A pall of gloom is hanging over many Jamaicans this evening, after a series of unfortunate events at the International Athletics meet in London. But, let us put that on one side. It’s only a game, after all. One person, though, has risen above and beyond the fleeting moment, and will likely remain an influence and inspiration for many years to come – although he has now hung up those shiny blue and gold shoes. You know who I am talking about.
During the competition, I had a message from a Surinamese friend. These are her words (after the 100 meters, when Usain Bolt came second to his arch rival Justin Gatlin, and was so gracious towards him):
Ah, this beautiful Usain Bolt. I almost feel Jamaican because of him. I have to message you this. He is, as for many young athletes, my daughter’s idol. She does athletics – 100 meters and 200 meters spring – so you can imagine. Yesterday, she so wanted him to win the gold. It was all tears. We were yelling, it was crazy – but he did his thing, and he is so much more… Wow, what a sportsman he is.
So much more, indeed. My friend went on to say that her daughter is often teased at school, because of her dedication:
They think Jyoti is showing off because she is so serious with training and believing this is her thing. So they laugh at her thinking she can one day be like him. Saying to her, “You will never become a Bolt. Who do you think you are!” It really hurt her, but she is so strong, and fights to keep moving on. She watches his races again and again. I am so grateful, and proud of him for the inspiration he gives to her – and maybe he doesn’t even know.
Jyoti celebrated her fifteenth birthday a few days ago. You can see the quiet determination in her eyes. After Bolt pulled up with an injury during the relays, her mother shared her daughter’s distress with me:
She didn’t want to see the smiling winner, just wanted to see what was wrong with Bolt. She won her National Junior Championship relay today. And silver in the 100 meters.
It is not easy going for a fledgling athlete in Suriname. My friend told me that they have no track: “I think we are the only country in our region that doesn’t have a track and field, so they run on (uneven) grass.”
So, Mr. Bolt, know that you have filled this young girl with your energy, your warm spirit…and above all perhaps, your uncompromising taste for hard work. You have infused that with humility, kindness and good humour – and you can’t go wrong, for Jyoti.
Good luck, Jyoti. I hope you achieve all your dreams, and more.
Here are some great Usain Bolt pictures, stolen from Twitter today (including his final farewell in London this evening, which was quite moving)…