Characteristics of a Champion [5] – Usain Bolt

Physical Dimension

In some sports standing 6’5″ would be an advantage, not in track & field sprint events, and not before Usain Bolt.  In the past, track and field coaches sought shorter athletes for sprint events: Tyson Gay is 5’11”, Justin Gatlin 6’1′, Donovan Bailey 6’1″, and Andre De Grasse is 5’9″. The belief was that taller athletes wouldn’t be able to match the acceleration of a shorter athlete, rendering whatever top end speed and endurance they could achieve useless as the belief was that the race would be over before these factors could come into play.

Not so.  Usain Bolt has proved this belief to be wrong, all wrong.  Usain Bolt is indeed slower out of the blocks, but it doesn’t take him long before he accelerates to top speed, and past his competition.  In this video, Bolt reviews his approach to competing in the 100m event:

Amazing isn’t it how a disadvantage changes to an advantage: all it takes is one to prove the old manner of thinking wrong.  You would think that with all of our scientific advances, our modern research in biology, physiology, biomechanics, and engineering we would not still be closed minded to alternative approaches to solving problems.  Clearly, old habits, old beliefs, the old way dies hard.

Although Usain Bolt may now be recognized as having a physical advantage in his stature, he does possess what would initially be considered a disadvantage: a significant scoliosis (a twisting of his spine).  Bolt has had consultations with numerous medical orthopaedic specialists; however, the ongoing solution is daily training of his core.  Bolt performs an hour+ of stretching and strengthening exercises to be able to endure training for his sprinting events.

Champions do not see dead ends, they see challenges, obstacles, maybe a road block, but they never see any of them as impassable or impossible.  Usain Bolt has defied the status quo beliefs as to what makes an Olympic level sprinter… thats what champions do.  In this video, Usain Bolt reflects on the effort to train to pursue his potential…

Mental Dimension

A highly underrated skill – especially in the mental dimension of performance – is knowing what you bring to the table, and equally knowing where you lack in knowledge, wisdom, insight, experience, and where you need guidance.  Champions remain humble because they know that it is what they don’t know, what they do not perceive which limits them, their limits are in their weaknesses not their strengths.

In this video, Coach Glen Mills details the skills – the science of training and competing – which Usain Bolt was lacking…

Emotional Dimension

You can pick out champion by how they makes those around them feel…


Usain Bolt stands out amongst his competition in one way we have all come to love… he knows how to engage the crowd, he knows how to use their energy, he has learnt how to channel the hunger for a World Record, for a world class effort, for a peak performance to drive him to record after record, and gold medal after gold medal.  How?  He enjoys himself every moment.


If everyone is cheering for him, and few are cheering for his competitors then does he not have the most unique advantage on his side?  The energy, the goodwill, the cheers of ten of thousands pushing him, willing him, driving him faster than he has ever gone?