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Raising Usain Bolt

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Before Usain Bolt became a six-time Olympic gold medalist, he strived to defeat his mother, Jennifer, in a race.  


She spoke with NBCOlympics.com and revealed five things you might not know about raising the world’s fastest man, including the origin of Usain’s name and her relationship with Justin Gatlin’s mother:


A young boy inspired Usain’s name


When Jennifer was pregnant with Usain, she was approached by a young boy who she estimates was about 12.


The young boy suggested that Jennifer name her son “Usain.” She asked how to spell the name and wrote it down. 


“I loved the name,” she said. 


The meaning of Usain is “beautiful,” according to nameberry.com


Jennifer is fast too


Jennifer was a sprinter herself. She ran the 100m, 200m and 400m, although she does not remember her times.


“Nobody at that time was really watching the clock,” she said. 


Usain did not beat his mother in a race until he was 12.


“It was fun for us,” she said. 



Jennifer is friends with Justin Gatlin’s mom


Jennifer met Justin Gatlin’s mom, Jeanette, at the 2015 World Championships. The two mothers were staying in the same hotel in Beijing.


They talked about raising Olympic champion sprinters, and remained friends even after Bolt edged Gatlin in both the 100m and 200m at the meet. 


“We’ve spoken a lot,” Jennifer said. “We are very close.”


Even the world’s fastest man needs encouragement


Feeling the pressure of racing in his hometown of Kingston, Jamaica for the 2002 World Junior Championships, Usain, then 15, burst into tears in front of his mother.  


“He didn’t want to go,” Jennifer said. “He said he was too young and he couldn’t run against those big boys.”


Jennifer comforted her son and encouraged him to do his best. She told him that she would be proud even if he did not win. The moment is depicted in “The Boy Who Learned to Fly,” a new animated film from Gatorade. 


Usain went on to win the 200m title and become the youngest world junior champion ever. 



Usain was not slow at anything


Jennifer paused when asked if Usain was slow at anything. 


“No, there isn’t anything that I can think of,” she said. “He was a hyperactive person.”


Everything was a competition for Usain, including whether he could beat the clock to arrive at school on time. 


“If he wasn’t at the top, he would cry,” she said. “Because of that, he always made certain that he was at the top.”




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