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Thursday, Nov 21, 2019

Usain Bolt’s father wishes son had put off retirement for two years

Usain Bolt’s father Wellesley hopes the Jamaican star had put off his retirement for at least two years, but will travel across Europe and be present when the world’s fastest man finishes up at the London world championships.

other-sports Updated: Jul 11, 2017 13:07 IST
Khurram habib
Khurram habib
Hindustan Times, Jamaica
Usain Bolt’s father Wellesley feel his son could go on some more before calling it a day in August at the World Athletics Championship.
Usain Bolt’s father Wellesley feel his son could go on some more before calling it a day in August at the World Athletics Championship.(HT Photo)

As Usain Bolt prepares for a grand swansong at next month’s world championships in London, millions of fans are hoping against hope that the popular Jamaican would have a change of heart.

That sentiment also runs in the family of the world’s fastest man.

Usain Bolt’s father, Wellesley Bolt, too feel his son could go on some more before calling it a day.

“It is a sad moment that he is going to retire. But of course, he knows his body best and he said it is time for him to go, so we as parents have to just admit it and go along with his decision,” he Hindustan Times on a visit to where the world’s most famous athletes took his first steps.

READ | Usain Bolt provides fireworks in Jamaican swan-song

“At 31, I think he could probably do another two years, but we cannot get him to do it (and) we have to just accept it,” Bolt senior said.

“Of course, I know that a lot of Bolt fans are very disappointed he is leaving the scene, but as you know, at times you have to leave when the time comes.

“It’s very difficult but let us enjoy the rest of the sport.”

Kids enacting Usain Bolt’s signature pose at his village in Jamaica.
Kids enacting Usain Bolt’s signature pose at his village in Jamaica. ( HT Photo )

No complaints

However, Bolt’s family has relished their son soaring to success on the track and becoming one of the most recognisable athletes ever.

The 10 years since he rose to superstardom at the 2008 Beijing Olympics have been mostly good, Bolt’s father says. “There have been ups and downs. We had a few bad times when he suffered some injury but most of the times it has been good.”

READ | Usain Bolt reveals his struggle before Rio Olympics

A month-and-a-half before Bolt runs his last race, his father decided to quit too. His small grocery store, painted in pink, where he sold provisions -- meat, fish, rice etc. -- for 15 years, shut down last week.

Another store owner, who mostly sells beer, laughs when asked why Bolt senior shut shop. “Probably, he’s got a lot of money now,” he bursts into laughter and two women sitting in his dimly-lit shop catch the infectious laughter.

Seeking Bolt senior

Finding Wellesley Bolt wasn’t that easy. His house was locked and the shop shut. A visit to the Baptist Church opposite the shop too was in vain before this correspondent went to the shop next to his home. The shop owner’s laughter died as a red Toyota Hilux pulled up. “There he is, Usain’s dad.”

The tall gentleman had come to get his TV antenna repaired in the shop annexe. He opened the door, got accosted, but initially said commercial obligations didn’t allow him to speak to media. But coaxed, he gave in.

READ | Usain Bolt returns gold medal, says ‘rules are rules’ after doping sanction

“I am 61 and I too need to retire. I have been working for a long time. I worked for the coffee board for 16 years and then started the store in 2002. I’d been doing business there for 15 years,” he explained.

“Usain has been telling me for a long time to quit, relax and enjoy the rest of my life. Now I’ll travel to watch him run his last race. I’ll go to Germany for the next race and from there on a tour to Europe before the final London race.”

Bolt Senior’s house is pretty big compared to the other dwellings around. Usain though has his big house in Kingston. “He comes on Christmas or holidays. Otherwise, it is difficult as he is usually training abroad or lives in Kingston.”

Usain Bolt’s house at his village Sherwood Content in Trelawny, Jamaica.
Usain Bolt’s house at his village Sherwood Content in Trelawny, Jamaica. ( HT Photo )

Proud school

The narrow road that leads to Waldensia Primary and Infant School, Bolt’s school, is filled with potholes. It is flanked by dense foliage, lending charm. There are sugarcane plantations, coconut trees etc.

The school lies at the beginning of Sherwood Content locality, set on a hillock with a mural of Bolt’s “lightning” celebratory posture marking it and the Jamaican map painted next to it. The school’s facilities look basic.

The undulating landscape encourages running even though there is no facility, not even a track.

The school celebrates its graduation day on Thursday (July 6) as sixth standard kids prepare to go to higher school. Bolt’s teacher and close family friend, Cherone Seivwright, had left early to get her hair done for the function. The other teachers were overseeing a choir song to be sung at the graduation, which goes something like, “If you believe… your dreams can come true”. Bolt’s success has made them believe in miracles, a teacher says.

Its young principal Claud Rowe explains the talent at his disposal. “We already have plenty of good runners and high schools are already showing interest in some. You’d be surprised to see the talent, children here have natural ability.”

Rowe too wants Bolt to go on. “It’s somewhat a bittersweet moment (retirement). I’d hope he would have given us a couple of more years. But we are extremely proud and rooting for him. As he said, he wants to end on a high.”

“His success empowers us in the sense that whatever adversity we face, we have the determination to succeed. It is a motivation for teachers and students knowing that he sat in the same classrooms and he has elevated himself to such a level.”

Bolt has helped build school infrastructure visits at least once a year. “He comes without his bodyguards, has a treat for the children in the community and interacts with kids; everybody gets a present. He has been doing a whole lot for the school in terms of helping us with infrastructure. Years ago, he fitted us with a restroom block with modern facilities and helped us out with our resource centre, providing us with computers, etc.”

The principal went to the foothill where kids were playing. He sought their message for Bolt and they said in unison: “Good luck Usain Bolt. We love you.” One kid added: “I want him to break the world record.”

Sherwood Content proudly identifies itself with its favourite son.
Sherwood Content proudly identifies itself with its favourite son. ( HT Photo )

Need Bolt museum

The next stop is his former principal, Miss Flash. She has been ill and can barely speak, but she comes out of the house and collapses on the chair. “He was the second brightest boy, the brightest is now his manager,” she jokes.

She recalls that Bolt, who turns to survey his struggling rivals before winning races, had the habit of teasing opponents even as a boy. Miss Flash says she is always nervous when Bolt races and wishes him well.

Most said Bolt was well-mannered and never gave trouble.

Maxine, who knows his family and has seen him grow up, says Bolt would run three kilometers almost every day before school. “His family was hard-working. Mother knitted dresses and father worked. But Usain never gave any trouble,” she said.

The locals want a Usain Bolt museum. Bolt senior says: “We need a museum so that people can come and visit. As of now, there is nothing that tells the story of Usain. A museum will attract people, especially after his retirement.”