Usain Bolt's mom says key to keeping him calm is laughter
How does the mom of Usain Bolt help the world's fastest man keep his cool? "We say things that will make him laugh," said Jennifer Bolt as her sprinter star offspring faces down what just may be his last Olympics.
At nearly 30, Bolt has six Olympic gold medals from the Beijing and London Olympics. Though he withdrew July 1 from Jamaica's national meet with a slight tear in his left hamstring, the world record holder in the 100- and 200-meter dash proved his fitness July 22 in the 200 at the London Anniversary Games and deemed himself good to go for Rio.
A few days before the London event, his mom visited New York and said in an interview that she wasn't worried, having long ago learnt that calming her own nerves was the best way to soothe Usain.
"I know he's going to get well and everything will be OK for the games," said the soft-spoken Jennifer, who has been cheering him on since his speed first surfaced around 12 or 13.
"I tell him just stay focused, remember God, remember to pray and read your Bible," she said.
Usain has come back from injuries before, including left hamstring problems. When it happened in 2004 at what was supposed to be his first Olympics, in Athens, he didn't make it past the first round. He was just 17.
"It was a bit scary because we didn't really understand and know what it was," Jennifer said. "He had wanted so much to be at the Olympics and he just couldn't make it."
Over the years, Jennifer said, she has realised her best approach is to remain strong when her son falters.
"I learn to cope with it. I cannot feel down when I have to support him. I just pray and hope that everything will be good," she said. "I know that he still depends on his mother."
It's just as he did as a teen.
"I can remember in 2002 for the world championships. At the time he was 15 and before the games he didn't want to go. And he cries, and I had to try to comfort him, encourage him to go out and do his best because he didn't feel that he could have done it," she said. "I was really, really, really nervous and, you know, my legs shake. My heart beat."
Then she listened to the crowd.
"The crowd was behind him. From then I don't feel that nervous," she said.