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The Life and Career of Usain Bolt

VO: Rebecca Brayton
In this video we profile Jamaican Olympic gold sprinter Usain Bolt.

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Born in Jamaica in 1986, Usain Bolt is a sprinter who shattered records throughout his career. He began running at ten-years-old, when his primary interest was sports. "I wasn’t really good at playing soccer," he says. "I normally played cricket. But my parents saw me run and they told me I should try track and field, so I went down that path."

A Young Star

Bolt first stood out on the world stage at the age of 15 at the 2002 World Junior Championships. He was distinguishable from his running mates physically, because even at that young age he was 6 feet 5 inches tall. He became the World Juniors’ youngest-ever gold medalist. After this win, he signed a sponsorship deal with Puma.

Party Animal

Bolt continued to win medals down the line in international youth competitions. However, during his career he had been plagued by injuries. His hard-partying lifestyle and reticence to train seriously led some to call him a lazy athlete. At age 17, he was even held back from back from the World Championships in Paris because of his lack of experience.

A Natural Talent

And while he may rely heavily on his natural abilities to win races, 2005 saw a change in attitude for the sprinter. After Bolt’s dismal showing at the 2004 Athens Olympics, where he was eliminated in the first round of the 200-meter run due to leg injury, he was determined to prove his critics wrong. He gained experience over the next few years, and went in to the 2008 Olympics well-experienced and well-prepared.

2008 Beijing Olympics

Coming into the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China, Bolt already held the record for the 100-meter race, despite his relative lack of experience in races of that length. At the Olympics, Bolt posted his personal best times to date for both the 100- and 200-meter sprints. His time of 9.69 seconds for the 100-meter race was the fastest ever legal time recorded in that race. It is widely speculated he could have posted an even more impressive time, had he not slowed down toward the end of the race.

Record Breaker

His 200-meter time at the Beijing Olympics was both a world and Olympic record, as well. His third gold medal in Beijing was a result of the 4x100-meter relay. Usain Bolt became the first man, since American Carl Lewis in 1984, to win gold in all three events at a single Olympics.

Bolt is the only sprinter in the top five of the International Association of Athletics Federations who does not hail from the United States. His impressive Olympic showing earned him the Order of Distinction, awarded by Jamaica, and was the Jamaican athlete of the year for 2008. He was also voted athlete of the year by the international media for 2008 for his three gold medals.

Nicknamed, "Lightning Bolt," this Jamaican sprinter brought renewed international interest to the world of track and field, a sport that had long been marred by high-profile drug scandals.

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