Who Is Usain Bolt?
Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt was dubbed "the fastest man alive" after winning three gold medals at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, and becoming the first man in Olympic history to win both the 100- and 200-meter races in record times. Bolt also won three Olympic gold medals at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, along the way notching an Olympic-record time of 9.63 seconds in the 100 meters, making him the first man in history to set three world records in Olympic competition. He made history again at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio with gold medals in the 100- and 200-meter races and 4x100-meter relay; the wins gave him a "triple-triple" — three golds over three consecutive Olympics — though he later was stripped of one of the relay golds because of a teammate's doping violation.
At the Berlin 2009 World Championships, Bolt set a world record time of 9.58 seconds for the 100m race, notching a top speed of 27.8 miles per hour (44.72 kilometers per hour) between meters 60 and 80, with an average speed of 23.5 mph.
Childhood and Early Successes
Bolt was born on August 21, 1986, in Jamaica. Both a standout cricket player and a sprinter early on, Bolt's natural speed was noticed by coaches at school, and he began to focus solely on sprinting under the tutelage of Pablo McNeil, a former Olympic sprint athlete. (Glen Mills would later serve as Bolt's coach and mentor.) As early as age 14, Bolt was wowing fans with his lightning speed, and he won his first high school championship medal in 2001, taking the silver in the 200-meter race.
At the age of 15, Bolt took his first shot at success on the world stage at the 2002 World Junior Championships in Kingston, Jamaica, where he won the 200-meter dash, making him the youngest world-junior gold medalist ever. Bolt's feats impressed the sports world, and he received the International Association of Athletics Foundation’s Rising Star Award that year, boosting the recognition of a young man soon to be known as "Lightning Bolt."
Professional Track and Field
Despite a nagging hamstring injury, Bolt was chosen for the Jamaican Olympic squad for the 2004 Athens Olympics. He was eliminated in the first round of the 200 meters, though, again hampered by injury.
Bolt reached the world Top 5 rankings in 2005 and 2006. Unfortunately, injuries continued to plague the 6'5" sprinter, preventing him from completing a full professional season.
In 2007, Bolt broke the national 200-meter record held for over 30 years by Donald Quarrie, and earned two silver medals at the World Championships in Osaka, Japan. These medals boosted Bolt's desire to run, and he took a more serious stance toward his career.
At the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, Bolt ran the 100-meter and 200-meter events. In the 100-meter final leading up to the Games, he broke the world record, winning in 9.69 seconds. Not only was the record set without a favorable wind, but he also visibly slowed down to celebrate before he finished (and his shoelace was untied), an act that aroused much controversy later on. He went on to win three gold medals and break three world records in Beijing.
At the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, held in London, Bolt won his fourth Olympic gold medal in the men's 100-meter race, beating rival Yohan Blake, who won silver in the event. Bolt ran the race in 9.63 seconds, a new Olympic record. The win marked Bolt's second consecutive gold medal in the 100. He went on to compete in the men's 200, claiming his second consecutive gold medal in that race as well. He became the first man to win both the 100 and 200 in consecutive Olympic Games, as well as the first man to ever win back-to-back gold medals in double sprints. Bolt's accomplishments made him the first man in history to set three world records in a single Olympic Games competition.
Bolt returned to Olympic glory at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games when he won gold in the 100-meter race, making him the the first athlete to win three successive titles in the event. He finished the race in 9.81 seconds with American runner and rival Justin Gatlin, who took silver, 0.08 seconds behind him.
“This is why I came here, to the Olympics, to prove to the world that I’m the best — again,” he told reporters at a news conference. “It always feels good to go out on top, you know what I mean?”
He continued his Olympic winning streak, taking gold in the 200 meters in 19.78 seconds. "What else can I do to prove I am the greatest?" Bolt said in an interview with BBC Sport. ”I'm trying to be one of the greatest, to be among [Muhammad] Ali and Pelé. I have made the sport exciting, I have made people want to see the sport. I have put the sport on a different level."
The "fastest man alive" remained undefeated in what he said would be the last race of his Olympic career, the 4x100-meter relay, which he ran with teammates Blake, Asafa Powell and Nickel Ashmeade. Anchoring the race, Bolt led the Jamaican team to gold, crossing the finish line in 37.27 seconds. It was the third consecutive gold medal win for Bolt in Rio.
In an interview with CBS News, Bolt detailed his pride over his 2012 performance: "It's what I came here to do. I'm now a legend. I'm also the greatest athlete to live. I've got nothing left to prove."
Records and Awards
Bolt is an 11-time world champion. He holds the world records in races for 100 meters, at 9.58 seconds, and 200 meters, at 19.19 seconds, both of which he set at the 2009 Berlin World Athletics Championships. Over the course of his career, Bolt has received numerous awards, including the IAAF World Athlete of the Year (twice), Track & Field Athlete of the Year and Laureus Sportsman of the Year.
'Triple-Triple' and Loss of Gold Medal
Participating in the 2008, 2012 and 2016 summer Olympic Games, Bolt completed a "triple-triple," with a total of nine gold medals earned in the 100-meter, 200-meter and 4x100-meter relay races. In doing so, Bolt joined just two other triple-triple runners: Paavo Nurmi of Finland (in 1920, 1924 and 1928) and Carl Lewis of the United States (in 1984, 1988, 1992 and 1996). However in January 2017, the International Olympic Committee stripped Bolt of one of these medals, for the 2008 4x100-meter relay, because his teammate Nesta Carter was found guilty of a doping violation.
Bolt took back the 100-meter world title on August 11, 2013, after having lost the title in 2011. Although Bolt didn't strike his signature "lightning bolt" pose after the race, his winning image still caused a stir, with lightning striking just as he crossed the finish line.
In 2015, Bolt faced some challenges: He came in second at the Nassau IAAF World Relays in May, but secured an individual win in the 200-meter event at the Ostrava Golden Spike event that same month. He also dominated the 200-meter race at the New York Addias Grand Prix that June. Trouble with his pelvic muscles forced him to withdraw from two races, though Bolt made a comeback that July with a 100-meter win at London's Anniversary Games.
Injury and Retirement
In 2017, Bolt faced challenges on the track at the World Athletics Championships. He finished third in the men's 100 meters, taking home the bronze medal behind Christian Coleman, who won silver, and Gatlin, who took home the gold. It was the first time that Bolt had been beaten at the World Athletics Championships since 2007. His struggles didn't end there: In the 4x100-meter relay, which many believed would be Bolt's final race, he collapsed from a hamstring injury and had to cross the finish line with the help of his teammates.
In August 2017, following the World Athletics Championships, Bolt announced his retirement from track and field. “For me I don’t think one championship is going to change what I’ve done,” he said at a press conference. “I personally won’t be one of those persons to come back.”
Bolt had long talked about eventually making a career in soccer. In August 2017, following his retirement from track and field, he planned to join Manchester United for a charity game against Barcelona, but he had to miss the match due to his hamstring injury. In September, Bolt said he was already in talks with several pro soccer teams, including Manchester United. “We have a lot of offers from different teams, but I have to get over my injury first and then take it from there,” he told reporters.
In October, Bolt reaffirmed his commitment to playing soccer. "For me it's a personal goal. I don't care what people really think about it. I'm not going to lie to myself. I'm not going to be stupid," he told reporters at the U.S. Formula One Grand Prix. "If I go out there and feel I can do this then I will give it a try. It's a dream and another chapter of my life. If you have a dream that you always wanted to do, why not try and see where it will go."
Bolt began training with the Central Coast Mariners of the Australian A-League in summer 2018 and scored two goals in a preseason match in October, but left shortly afterward when he was unable to agree to contract terms with the club.
The sprinter published the memoir My Story: 9:58: The World’s Fastest Man in 2010, which was reissued two years later as The Fastest Man Alive: The True Story of Usain Bolt. He followed in 2013 with Faster Than Lightning: My Autobiography.
In August 2016, People magazine confirmed that Usain Bolt was dating Jamaican model Kasi Bennett. Bolt has been private about their relationship, but he told a journalist in January 2017 that they had been dating for almost three years. In May 2020, it was revealed that Bennett had given birth to a daughter.
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