time of 9.63 seconds, improving upon his own Olympic record and defending his gold medal from the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Blake was the silver medallist with a time of 9.75 seconds. Following the race, seventh-place finisher Richard Thompson of Trinidad and Tobago declared “There’s no doubt he’s the greatest sprinter of all time”, while USA Today referred to Bolt as a Jamaican “national hero”, noting that his victory came just hours before Jamaica was to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its independence from the United Kingdom. With his 2012 win, Bolt became the first man to defend an Olympic sprint title since Carl Lewis in 1988.
I’m now a legend. I’m also the greatest athlete to live.
— Usain Bolt, after winning his seventh straight title in the 100 and 200 m, 9 August 2012
Bolt followed this up with a successful defence of his Olympic 200 metres title with a time of 19.32 seconds, followed by Blake at 19.44 and Warren Weir at 19.84 to complete a Jamaican podium sweep. With this, Bolt became the first man in history to defend both the 100 m and 200 m Olympic sprint titles. He was dramatic in victory: in the final metres of the 200 m race, Bolt placed his fingers on his lips, gesturing to silence his critics, and after crossing the line he completed five push-ups – one for each of his Olympic gold medals.
Bolt at the start of the 2012 Olympic 200 m
On the final day of the 2012 Olympic athletics, Bolt participated in Jamaica’s gold medal-winning 4×100 metres relay team along with Nesta Carter, Michael Frater and Blake. With a time of 36.84 seconds, they knocked two tenths of a second from their previous world record from 2011. He celebrated by imitating the “Mobot” celebration of Mo Farah, who had claimed a long-distance track double for the host nation.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge initially stated that Bolt was not yet a “legend” and would not deserve such acclaim until the end of his career, but later called him the best sprinter of all time. Following the Olympics he was confirmed as the highest earning track and field athlete in history.
Bolt ended his season with wins on the 2012 IAAF Diamond League circuit; he had 200 m wins of 19.58 and 19.66 in Lausanne and Zürich before closing with a 100 m of 9.86 in Brussels. The latter run brought him his first Diamond League title in the 100 m.
2013 World Championships
Bolt celebrating at the 2013 London Anniversary Games.
Bolt failed to record below 10 seconds early season and had his first major 100 m race of 2013 at the Golden Gala in June. He was served an unexpected defeat by Justin Gatlin, with the American winning 9.94 to Bolt’s 9.95. Bolt denied the loss was due a hamstring issue he had early that year and Gatlin responded: “I don’t know how many people have beaten Bolt but it’s an honour”. With Yohan Blake injured, Bolt won the Jamaican 100 m title ahead of Kemar Bailey-Cole and skipped the 200 m, which was won by Warren Weir. Prior to the 2013 World Championships in Athletics, Bolt set world leading times in the sprints, with 9.85 for the 100 m at the London Anniversary Games and 19.73 for the 200 m in Paris.
Bolt regained the title as world’s fastest man by winning the World Championships 100 metres in Moscow. In wet conditions, he edged Gatlin by eight hundredths of a second with 9.77, which was the fastest run that year. Gatlin was the sole non-Jamaican in the top five, with Nesta Carter, Nickel Ashmeade and Bailey-Cole finishing next.
Bolt running the 2013 World 100 m heats
Bolt was less challenged in the 200 m final. His closest rival was Jamaican champion Warren Weir but Bolt ran a time of 19.66 to finish over a tenth of a second clear. This performance made Bolt the first man in the history of the 200 metres at the World Championships in Athletics to win three gold medals over the distance.
Bolt won a third consecutive world relay gold medal in the 4 × 100 metres relay final, which made him the most successful athlete in the 30-year history of the world championships. The Jamaican team, featuring four of the top five from the 100 m final were comfortable winners with Bolt reaching the finish line on his anchor leg three tenths of a second ahead of the American team anchored by Gatlin. Bolt’s performances were matched on the women’s side by Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, meaning Jamaica took a complete sweep of the sprint medals at the 2013 World Championships.
After the championships, Bolt took 100 m wins on the 2013 IAAF Diamond League circuit in Zürich and Brussels. He remained unbeaten in the 200 m and his only loss that year was to Gatlin over 100 m in Rome. For the fifth time in six years, Bolt was named IAAF World Male Athlete of the Year.
2014: Injury and Commonwealth Games
An injury to Bolt’s hamstring in March 2014 caused him to miss nine weeks of training. Having recovered from surgery, Bolt competed in the 4 × 100 metres relay of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Not in peak form Bolt said that he was attending the Games for the fans and to show his progress since the injury. Bolt and his teammates won the 4 × 100 metres relay in 37.58 seconds – a Commonwealth Games record. This was the foremost competition of the year for Bolt, given no Olympics or World Championships in 2014.
In August 2014 Bolt set the indoor 100 m world record in Warsaw with a time of 9.98 seconds. This was his sole individual outing of the 2014 season. Soon afterwards he ended his season early in order to be fit for the 2015 season. In Bolt’s absence, Justin Gatlin had dominated the sprints, holding the year’s fastest times, including seven of the top ten 100 m runs that season.
2015 Beijing World Championships
At the start of 2015 he announced that he intended to make the 2017 World Championships in Athletics his last major competition before retirement.
Bolt after winning his fourth 200 m world title
Upon his return from injury, Bolt appeared a reduced figure at the start of the 2015 season. He ran only two 100 m and three 200 m before the major championship. He opened with 10.12 seconds for the 100 m and 20.20 for the 200 m. He won the 200 m in New York and Ostrava, but his season’s best time of 20.13 seconds ranked him 20th in the world going into the championships. Two 100 m runs of 9.87 in July in London showed better form, but in comparison, Justin Gatlin was easily the top ranked sprinter – the American had times of 9.74 and 19.57 seconds, and had already run under 9.8 seconds on four occasions that season. Bolt entered the World Championships to defend his sprint titles but was not the comfortable favourite he had been since 2008.
In the World Championships 100 m, Bolt won his semi-final in 9.96, which lagged Gatlin’s semi-final win in 9.77 seconds. However, Gatlin did not match that form in the final while Bolt improved through the rounds. In a narrow victory, Bolt leaned at the line to beat Gatlin 9.79 to 9.80 seconds. Bolt joined Carl Lewis and Maurice Greene on a record three 100 m world titles.
Bolt taking a close World 100 m win over Justin Gatlin
A similar outcome followed in the 200 m World finals. In the semi-final, Gatlin outpaced Bolt – the Jamaican at 19.95 and the American at 19.87. Despite such slow times prior to Beijing, Bolt delivered in the final with his fifth fastest run ever for the 200 m at 19.55 seconds. Gatlin failed to reach his early season form and finished almost two-tenths of a second behind Bolt. Bolt’s four consecutive wins over 200 m at the World Championships was unprecedented and established him clearly as the best ever sprinter at the competition.
There was also a fourth straight win in the 4 × 100 metres relay with the Jamaica team (Nesta Carter, Asafa Powell, Nickel Ashmeade, Usain Bolt). The Americans initially had a lead, but a poor baton exchange saw them disqualified and Jamaica defend their title in 37.36 seconds – well clear of the Chinese team who took a surprise silver for the host nation.
Conscious of his injuries at the start of the season, he did not compete after the World Championships, skipping the 2015 IAAF Diamond League final.
2016 Rio Olympics
Bolt and Andre De Grasse after running the 100 m final at the 2016 Olympics.
Bolt competed sparingly in the 200 m before the Olympics, with a run of 19.89 seconds to win at the London Grand Prix being his sole run of note over that distance. He had four races over 100 m, though only one was in Europe, and his best of 9.88 seconds in Kingston placed him fourth on the world seasonal rankings. As in the previous season, Gatlin appeared to be in better form, having seasonal bests of 9.80 and 19.75 seconds to rank first and second in the sprints. Doping in athletics was a prime topic before the 2016 Rio Olympics, given the banning of the Russian track and field team for state doping, and Bolt commented that he had no problem with doping controls: “I have no issue with being drug-tested…I remember in Beijing every other day they were drug-testing us”. He also highlighted his dislike of rival Tyson Gay’s reduced ban for cooperation, given their close rivalry since the start of Bolt’s career, saying “it really bothered me – really, really bothered me”.
I want to be among greats Muhammad Ali and Pelé.
— Usain Bolt on his sporting legacy prior to his final Olympics, 9 August 2016.
At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Bolt won the 100 metres gold medal with a time of 9.81 seconds. With this win, Bolt became the first athlete to win the event three times at the Olympic Games. Bolt followed up his 100 m win with a gold medal in the 200 m, which also makes him the first athlete to win the 200 m three times at the Olympic Games. Bolt ran the anchor leg for the finals of the 4 x 100 m relay and secured his third consecutive and last Olympic gold medal in the event. With that win, Bolt obtained the “triple-triple”, three sprinting gold medals in three consecutive Olympics, and finished his Olympic career with a 100% win record in finals. However, in January 2017, Bolt has been stripped of the 4×100 relay gold from the Beijing Games in 2008 because his teammate Nesta Carter was found guilty of a doping violation.
Bolt took a financial stake in a new Australia-based track and field meeting series – Nitro Athletics. He performed at the inaugural meet in February 2017 and led his team (Bolt All-Stars) to victory. The competition featured variations on traditional track and field events. He committed himself to three further editions.
In 2017 the Jamaican team was disqualified from the results of the 2008 Olympics 4 x 100 meter relay due to Nesta Carter’s disqualification for doping offences. Bolt was quoted by the BBC saying that the prospect of having to return the gold was “heartbreaking”. The banned substance in Carter’s test was identified as methylhexanamine, a nasal decongestant sometimes used in dietary supplements.
Personal Life & Other sports
In his personal life, Bolt expresses a love for dancing and his character is frequently described as laid-back and relaxed. His Jamaican track and field idols include Herb McKenley and former Jamaican 100m and 200m world record holder, Don Quarrie. Michael Johnson, the former 200 m world and Olympic record holder, is also held in high esteem by Bolt.
His first name is pronounced YOO-sane (/ˈjuːseɪn/). He has the nickname “Lightning Bolt” due to his name and speed. Bolt is Catholic and known for making the sign of the cross before racing competitively, and he wears a Miraculous Medal during his races. His middle name is St. Leo.
In 2010, Bolt also revealed his fondness of music, when he played a reggae DJ set to a crowd in Paris. He is also an avid fan of the Call of Duty video game series, saying “I stay up late [playing the game online], I can’t help it.”
The first sport to interest Bolt was cricket, and he said if he was not a sprinter, he would be a fast bowler instead. As a child, he was a supporter of the Pakistani cricket team and admired the bowling of Waqar Younis. He is also a fan of Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar, West Indian opener Chris Gayle, and Australian opener Matthew Hayden. During a charity cricket match, Bolt clean-bowled Gayle who was complimentary of Bolt’s pace and swing. Bolt also struck a six off Gayle’s bowling. Another bowler complimentary of Bolt’s pace was former West Indies fast-bowling great Curtly Ambrose.
After talking with Australian cricketer Shane Warne, Bolt suggested that if he were able to get time off he would be interested in playing in the cricket Big Bash League. Melbourne Stars chief executive Clint Cooper said there were free spots on his team should be available. Bolt stated that he enjoyed the Twenty20 version of the game, admiring the aggressive and constant nature of the batting. On his own ability, he said “I don’t know how good I am. I will probably have to get a lot of practice in.”
Bolt is also a fan of Premier League football team Manchester United. He has declared he is a fan of Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy. Bolt was a special guest of Manchester United at the 2011 UEFA Champions League Final in London, where he stated that he would like to play for them after his retirement.
In 2013, Bolt played basketball in the NBA All-Star Weekend Celebrity Game. He scored two points from a slam dunk but acknowledged his other basketball skills were lacking.
In an interview with Decca Aitkenhead of The Guardian in November 2016, Bolt said he wished to play as a professional footballer after retiring from athletics. He expressed his desire to play for Manchester United if given a chance and added, “For me, if I could get to play for Manchester United, that would be like a dream come true. Yes, that would be epic”.
- IAAF World Athlete of the Year: 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2016
- Track & Field Athlete of the Year: 2008, 2009
- Laureus World Sportsman of the Year: 2009, 2010, 2013, 2017
- BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year: 2008, 2009, 2012
- L’Équipe Champion of Champions: 2008, 2009, 2012, 2015
- Jamaica Sportsman of the year: 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013
- AIPS Male Athlete of the Year: 2015
- Marca Leyenda (2009)
- In October 2008, he was made a Commander of the Order of Distinction,
- which entitles him to use the post nominal letters CD.
- In 2009, at age 23, Usain Bolt became the youngest member so far of the Order of Jamaica. The award was “for outstanding performance in the field of athletics at the international level”. In the Jamaican honours system, this is considered the equivalent of a knighthood in the British honours system, and entitles him to be formally styled “The Honourable”, and to use the post nominal letters OJ.
|100 metres||9.58||Berlin, Germany||16 August 2009||Also has the second fastest time (9.63) and shares the third fastest time of 9.69 with Tyson Gay and Yohan Blake. Bolt’s 9.63 is the Olympic record, set at the 2012 games.|
|150 metres||14.35||Manchester, United Kingdom||17 May 2009||World best||He ran the last 100 m in 8.70, the fastest ever recorded time over a 100 m distance. This would equal an average speed of 41.38 km/h (25.71 mph).|
|200 metres||19.19||Berlin, Germany||20 August 2009||Also holds the Olympic record with 19.30, which was then (2008) a world record.|
|300 metres||30.97||Ostrava, Czech Republic||27 May 2010||This is the second fastest time, behind Michael Johnson’s 30.85. The event is not recognised by the IAAF.|
|400 metres||45.28||Kingston, Jamaica||5 May 2007|
|4 × 100 metres relay||36.84||London, England||11 August 2012||Shared with Yohan Blake, Michael Frater and Nesta Carter.|
Bolt’s personal best of 9.58 seconds in the 100 metres is the fastest ever run. Bolt also holds the second fastest time of 9.63 seconds, the current Olympic record, and set two previous world records in the event. Bolt’s personal best of 19.19 s in the 200 metres is the world record. This was recorded at the 2009 World Championships in Athletics in Berlin against a headwind of −0.3 m/s. This performance broke his previous world record in the event, his 19.30 s clocking in winning the 2008 Olympic 200 metres title.
Bolt has been on three world-record-setting Jamaican relay teams. The first record, 37.10 seconds, was set in winning gold at the 2008 Summer Olympics, although the result was voided in 2017 when the team was disqualified. The second record came at the 2011 World Championships in Athletics, a time of 37.04 seconds. The third world record was set at the 2012 Summer Olympics, a time of 36.84 seconds.
Bolt also holds the 200 metres world teenage best results for the age categories 15 (20.58 s), 16 (20.13 s, world youth record), 17 (19.93 s) and 18 (19.93 s, world junior record). He also holds the 150 metres world best set in 2009, during which he ran the last 100 metres in 8.70 seconds, the quickest timed 100 metres ever.
Average and top speeds
From his record time of 9.58 s for the 100 m sprint, Usain Bolt’s average ground speed equates to 37.58 km/h (23.35 mph). However, once his reaction time of 0.15 s is subtracted, his time is 9.43 s, making his average speed 38.18 km/h (23.72 mph). Bolt’s top speed, based on his split time of 1.61 s for the 20 metres from the 60- to 80-metre marks (made during the 9.58 WR at 100m), is 12.42 m/s (44.72 km/h (27.79 mph)).
|Year||100 metres||200 metres||400 metres|
Bolt poses with his 200 m gold medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics
|2001||World Youth Championships||Debrecen, Hungary||5th (semis)||200 metres||21.73|
|2002||World Junior Championships||Kingston, Jamaica||1st||200 metres||20.61|
|2nd||4 × 100 m relay||39.15 NJR|
|2nd||4 × 400 m relay||3:04.06 NJR|
|2003||World Youth Championships||Sherbrooke, Canada||1st||200 metres||20.40|
|Pan American Junior Championships||Bridgetown, Barbados||1st||200 metres||20.13 WYB|
|2nd||4 × 100 m relay||39.40|
|2004||CARIFTA Games||Hamilton, Bermuda||1st||200 metres||19.93 WJR|
|Olympic Games||Athens, Greece||5th (heats)||200 metres||21.05|
|2005||CAC Championships||Nassau, Bahamas||1st||200 metres||20.03|
|2006||World Athletics Final||Stuttgart, Germany||3rd||200 metres||20.10|
|IAAF World Cup||Athens, Greece||2nd||200 metres||19.96|
|2007||World Championships||Osaka, Japan||2nd||200 metres||19.91|
|2nd||4 × 100 m relay||37.89|
|2008||Olympic Games||Beijing, China||1st||100 metres||9.69 WR OR|
|1st||200 metres||19.30 WR OR|
|2009||World Championships||Berlin, Germany||1st||100 metres||9.58 WR|
|1st||200 metres||19.19 WR|
|1st||4 × 100 m relay||37.31 CR|
|2011||World Championships||Daegu, South Korea||DSQ||100 metres||—|
|1st||200 metres||19.40 WL|
|1st||4 × 100 m relay||37.04 WR|
|2012||Olympic Games||London, United Kingdom||1st||100 metres||9.63 OR|
|1st||4 × 100 m relay||36.84 WR|
|2013||World Championships||Moscow, Russia||1st||100 metres||9.77|
|1st||4 × 100 m relay||37.36|
|2014||Commonwealth Games||Glasgow, Scotland||1st||4 × 100 m relay||37.58 GR|
|2015||World Relay Championships||Nassau, Bahamas||2nd||4 × 100 m relay||37.68|
|World Championships||Beijing, China||1st||100 metres||9.79|
|1st||200 metres||19.55 WL|
|1st||4 × 100 m relay||37.36 WL|
|2016||Olympic Games||Rio de Janeiro, Brazil||1st||100 metres||9.81|
|1st||4 × 100 m relay||37.27|