Magazine article The Spectator

Running on Sex and Chicken Nuggets

Magazine article The Spectator

Running on Sex and Chicken Nuggets

Article excerpt

Faster than Lightning by Usain Bolt HarperSport, �20, pp. 298, ISBN 9780007371419

What makes someone the fastest man on earth? The current tenant of the informal title held by such sporting icons as Jesse Owen and Carl Lewis starts with a version of the pastoral. Here is Usain Bolt as a child of nature, running free in the wilderness near the remote village that was his birthplace in Jamaica, plucking yams from the ground and bananas from the trees, body-building by carrying buckets of water home from the stream, and kept on the straight and narrow by regular 'whoopass' from his father.

But nature needed nurture, and life suddenly became more serious. 'The Champs', a national competition for schoolchildren which had a profile equivalent to the Cup Final in Britain, was Bolt's launchpad. He acquired a savvy coach in Glen Mills and he submitted himself to a training programme which often left him spent and vomiting by the side of the track, a victim of recurrent pain in his ankles, tendons and legs, compounded his scoliosis, a spinal malady.

Unusually for an athlete, as he matured, he ran shorter rather than longer distances.

He started to race the 100 metres only six years ago as an experiment. Within a year he had broken the world record for the sport's blue riband event. And he enjoys one critical physical advantage. The most significant statistic in the book is that he covers 100 metres in 41 strides to his opponents' 44. If he can unwind himself at the start, he will win. …

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