With the euphoria of the 2012 London Olympics all but waning, I have listened to all the discussion in the public arena about the whys and the wherefores of Usain and his personality, prowess, longevity and the like!
But I tell you, none of those discussions hold much weight for me because of my personal experience with Usain Bolt. This story I have shared with a few when I speak in defence of Usain whenever I hear any ill-word about him.
A few years ago on leaving Miami on a flight back to Kingston, Jamaica, waiting in the departure lounge – who arrives, just before the flight leaves, in the lounge??? Now anyone who is Jamaican and knows how we are as Jamaicans – WE DO NOT RUSH CELEBRITIES ANYWHERE!!!! WE GET EXCITED BUT WE DO NOT RUSH CELEBRITIES OF ANY KIND. We give them their space – a respectful nod and then we mind our own business. This was the response to Usain Bolt in the lounge for the first few minutes – until a teenage girl shrieked’ “Mommy, look! USAIN BOLT!”. The lounge erupted in fun-filled laughter sparkling with good humour – Usain blushed and tried to cope with the numbers who rushed at him (yes they rushed at him) for cell phone pics and autographs – almost delaying the boarding process.
In flight and all settled in for the 1hr 40 min to get to Jamaica, after about 1/2 hour I asked a purser to ask Usain for an autograph for my son. The purser said, “Hey, it’s alright – you are not the only one – you may go and ask him!”, he chuckled. I searched my bag and had no paper and all I had on me (how, I don’t recall) is a 5-inch foam paper cake plate – I figure that this is as good as any! It is longer-lasting than paper anyway! So I gathered myself and moved to the front of the aircraft to his seat where he was just coming awake from a well-needed, no doubt, nap! I made small talk saying that I did not know he was such a comedian referring to his interview on David Letterman and asked his for his prized autograph! I handed him the foam plate. Lol! He unabashedly asked what I wanted him to write on it – I told him, “Just write to Osaze – keep doing well” or something to that effect. He obliged – I wished him well and went back to my seat.
Fast forward weeks later, Usain happened to come to the resort where we were at on the north coast of Jamaica – my son met him and told him that he wrote to him on a foam paper plate – and of course he remembered. They took photos and in the conversational exchange he gave my son his phone number, my son told me.
Now here is what warmed my heart about Usain! When he had his first car accident – my son called him a few days after and he answered! My son told him he was just checking up on him to see if he is alright – he thanked him for calling and replied he was fine! It was the first time Osaze was calling him. Thereafter my son lost his phone number cos he lost his phone…I saw Usain at the launch of Asafa’s foundation – went and asked him back for his number for my son – he gave me…I am not even sure whether my son ever called him again!
But the point of my personal story is this: Usain is real, accessible and very human – not to mention down-to-earth! He has the true quality of being Jamaican, which is to be himself – just as God intended – no airs – no issues – no baggage! He’s unaffected – and any number of our well-known Jamaicans could take a half-page out of his book. His parents/teachers/ community/coach did and are doing a great job; and he has an unbreakable spirit devoid of envy or any annoyance for being well-known unlike some other athletes.
My take on his acts, behaviour, attitude is, look – leave the boy (he could be my son)/man alone – let him date whom he wishes, let him dance for joy when he wins, let him encourage his teammates, let him lose a race if he wills…he’s our modern day track-star and that’s a lot more than we can say when our murder rate is what it is!
As a world figure – yes critiques/critics/judges come with the territory -occupational hazard- but look – he does what he does best and I forever wish for him the utmost best in all endeavours, because USAIN IS FOR REAL!
About the Author
TOTLYN OLIVER has one of the most recognizable names and voices in the Jamaican media landscape, having been in broadcasting for over twenty years, a field in which she has received much recognition and several industry awards. Totlyn is also been involved in Jamaican theatre, touring in the Caribbean & USA. A certified Trainer, Totlyn holds a Masters’ in Life Long Learning (Adult Education) at the Mount St. Vincent University (Canada), B.A. (Hons.) in Social Sciences and Literature as well as a post graduate diploma in Media and Communications, University of the West Indies. A motivational speaker, Totlyn has performed duties as Master of Ceremonies and chairperson for many special events and occasions causing her to launch PerfectWeddingMc Services. A sincere lover of her Jamaican culture she just could not pass up the opportunity to record in bite size piece the essence of the Jamaican culture in My Jamaica Fifty 50 ebook to be launched online. For more info see myjamaicafifty50.com