A lot of talk have been circling Usain Bolt since the beginning of the 2016 Rio Olympics. A lot of us were concerned if Bolt had enough to win another 3 gold medals in the 100 m, 200 m, and 4 x 100 m relay like he did in the last 2 Olympics. Now we know he had more than enough.
There were also talks of his retirement from the man himself since the start of the year. Bolt confirmed his plans to retire after the World Championships next year, making the Rio Olympics officially his last Olympic event.
Then just recently, there sparked a controversy with how Bolt celebrated his success from the Olympics. Videos and photos of Bolt dancing and partying it up with women besides his girlfriend surfaced on the internet. This caused a lot of attention to be given to his moral standards and his integrity.
But all this attention was given to this man because of one reason and one reason only. He is the fastest man who ever lived (in recorded history anyway).
Opinions On His Speed
There’s no shortage of opinions as to why Bolt’s that fast. Genetics, training, diet, lifestyle, etc. Basically anything that affects physical performance were used as the sole reason on why Bolt is able to do what he’s doing.
But there’s a lot more than that meets the eye with this sprinter. There’s more than just those reasons why he’s the fastest man in the world. And some of these reasons can give us insights on how we can improve our lives and how we pursue our goals.
Let’s take a look at why else not just Usain Bolt, but his fellow sprinters from Jamaica, are able to do what they do.
For a lot of spectators, it may seem that genetics play a huge advantage for Jamaican sprinters. Especially in the case of Usain Bolt, where his strides make for the ideal sprinter, genetics are the first thing people say that allows Bolt to best his competitors.
However, it’s not just Usain Bolt, but Jamaica as a whole that’s been dominating the sprint events in the Olympics. Recent Olympics has shown the dominance of this country in sprint events in general. With most of the gold medals in the 100 m, 200 m, and 4 x 100 m relay belonging to Jamaica in the last several Olympics and Track and Field World Championships, Jamaica has proven to be a powerhouse in this sport.
But chalking this up to just genetics doesn’t hold much water.
A large portion, arguably even the majority of Jamaica’s ancestors hail from West Africa. This part of the continent doesn’t have a whole lot of sprinters to speak of.
And as far the population goes, Jamaica has less 3 million people, less than that of the population of Connecticut. This number is much, much less than the number of blacks in the United States and other countries.
So it seems for the Jamaican Sprint Team as a whole, genetics doesn’t play as big of a role as some may have thought.
Diet, Training And… Doping?
Another common misconception about the reason for Jamaica’s sprinters is some kind of secret diet and training program the athletes undergo.
Usain Bolt said in an interview the reason for his speed is the yams that his mom cooks for him so often. He was obviously being comical but a lot of people read into that way too much, proposing that Jamaican athletes are eating certain foods native only to the island.
Another assumption is the training that Jamaican athletes are doing.
At this day and age, there’s really nothing extremely cutting edge one country is doing that other countries wouldn’t know about. And Jamaica’s never been secretive about training their athletes like Russia or China has in the past.
So as far and diet and training goes, Usain Bolt and his fellow sprinters aren’t doing anything special.
Then there’s the allegations of doping.
While Usain Bolt has been squeaky clean for the last 10 years, the same cannot be said for some of his countrymen. Yohan Blake, Nester Carter, and Asafa Powell are among the big names that were caught using banned substances.
Granted, some of the substances share the same constituents as common herbal supplements taken by Jamaicans. While this only serves as benefit of the doubt, one can easily debate on why Bolt hasn’t been caught with it, especially since he’d be tested even more frequently and stringently than the rest of the competition due to this status.
So although some of the Jamaican sprinters could’ve relied on PEDs, Bolt has not as far as we know right now.
An there’s no shortage of athletes using PEDs in general.
The fastest recorded 100 m sprint times were all ran by 5 men: Tyson Gay, Yohan Blake, Asafa Powell, Justin Gatlin, and Usain Bolt.
Bolt is the ONLY one that hasn’t been tested positive for banned substances.
So if it’s not the genetics, the training, the diet, or even doping, what is it that makes Bolt and the rest of Jamaica’s sprinters so dominant in the sport?
It can’t be said that there’s only one reason for Jamaica’s dominance in sprint event. But if only one reason had to be given, it’d definitely be the institution that’s currently in place.
Ever since Norman Manley became head of state for Jamaica, the country has had laser focus on being track and field champions. Manley greatly emphasized track and field as the sport of the country. It was the baseball, football, and basketball combined of Jamaica.
Throughout the last century, well-known athletes within Jamaica promoted track and field, increasing its popularity and dominance even more.
This alone puts Jamaica in a class of its own when it comes to track and field. Just like the United States is so dominant in basketball and baseball due to their popularity and emphasis, Jamaica was the ones to beat in sprinting events.
To solidify their powerhouse status even more, Jamaica have been hosting for-profit track and field clubs, which allows a lot more athletes to pursue track and field as a career. This makes track and field a much more attractive career option to than it was before to the native Jamaicans.
All of this only adds to the cycle of building successful sprinters. As the number of track and field athletes grow within the country, more and more children and teenagers are inspired to take on the sport. The passion and craze for track and field only grows from there.
Lessons For Us
So what can we learn from Jamaica and the way it has produced so many successful sprinters?
We can see the reasons that Jamaican sprinters have been dominating track and field for so long isn’t because of any special diet, training, or genetic secret they’re hiding from the rest of the world. But it’s mostly due to the institution and how track and field is revered in the country.
And with that process in place, the results speak for themselves.
No country in the world can hold a candle to this little island with less than 3 million people when it comes to sprint events in track and field.
This speaks volumes about how prioritizing our activities can do for our success.
Even when the odds are against us, there’s nothing stopping us from becoming the best we can be, or even the best there is at our craft.
Jamaica is by no means a country with the finances to fund expensive training equipment for all their athletes, conduct groundbreaking research on how to improve athletic performance, or equip their athletes with the best of everything.
And with such a small population compared to other track and field competitors like the US, Canada, and other countries, they have a much smaller selection when it comes to talent.
This correlates directly to many of us and our dreams and endeavors.
Just like Jamaica, we might not have the resources to afford the best of what we need to work our way towards our goals. Maybe we’re a future entrepreneur that have to settle for a mediocre laptop and operating system. Or we’re a future professional athlete stuck with creating our own make-shift/DIY workout equipment.
At the same time, we see other people that have the best computer and operating systems, along with all the bells and whistles. Or we see some that are undergoing training in expensive facilities with cutting edge equipment and well-known trainers.
This can be very discouraging to see, especially if it doesn’t seem like we’re making as much progress as others are.
But what did Jamaica do in terms of its goal? It honed in and focused on being the best at its goal. That was THE sport that everyone cared about. It was the ONLY sport that mattered to the people on that island.
Are we taking our goals seriously enough? Are we making the necessary sacrifices to put our goals at the top of our daily routine?
This may just be the most important thing we can take away from the sprinter factory we all know as Jamaica.