meeting Usain Bolt

Some paintings on this site have a  good story to tell, which I would like to share with you here!
On Sunday, July 13th, 2008, I took the 6hr bus from Thessaloniki to Athens, Greece, to watch the international track and field meeting Tsiklitiria with my friend Nikoluski.
After the 200, I went down to the warm up track looking for Usain Bolt. Most of the night before, I had stayed up to paint a portrait of him, in hope of it being signed.

As he was being massaged after his fabulous race, I approached the physio. I was actually waiting nearby for five minutes prior to getting the courage to make a verbal appearance.  The group already knew that I wanted something, as they were staring at me, in a curious manner, and they all smiled when I asked if mr. Usain could sign something for me.  The massage stopped, and everyone seemed impressed that I drew what I showed them (it wasn’t even finished, but…shhhh !!!) Usain liked it a lot (he asked me if I had another one to give him, but I insisted on keeping the original and handing him a copy some other time  :p   We started chatting.

What a great guy he seemed to be!  To start with, it’s amazing to come across well known people who want to ask dozens of questions to someone who was unheard of to them until that moment… I battled for my chance to ask things myself , as him and his assistants were questioning me the whole time….After being in Greece for one year straight, where I had experienced a general cultural syndrome of egocentricity and self-bragging, I must say I found that moment extremely refreshing.

After our conversation, Bolt kept on with his massage, and I spent the next 20minutes talking with his coach in charge, Dawson (Patrick?). As I was teaching some architectural design courses at the Mediterranean University College of Thessaloniki at the time, and he used to be an elementary school teacher for 14 years, we spoke about our perspectives on academics. The Jamaican point of view on life is inordinately enlivening and inspiring, with a blend of simplicity, altruism, respect and gratitude.  Call it the islander’s ‘isolation’ from the chaos of the civilized organized mess, or a culture’s veneration towards the living – nevertheless, my day was made, inhaling lessons of cultural pride and team appreciation; virtues that are all being vanished today.

When I decided to leave, we didnt’ know exactly how to salute each other, jokingly facing the ‘cultural barrier’ of saying a proper goodbye.
Jamaican guys never hug or kiss; they shake hands and/or do a finger snapping gesture. Girls get the privilege (as he said) of receiving the hug and the kiss.

Bolt broke his record again after our encounter, so I’m looking forward to a new painting and autograph!

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One Response to meeting Usain Bolt

  1. Anonymous says:

    Awesome story Stef! And of course, great photo :)

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