How bottles of Guinness and buckets of chicken nuggets made Usain Bolt the fastest man in the world
22:05 GMT, 27 July 2012
No one could call me a conventional athlete. Most nutritionists would be horrified by my diet during the time I won three gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
On arrival there I’d tried a local Chinese meal, which wasn’t like the ones we eat in the West, and my body didn’t react well.
The only things I could trust not to affect my stomach were McDonald’s chicken nuggets so I ate nothing else – 15 at a time, for breakfast, lunch and dinner, washed down with bottled water.
Most dieticians would be horrified at Usain's diet, which consisted of 15 chicken nuggets every day
I don’t conform to the physical ideal for my sport either. A recent study revealed that champion sprinters are typically between 5ft 9in and 6ft 3in. At 6ft 5in and with size 13 feet I take time to get going, but I’m obviously doing something right, running the 100m at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin in a world record-breaking 9.58 seconds.
One downside of my fame is that everyone in my native Jamaica seems terrified of me injuring myself. I recently tried to buy a motorbike in the capital Kingston, but when the salesman realised who I was he refused to sell me one, happier to do himself out of a sale than put my athletics career in jeopardy.
My real love is cars. I have six, all in black. My number one is a Nissan Skyline GTR, but I dream of owning a Lamborghini like the one footballer Cristiano Ronaldo has.
We met once in Madrid and I told him how much I liked the Ferrari he was driving. ‘Yeah, but I need to get a new one because I don’t like the colour,’ he replied. Perhaps I should have become a professional footballer instead!
Usain is a die-hard Manchester United fan
If I had, I’d have signed for Manchester United. I’ve supported them since I was a skinny kid growing up in Trelawny in north-west Jamaica. I was born there in August 1986.
My brother, sister and I all have different mums, which is not unusual in Jamaica. My sister, Christine, is four years older than me and my brother Sadiki eight months younger and they often came to stay with us in our two-bedroom rented house.
We didn’t have much money but never felt deprived. My father, Gideon, worked for a coffee company, advising farmers on how to grow the beans. He remembers me falling off the bed when I was six weeks old.
He’d left me there, having no idea I could push myself off. It was the first indication of how active I was and my mum Jennifer tells me that I used to run to school faster than the other kids.
‘At that age you don’t think of your child as a future Olympic sprinter,’ she says. ‘You just wonder how you’re going to keep up with him.’
That was a problem for my teachers too. At primary school, our maths teacher Mr Nugent once caught me and my best friend NJ playing football in class. He grabbed NJ, hit him, and sent him out, but he had no chance of catching me. I’d run off so fast, thinking he was going to get me too, that I probably beat 9.58 that day.
Mr Nugent was also our sports coach and thanks to him I first experienced the thrill of beating a rival, a boy called Ricardo Geddes. When we raced I always lost, but one day Mr Nugent bet me a lunch that I could out-run him. I like my food, so it was a big incentive. I won, enjoyed a nice meal, and never lost to Ricardo again.
A good night out with a few bottles of Guinness typically finished at 6am and I still went training a few hours later. If there were gold medals for partying I’d have won them all but my athletics career was stalling
I became a professional athlete at 17, signing a four-year sponsorship deal with Puma and moving to Kingston. For a country boy the big city’s attractions were irresistible.
Dad had kept me on a tight rein, imposing early curfews, but in Kingston I could do whatever I wanted – freedom! A good night out with a few bottles of Guinness typically finished at 6am and I still went training a few hours later.
If there were gold medals for partying I’d have won them all but my athletics career was stalling. I think this was down to injury, rather than my lifestyle, and the demanding training regime imposed by my coach Fitz Coleman didn’t help.
I told him he was pushing me too hard and I wasn’t surprised when I pulled a hamstring and then sustained an achilles tendon injury as we were preparing for the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
The Olympics should be a highlight of any athlete’s career but I was 18 and felt that Athens had come too early, especially given my recent injuries.
Towards the end of my first 200m heat there I was in fifth place and could have made it into fourth, and got through to the next round, but I knew I was never going to go any further in the competition so I didn’t bother.
Prince Harry poses with Usain Bolt at the Usain Bolt Track at the University of the West Indies on
I returned to Jamaica deflated and ran into a wall of criticism from people who said I was partying too much. It got me down but everything changed when I found a new coach, Glen Mills.
He began by trying to find out the reasons for my many injuries and sent me to a doctor who discovered I have a spinal curvature which makes my right leg half an inch shorter than the left. I thought I might have to give up athletics but a German surgeon called Hans Mller-Wohlfahrt assured me he could put me right. He has been as good as his word.
Coach and I took the diagnosis as a positive. We finally knew what we were dealing with and could plan training accordingly. I have come to trust Coach completely.
'One of the joys of athletics is messing around with your friends'
He understands that I’m naturally
lazy and I might skip training, but if I miss more than one day he will
be ringing me. The results speak for themselves. In May 2008, I went to
the Reebok Grand Prix in New York.
As we were about to start the 100m I realised I was missing a spike in
my left shoe but still managed to set a new world record of 9.72
seconds. I was clearly ready for the Beijing Olympics that August.
of the joys of athletics is spending time messing around with your
friends. My room-mate in Beijing was Jamaican decathlete Maurice Smith.
We played video games and dominoes, talked for hours and went for walks to check out the hot girls from other countries. (I’ve since started learning Spanish, so I can speak to more ladies instead of just staring at them.)
Coach’s room was next door and he got annoyed that Maurice and I would never sleep. He needn’t have worried. Not only did I win gold medals for the 100m and 200m and, with my team-mates, the 4 x 100m relay, but set new world records in each.
There is one promise I can make the 2016 Olympics in Brazil will be my last major competition
The presentation ceremony for the 200m was on my 22nd birthday. I was on the podium with the Jamaican flag fluttering and 91,000 people singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to me.
I still live in Kingston, sharing a house with NJ and Sadiki. But when things get stressful I go back to Trelawny where my Dad still works in the grocery shop he opened after taking redundancy from the coffee company.
Even after I started making decent money as an athlete, my parents didn’t want to move to some flash place away from the community so I’ve helped them extend their house and build a garden. When I’m home, I sit on their verandah and clear my mind.
I’ll meet up with guys who were my friends from way back in the days when we played cricket together on the road outside our front door. We take a table out to the porch and play dominoes. Life doesn’t get any simpler.
There is one promise I can make – the
2016 Olympics in Brazil will be my last major competition. I want to go
out at the top. But to be a true legend means first defending my titles
from 2008. Maybe I will run the 100m in 9.4 this year in London.
I don’t see how the 100m record can ever go below that. It is impossible to run 9.2, the body isn’t made to go that fast.
I retire I’m going to build a massive house in the country with a huge
bedroom which has a rotating bed in it and a sliding window to take in
will have a lot of land, with a basketball court and a football pitch.
Of course, by then I might have a wife too. I’d like to start a family
but I’ll take my time to meet the right girl. If my first child is a boy
I’ll warn him how hard athletics is, and I don’t just mean the
Can you imagine
the pressure he’ll be under as the son of Usain Bolt I’d prefer him to
play a different sport. Maybe that’s when the Bolt name will feature in
Adapted from Usain Bolt: 9.58.