Usain Bolt talks overcoming mental stress as an elite athlete

Sprinter Usain Bolt may have oozed confidence whenever he touched the track, but this did not mean that the eight-time Olympic champion did not get nervous. 

In a recent interview with the Hindustan Times, Bolt revealed that he had to endure a lot of mental stress while competing at the elite level. 

Bolt shared that on one occasion, while competing at the 2002 World Junior Championships stress got the better of him and, he ended up putting his shoe on the wrong foot. 

“At the world juniors, competing in Jamaica at the 200m finals I was trying to put my shoe on and I put the wrong shoe on the wrong foot because I could not focus. I was so nervous, it was nerve-wracking, and I won,” he said. 

“I remember telling myself that if I can win in front of my home crowd where I was that nervous to the point where I was putting the wrong shoe on the wrong foot, then I can win in front of anyone,” Bolt added.

According to Bolt, that experience gave him the confidence boost he needed to deal with his stress.

Throughout his record-breaking career, Bolt said he surrounded himself with people who had his best interest at heart. 

“Persons who understood who I was as a person and was happy with me, and wanted the same goal as I wanted to be great, and we went along the journey together,” he said.

“My coach Glen Mills, I knew at the start, Ricky Simms which is my agent, I knew at the start, my best friend NJ, even my masseuse…all these guys were with me at the start before I start winning because they had the same goal and they wanted the same thing for me,” he added.

Bolt further shared that realizing that he wanted to achieve great things for himself also propelled him to focus on the task and execute, rather than feeding into the negatives.

“I figured out at the start that I wanted this for myself. When I started out I was always worried about what everybody else would think; Am I gonna let my country down? Am I gonna let my family down? And then I said you know what? ‘Am I gonna let myself down? How can I not let myself down? How can I work hard and be true to myself to be great?’ And that’s when I started not worrying about every single thing someone would say because I wanted to be great for myself,” he added.