‘A bit fresh, different from Jamaica’

NOS Sport

  • Edwin Cornelissen

    Reporter NOS Sport

  • Edwin Cornelissen

    Reporter NOS Sport

Sprint icon Bolt visits Dutch youngsters: ‘Teaching children is the most important thing’

For the photographers, Usain Bolt takes the starting position to stand up only slightly stiffly. “Old man,” he says with a laugh. As the holder of the world records for 100 and 200 meters, Bolt is still known as the fastest man on earth. But the 36-year-old Jamaican has since retired from athletics and now spends some of his time getting kids into sports.

That is why Bolt has come to Utrecht, where, on the initiative of the Sports and Culture Youth Foundation, money is collected for children who are not well at home and therefore cannot afford the contribution to a sports association.

“Then you talked about 2-3 children in a class in recent years,” says director Monique Maks of the Youth Foundation. “And these days there are more and more because of inflation and rising energy costs.” The foundation exists to help families in financial need.

Previously, not everyone knew where to find the Youth Fund for support. “There is often shame on the part of the parents, who do not dare to seek help. Everyone wants to be able to do their own thing. Furthermore, there were many who did not know that help existed.” Bolt’s arrival in Utrecht should change that.

I miss the competition, but now the pressure is off and I can relax more.

Usain Bolt

As the eight-time Olympic champion approaches, with a relaxed gait, he wears a black and white hoodie with the hood over his head. The canteen manager has just served him a home-cooked meal, she says not without pride. “I was told he liked spicy Jamaican food. But I don’t like rice and beans. So I got a nice marinated chicken with noodles and fresh vegetables. And he said: it was great, it was good food.”

She watches with amusement as Bolt moves on Overvecht’s track. “He has that walk that Jamaicans have more. Like: reggae music on your ears and we slowly shuffle to the beach. Then you wouldn’t say he’s the fastest man in the world. It’s really amazing.”

‘My life is more interesting now’

Bolt is still the sporting legend after running his last race five years ago. The Jamaican’s life now looks very different. “I’m busier than ever. I travel a lot. At home I have three children, which also requires a lot of work. And I produce music. It’s a new chapter. My life is much more interesting now.”

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2008: Usian Bolt wins the Olympic final 100 meters by force majeure

Of course, an icon like Bolt is constantly reminded of his past. “I do not care. Free path made me who I am.” And although he now enjoys his freedom, there are definitely things he misses. “I miss the competition. I noticed that when I watched the world championships. But on the other hand, the pressure is gone now, and I can relax more.’

Role in athletics

He is still interested in his sport. In fact, he would love to play a part in it. “Personally, I’m still waiting for the president of the IAAF to give me a chance. I know the impact I’ve had on athletics and I can still help the sport move forward. Visiting countries, talking to kids, encouraging them to take up the sport up and give clinics to make them better. I would love to do that.”

Bolt also assumes such a role on an overcast afternoon in Utrecht, where a group of children – most of them already active in athletics clubs – are ready to welcome him. He has since taken off the hoodie. Bolt shakes and laughs. “It’s a bit chilly. I expected it in Europe. It’s very different from Jamaica.”

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2016: Usian Bolt in his signature pose

He does not need to convince his young opponents of the importance of the sport. Enthusiastically, Bolt’s thoughts go back to his own childhood. “I played so many different sports growing up in Jamaica. We played soccer in the street with whatever we came across. Sometimes we picked oranges from the trees and played soccer with them. We always found a way to play sports .”

Financial concerns

Bolt would therefore like to see children from families with financial problems enabled to play sports. “They develop all kinds of skills, learn to deal with winning and losing. Sports are so important.”

Bolt is now on the starting line, the group of kids right behind him. From the speakers comes: ‘Three, two, one. Go!’. The fastest man on earth leaves the victory to twelve-year-old Samuel Mulder. He can’t believe his luck. “Funny. I really like it. I couldn’t believe this”.

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