Usain Bolt’s Parenting Style: Lead by Example

Heads turn as Olympic sensation Usain Bolt ambles out of his vehicle and steps into the AC Hotel. He’s as impressive in stature as he was on the track taking the bend in the 200-metre finals. There’s no need for acceleration; he’s at a different place. Heads nod in recognition of the GOAT, his trademark easy smile makes him forever a national treasure.

Who better for SO to sit down with today, Father’s Day, than the father of three?

Bolt speaks fondly and loudly about his country upbringing, his father Wellesley’s love of sports, and the discipline instilled in him by his father. It’s here that we start our conversation.

“I think we mostly bonded over sports. My dad was a massive cricket fan. So if you follow my career, you know that I was into cricket at the start because of him. I grew up seeing him always loving cricket and supporting the West Indies. Also, my father was the disciplinarian in the family. There were times we didn’t get along. But I understood growing up that it was necessary,” he confesses matter-of-factly.

His response begs the question: Was it necessary for him to be a disciplinarian or for you to listen?

“Both of them,” is his immediate response, before adding, “I think growing up that’s why I’m so respectful. People always remark that I’m such a nice person... ‘Very respectful... You’re always smiling’. I always take time out to give pictures or just even have a conversation. That’s just the way I was brought up. That’s something I have to always give thanks for. I tell people I wouldn’t change anything about my childhood because it made me who I am today.”

Olympian Usain Bolt and Novia McDonald-Whyte, Jamaica Observer senior associate editor, lifestyle & social content, discuss fatherhood. (Photo: Jason Tulloch)

It’s no idle boast. The sprint sensation has no airs. But at what point did the realisation hit that his father was preparing him for the world, and indeed the global platform he now commands?

“From the start,” he insists, “I think it’s when you actually get to being a teenager you start to understand more. As a kid, parents are always saying, listen, you need to listen, you need to do this, instead of doing that, because as a youngster at the time, we feel like they’re just telling us not to do things for the sake of it. For me, I think it was when I got to high school I started understanding more that what my parents were saying was right and that they simply wanted me to go in the right direction.”

Now that he’s a grown man and indeed a father, Wellesley still gives advice but, according to his son, in different ways. “He’s a lot more chill”. It is mum Jennifer who is active on social media and follows up on his activities. These activities include travel, business and of course [observing] their beloved grandchildren.

Bolt had made no secret of the fact that he wanted to be a father. And he’s all smiles as he recalls the day his partner Kasi told him that she was pregnant. “I was supposed to actually see her but she called me [ahead of time] and said she had something for me so I should come by. I was, like, alright. I went by, and she gave me a box that contained a few different things. I can’t remember exactly everything that was in it, but she used one of my favourite cartoons complete with narrative to actually break it down and to explain to me... I was like, I’m slightly confused, I was done. I can’t understand. But then she came out and showed me the test she took. I was excited because I was ready at the time.”

Bolt’s interpretation of ready meant that despite the ribbing of his many male friends who were already experiencing fatherhood, he knew that he was not ready. “I knew that I was travelling a lot; there was training, there were projects. There was always something... So for me it was never a rush. And then it was to find the right girl...”

Bolt once again reverts to lessons from his childhood and again from his dad who had children with different women. “I promised myself that I would never be one of those persons,” he reflects. “I saw the disadvantages of not having my brother or my sister with me all the time. So we didn’t grow together as a unit. For me that was something that I promised myself at a young age that I would never go down that road. So I took my time to find the right girl to make sure that when this happened, I knew that it was going to be long-term. So that’s why I said I knew I was ready when it happened.”

Well, it happened and Bolt became a father for the first time on May 17, 2020. A girl; Bolt and Kasi named her Olympia Lightning. There were plans to have more. Bolt wanted three. Kasi, two! Bolt was hopeful for a boy the second time around. “As a man,” he said, “we always like to have a boy to carry the name.”

Imagine the shock, however, when it was discovered less than a year later that not only was Kasi once again pregnant but this time with twins!

Kasi’s sole side effect when pregnant with Olympia was itching. This stopped two months after she had Olympia. And then randomly one night, Bolt recalls, “she started itching again. I remember calling the doctor [we were in the throes of the pandemic]. I called the doctor because the pharmacies were closed and we couldn’t get any DPH. The doctor said to me, ‘Usain, you remember the last time Kasi started itching was when she was pregnant?’ I was like Doc, how can she get pregnant? She’s breastfeeding! That’s not possible. And he said, ‘Where did you get that?’ I was like, that’s how it goes, and he goes no, no. When they are breastfeeding, they are more likely to get pregnant. I was like, that’s something I feel like you should have informed me! When I got back home I told her what the doctor said, she’s like, alright, just for precaution let’s just take a test. I came home the next day and she left the two pregnancy tests on the bed. I was stressed for a while, I must say. I was stressed because we just had Olympia and she wasn’t even one yet.”

A visit to the doctor followed for a complete check-up. There’d be yet another surprise for the sprint sensation: “I was driving on the road heading back to the house and she [Kasi] called me FaceTime. ‘The doctor wants to speak to you.’ He said, are you driving? I said, yes. He was like, pull over and I was like, what!? I was worried... no need to worry, just pull over, he said. He showed me [the ultrasound] and I was like jezzz. For days I was stressed because the stress of dealing with Olympia was one thing, much less having two more kids!”

More stress than lining up for the Olympics 100-metre finals, SO cheekily asks. “Yes!” is his emphatic response but then he got over it and understood that it was just a blessing.

Eschew all thoughts of Bolt in the delivery room counting contractions with Kasi. His dad’s words: “Whatever they say, do not look!” were taken seriously by his son who no doubt exhaled when informed that Kasi was to have a C-section.

He has vivid memories, however, of his daughter’s birth. “It was a Sunday. She was due on the Tuesday... On the Sunday, the doctor called and said we need to take the baby today. I was like, why? It’s random. And he says two babies just came up and two mothers lost their baby and they’re about to be born. So I think you should come because we don’t know if it’s the virus. He added, ‘I don’t know if it’s COVID, but just to be safe let’s just take the baby’. I remained at the other end of the room squat down. I didn’t want to see anything... It was interesting to hear the sound of my newborn.

Usain Bolt (centre) with parents Jennifer and Wellesley Bolt (Photos Courtesy of Usain Bolt)
Usain Bolt and his daughter Olympia Lighting Bolt enjoy a day out at sea.
Usain and his son Saint Leo Bolt
Usain Bolt with his son Saint Leo Bolt
Bolt’s twins Saint Leo (left) and Thunder Bolt
Olympia Lightning Bolt was born on a Sunday.
Thunder (left) ‘throws shade’ while his brother Saint Leo Bolt looks on.
Family portraitOlympian Usain Bolt and Kasi Bennett with their children Olympia Lightning, Saint Leo (left) and Thunder Bolt
Thunder Bolt and his dad enjoy quiet time.
Bolt and his daughter Olympia Lightning
The twins Saint Leo (left) and Thunder Bolt

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