Built for Speed: What makes Usain Bolt so fast? My Friend’s Rituals Arising out of Imitative Magic

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Athletics is regarded as the second most popular sport in the world, behind soccer. Sportsmen and viewers are drawn to the game by a variety of athletic activities. Athletic competition programs provide a variety of purposes that are summed up by the sport of athletics. Athletics is a sport where all movements take the form of throwing, jumping, strolling, or running. The competitions are separated into cross-country running, race walking, field events, and track events. The Olympic athletics programs have been instrumental in influencing regular sporting events. The first World Champion event in Athletics is the IAAF World Championships that hold a variety of activities of the World Championship levels within the competitions.

In the track events, several races are ranging from long run to short races. The 100M dash, commonly known as the sprint in most parts of the world, is undoubtedly a global track event and is played by people from diverse linguistic background, ethnic and cultural experience. Similarly, top stars sprinters of 100M such as Usain Bolt and Jesse Owens are admired and adored by followers and fans of athletics all over the world. The rituals linked with the excellence on the athletic track transcend to norms of the culture. My college friend, Michael Johnson, has been obsessed with 100M sprinting race since he watched Usain Bolt crossing the finish line and breaking his record in the television screen, leaving behind his fellows competitors as if they walk in the race. I still clearly remember the way Michael Johnson left me nonplussed where I was seated next to him watching 100m race London Olympics finals as he shouted ‘Here he comes! The big man! The big man!'

Figure 1: Usain Bolt in a past Olympic 100m race (Stu Forster - Getty Images)

Immediately, Bolt stormed a new Olympic record in the 100m at the London Olympics, Michael nicknamed himself ‘the big man' and started to imitate and emulate Usain Bolt. He dedicated his time to the sports of athletic especially sprinting in 100m (Hamel 30-40). Every time there was athletic competition in the college, Michael could refer to himself as the new Usain Bolt within the college, and indeed he could beat everyone in the 100m race. Many of our coursemates and other fellow students dismissed much of the habits and behaviors of a friend as peculiar. At first, I perceived his persistence morning practice as a waste of time and his obsession to be running around the field waving to the fans as Usain Bolt could do as after winning the race as showing off. After this unit, I have realized that I was wrong and I had mistaken my friend’s Rituals Arising out of Imitative Magic of Usain Bolt as madness and a waste of time.

My interview with my friend Michael Johnson has enabled me gain a deeper insight and comprehension of the idiosyncrasies and obsession of friend (Maas and Haley 23-40). An ethnographic research of my friends reveals that the unique habits and rituals of Michael Johnson linked with 100m race develop a perceived link through imitative magic with 100m star, Usain Bolt, and offer a source of confidence and calm in a sport my friend naturally experiences extreme apprehension as well as anxiety about his performance.

Background and Methods

The subject matter of this study is my friend, Michael Johnson concerning his every day and magic rituals of training every morning to be like the 100m superstar Usain Bolt (Hamel 30-40). We share the same college with my friend, and we are all Native American. We have been living together with Michael Johnson since the first day we joined the university, and I have had two years to observe the quirks and peculiarities of my friend. ‘The big man' as he calls himself usually rise very early in the morning to get to the athletic track for training every day whether there is competition or no competition. Athletic is a sport I did not have much interest about since I have been a great fan of soccer. In fact, I am a great fan of Manchester United (Moeran 40-50). Since I met Michael Johnson, he made me gain a lot of interest in athletics. Michael Johnson bought a television in a hostel room where he could watch athletics at any time. My friend is obsessed with athletics, and he can even skip lessons just to watch 100m race. Sometimes my friend wakes up late at night just to watch Usain Bolt breaking world records.

Michael Johnson always shouts at the top of his voice anytime Usain Bolt wins the 100m race. After studying this prompt, I developed a sudden epiphany that much of what my friend usually does in game preparation is for sure a ritual that can be given an anthropological explanation. To prove the theory of Ethnography and to understand my the behavior and conduct of my friend, I was forced to interview my friend to follow his idiosyncrasies and peculiarities behaviors I witnessed in training for 100m to be like Usain Bolt. After realizing that I develop a lot of interest towards his peculiar actions, he appeared puzzled with my interest (Rubinstein 65-70). I adopted funneling technique of interview to interview my friend, Michael Jackson. I prepared for the discussions to find out the peculiar habits and behaviors of my friend. I started the conversation with broad questions and narrowed the issues as the interview continued. In a cheerful mood of debate and discussion with my friend, he became open to me and revealed his rationale as well as reasons behind his rituals and habits towards 100m race (Hamel 30-40). My friend made to understand that since his childhood, he has been a fan of the 100m run and he has participated in the race from his primary level, to high school and finally to college level. Johnson was not willing to quit the 100m dash, and he was much interested in being a professional athlete. He made me understand that Usain Bolt becomes his role model as he broke the first 100m world record and from then he has been working so hard be like Usain Bolt one day. My friend has progressed in his athletic career and is the 100m record holder for the inter-varsity competition (Maas and Haley 23-40). In fact, Michael Johnson qualified this year to represent the nation in the junior IAAF World Championships, and he directly attributes all the success to habits and rituals.

Figure 2: Usain Bolt Completing 100m race ahead of everyone else (AP)

Findings and Analysis

My friend does various rituals that include not bathing before the race, and usually getting to track using his back before the race (Moeran 40-50). He believes that by getting by his back, he has automatically won the 100m race. In fact, Michael revealed to me that there was a race he became second merely because he did not get into the track by his back. Rituals can be defined as "supernatural or repetitive sets of behavior that occur in essentially the same patterns every time they occur." The ritual of my friend is essentially repeated before any 100m race, whether it is a training or competition. The ritual originates from imitating the magic of the superstar athlete Usain Bolt. After winning any race, my friend imitates all that Usain Bolts do by going around greeting the fans (Rubinstein 65-70). Magic can be defined as "performance of certain rituals that are believed to compel the supernatural powers to act in particular ways." Imitative magic is where one imitates an individual he or she believes that is a hero in doing a particular thing and therefore by imitating the individual, one becomes like the superstar (Maas and Haley 23-40). For example, my friend believes that by imitating Usain Bolt, one he will be like him or even better. Michael thinks that rituals and imitative magic will one day compel and propel the supernatural talent in him and transform into a superstar athlete just like Usain Bolt. According to my friend, Usain Bolt is best 100m race athlete in the whole world. In fact, Usain Bolt is the role model to my friend, Michael Johnson. My friend has the similar stature as Bolt, and that is another aspect that drives him to behave like Bolt especially when he on the athletic track. The passion Usain Bolt has when he is on track is another thing my friend admires most and imitates when competing with his equals (Moeran 40-50). Johnson will always finish his race in style just the same way Bolt would do.

Figure 3: Usain Bolt in the Gym (Instagram@UsainBolt)


The efforts of my friend, Michael Johnson resembles that of the 100m race record holder, the one, and only one Usain Bolt. Michael is always driven by the urge to break his set record. The desire to set own history has ensured that he improves his time record in every game. When I discussed with Michael Johnson, he assured me that he would never rest until he breaks the record of Usain Bolt. It may appear to be impossible, but the most important thing is that Michael has a dream that drives his talent to achieve more significant records in future. The path he has chosen is a series of rituals to engage in imitative magic to have access to the records of Usain Bolt. The urge to be like Bolt has helped my friend to progress in his athletic career and is currently the 100m record holder for the inter-varsity competition. Immediately, Bolt stormed a new Olympic record in the 100m at the London Olympics, Johnson nicknamed himself ‘the big man’ and started to imitate and emulate Usain Bolt. He dedicated his time to the sports of athletic especially sprinting in 100m. In fact, his commitment has enabled him to qualify for the junior IAAF World Championships, and he still dreams of participating even in the Olympics athletes and breaking the records set by his role model Bolt.

Works Cited

Hamel, Gary. What matters now: How to win in a world of relentless change, ferocious competition, and unstoppable innovation. John Wiley & Sons, 2012.

Maas, James B., and Haley A. Davis. Sleep to win!: Secrets to unlocking your athletic excellence in every sport. AuthorHouse, 2013.

Moeran, Brian. The magic of Fashion: Ritual, Commodity, Glamour. Vol. 3. Left Coast Press, 2015.

Rubinstein, Ricardo A. Sports on the Couch. Karnac Books, 2017.

April 13, 2023


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