Saturday, August 22, 2009
Peart - the man who groomed Bolt
Usain Bolt with Mentor and Manager Norman Peart
JEAN LOWRIE-CHIN | Jamaica Observer column | 29 June 2009
Much has been written about the emergence of young Usain Bolt as the phenomenal powerhouse of the track and from all indications, a lot more is to come. In a meeting last week, the athlete's manager Norman Peart reflected on the deliberate steps taken to groom Bolt for greatness. "As a William Knibb old boy who did athletics, I was called in February 2002 by then principal Margaret Lee who said she wanted me to help with 'this one little one that I think will do big things'," he recalled. "After work, I went to see him and then coach Dwight Barnett at the school and I was immediately impressed by his stature - this 15-year-old was taller than me, a six-footer!"
The next day Peart went to see Usain's parents, Mr and Mrs Wellesley Bolt. "Daddy Bolt was very much in charge," said Peart. "His parents and I have the same values and since then, there is hardly a day that we have not been in touch. For me, it has been the support of his parents that has made Usain what he is today. There is a very close relationship between that family, parents, brother and sister. That's where Usain's strength is."
But Usain Bolt's strength also lies with the calm, focused management of the mild-mannered accountant Norman Peart who has kept the Bolt enterprise humming like a well-oiled machine.
Peart says that by 2003, Usain Bolt had come to the attention of world athletics, running the third fastest time in the world at the National High School Championships: 20.25 seconds in the 200-metre event, as well as 45.35 in the 400-metre.
“We looked down the road and made a decision,” said Peart. “At the time, sprinting was at a low and we thought, ‘he is the next generation, this is the time’.”
“Under the guidance of Hon Teddy McCook, we decided to make the transition to the High Performance Centre at Utech that would take him to a professional level. I got a job transfer to Kingston, set up house for both of us and he lived with me for three years. The adjustment was a challenge at the start, as I had no experience as a father.” Then Peart jokes, “After I got married, I figured it was time I threw him out.”
During that time, Peart was ensuring that Usain kept up with his studies, enrolling him at Quality Academics so that he could gain the five CXC subjects to qualify for UTECH, the manager’s alma mater. “You’re going to college through the front door,” he told the fun-loving athlete. He also engaged Paula-Ann Porter to give Usain speech training and we saw the result when he acquitted himself well in those Beijing interviews.
Bolt did one term at UTECH 2005, but then came more laurels at the Commonwealth Games and he had to turn athletics into what Peart describes as “a full time job”.
“He will not be 22 again,” says a realistic Peart. “So he must do the sponsors’ tours, the photo shoots and of course, the constant training to stay on form.” So how are Usain’s finances being handled? “We have been planning every step of the way,” says Norman. “We have in place an attorney, a financial advisor, a competition agent and his great coach Glen Mills.”
Norman has also encouraged Usain’s spirit of philanthropy. Recently, they reached out to the children with HIV-AIDS at Mustard Seed’s ‘Dare to Care’, and give ongoing support to several community projects.
Peart describes a day in Usain’s life. There is gym in the morning, interviews, meals, afternoon rest followed by three hours of intense training in the afternoon to evening. “He also has to have time for himself, time for his friends.” The athlete’s relationship continues with his childhood sweetheart, Mizicann.
Peart refuses to become paranoid over Usain’s driving even after his April car crash. “Yes, he’s driving himself,” says the cool manager. “We have very good relations with Stewart’s Auto and Usain now has a BMW X5.”
Jamaica-based Peart keeps tabs on all aspects of Bolt’s business as the athlete travels with his coach, sports manager and masseuse. “He never stops training and when he goes off to Europe, they’ll have to set up home in the various locations, find a good gym and training facilities.”
"Usain is very tough, very positive and undaunted by the competition. He will have a great tour," says Peart of the upcoming season. Such confidence comes from the grooming of a world superstar, by an honest and diligent man. With more nurturing by citizens like Norman Peart, imagine the great heights that our children could achieve.