He's stopped partying, he's training hard, and now my boy Usain is ready to run 9.40
The phone rang and the voice said: 'Hello.' 'Who's that' I asked. 'It's Usain.' It was a nice call to take on any blue-sky Sunday in Jamaica, but especially helpful when you are trying to piece together a picture of the man.
I had been put in touch with Usain – more formally The Honourable Usain St Leo Bolt OJ, CD – by one of his father figures, Clive Campbell, known to most people as 'Busy'.
On track: Jonathan McEvoy, Olympics Correspondent, tracks down the fastest man on the planet
A businessman and fund-raiser, Campbell had got to know Bolt around the time the young sprinter was first making trips from his little home parish of Trelawny to train and compete in Kingston.
On that four-hour drive his long legs were cramped, his body squeezed and his arms crossed in sweaty, sardine-can discomfort. So 'Busy' arranged instead for Bolt to fly on the 19-seater Air Jamaica Express from nearby Montego Bay.
Up in lights: Bolt poses after breaking the world record by running the 100 metres in 9.58 seconds at the 2009 World Championships
Bolt, now 25, has since moved to the capital. Black-and-white gates guard his house at Norbrook Terrace, nestled at the end of a little street in a wealthy suburb on a hilly edge of Kingston. But back to that conversation with Usain.
On the move: Jonathan McEvoy speaks to Bolt
'I believe you want to speak to me,' he said. 'Oh, yes,' I said, from Trelawny where we were visiting his mum and dad, his old school and past friends to build up a complete picture.
'No problem,' he said. 'Let me know when you're back from the country, ring Busy and come round.'
We travelled back and waited by the pool at our downtown hotel, the Wyndham. When would Busy call with the invitation
The hours ticked by. This being Jamaica, time-keeping is low priority, but, by midnight, we admitted that the chances of a call were receding. Busy came through with an update.
'I have rung his house and his brother says the boy has gone out for the night. He doesn't know where, but he's left his phone at home.'
I can take a hint when I hear one. It seems that Bolt's management had intervened. Simply, there is an industry around Bolt and he does as he is told.
For all the cavorting, smiling, bow-and-arrow-firing, jigging, prancing showman we see, a picture emerges of a man beholden to his retinue, and protected by them.
There is his coach of seven years, Glen Mills, an avuncular figure with a natural wisdom and authority, and a voice like Michael Holding's, only richer. I suspect he is the ultimate arbiter of what Bolt does and does not do.
Salute: Usain Bolt wins 2008 200m gold in Beijing, and (below) father
Gideon copies his lightning bolt pose
Living at Bolt's house is his half-brother Sadiki Runako Bolt. Also there is his best friend from school, Nugent Walker Junior, known as NJ, who might be described as his Man Friday. The next morning, for example, NJ drove Bolt to the gym in a big black Range Rover, one of six flash cars parked on the drive.
Also big in shaping Bolt's life are his manager Norman Peart and a part-time publicist called Carole Beckford. Back in London looking after his affairs is Ricky Simms. All are ultra-guarded about their man.
I did finally manage to speak to Bolt briefly the next morning before and after his weight session at the downtown Spartan Health Club.
Home sweet home: The Bolts still live in the Coxheath house where Usain was born
He said nothing more revealing than that training was going well, and indeed, the word on the street is that Bolt is now being a good boy.
'He was out dancing and enjoying himself last year,' one observer told me. 'If he is out, he is seen. Everyone gets to hear when he's partying. Now he's not doing that. No way.'
During my stay on the island, a Bob Marley memorial concert took place – the Marley sons starred – but Bolt was nowhere to be seen.
Learning curve: Bolt won a sports
scholarship to William Knibb High School
Back in Trelawny we visited his father Wellesley, known as Gideon. His son is the most important sprinter since Jesse Owens but, with an estimated fortune of 20million, far richer. Yet Gideon, as we joined him, was serving cuts of chicken and pork out of a window little bigger than a chessboard in his grocer's shop.Gideon is tall and talkative. You can see the gene pool at work.
He was warned we were on the way to see him and instructed by Bolt's management not to speak to us. He declined a full interview but agreed to chat.
'I've not seen him like this before,' said Gideon, a schoolboy 200m and 400m sprinter. 'He's in more serious training than I've ever seen. He was last over here in December. He's just training. He's so focused.
On track: He ran his first race on a field
in front of the Waldensia Primary School
'Some of his rivals, Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay, have got to train too hard to keep up with him. But Usain is training with Yohan Blake (world 100m champion) and he is pushing him on. He'll be looking to run 9.4 seconds or something like that in London.'
Steady on! Bolt's 100m world record is 9.58sec. He is on record as saying that he believes 9.4sec is as fast as the human body can run.
Just a short sprint up the road – on a raked terrain perfect for developing leg muscles – lies the Bolt house in Coxheath.
He'll be looking to run 9.4 seconds or something like that in London
As a boy Usain would play cricket there, the stumps cut from a banana tree. His mother, a lovely lady called Jennifer, or Jen-Jen to friends, met us. She was in a tracksuit of grey and pink made by Bolt's sponsors Puma. She said she felt too underdressed to be photographed. She was reluctant to break the management-imposed omerta but did tell us: 'A lot of fan mail comes here from around the world. I pass it on to Usain. He signs it and I send it back.'
The house is the very one into which Bolt was born. It is painted in Jamaican colours – green, yellow and black – rather than pink, lime and white. The garden is more landscaped than in old pictures.
'We have made some improvements but we have not moved,' said Gideon. 'I don't want to. I like life here.'
Just down the road lies Aunty Lilly's house. A lad who said his brother was at school with Bolt walks by. We see Piedmont Basic – a scout hut to us but a school refurbished, according to the sign, 'via liaison with Usain Bolt, past student' – and Waldensia Primary, with its wooden desks and chairs.
In front of it, a ploughed field-cum-recreation ground marks the plot where the fastest man in history first raced. A five-mile taxi ride away is William Knibb High School.
Bolt won a sports scholarship there but often bunked training to play computer games with friends Pete and Nimrod. Father did not approve.
Now the role of disciplinarian falls to Mills, a man whose big build lends him gravitas. I joined him at the University of the West Indies' Sir Frank Worrell Cricket Ground. It was 6.30am and Bolt was again absent that day.
'He doesn't train in the morning,' said Mills. A few days later, coincidentally or not, Bolt left Jamaica to see his doctor in Munich, Hans Muller-Wohlfart, despite his camp saying only hours earlier he was going to run in the Camperdown Classic in Kingston.
Injured No, insisted Mills. Bolt's protectors were angry at a story we carried reporting his 'unexpected' trip to Germany and saying it had 'interrupted' his Olympic preparations.
Then Bolt pulled out of another Jamaican meet last weekend. A statement from his people read: 'Due to Usain's unscheduled trip (to Germany), which resulted in training disruption, coach Glen Mills has decided that Usain will not take part in the Gibson Relays.'
Mills granted a rare interview while I was over in Kingston, partly to shield Bolt from being quoted directly. Baptised into the Pentecostal church, the coach told me that he occasionally takes Bolt to services and how he would 'love' him to submit to the same religious immersion.
He explained the phenomenon of Jamaican sprinting – how the islanders' natural physique and passion for track and field helped – pointing to the roster of Jamaican Olympic champions from the last century: Arthur Wint, Herb McKenley, Don Quarrie and Merlene Ottey.
Never, though, has Jamaica been so blessed as now with stars such as Veronica Campbell-Brown, Shelly-Ann Pryce, Powell and, of course, Bolt, who trains with the exceptional 22-year-old Blake.
Mills attributes their astonishing success to the fact that Jamaicans now stay in the country rather than take up scholarships at American colleges, where immediate results are put ahead of long-term development.
Mills' own Racers Track Club and the work of another leading coach, Stephen Francis, are part of the blueprint. But what of the comments made by Carl Lewis, the great American sprinter, about the possibility of Jamaican drug abuse
'If you don't ask the question you are a fool,' said Lewis. Mills snorted. 'Maybe track and field has contributed to that scepticism because of a number of outstanding athletes who have tested positive,' he said.
'It casts doubt on anybody who runs fast. But it is not the only thing that makes people run fast. Hard work and ability get the job done. If you say that Jamaicans are on drugs because they run fast, it is a witch-hunt.'
Remember, though, Pryce's six-month suspension for taking a banned substance for toothache. And Blake's three-month ban for taking a drug similar to one on the prohibited list.
'The point,' said Mills, 'is that you have to draw a distinct line between a person who inadvertently finds something in their system, a stimulant or whatever, that is widespread in over-the-counter supplements or cough medicines – as opposed to someone who is on a deliberate drugs programme. I have no tolerance for that.'
But he does indulge the nonchalance that comes with Bolt's genius, neither acting as his chaperone on nights out nor demanding that he drops those dazzling mid-race celebrations.
'If he has time to celebrate like that during the Olympic final he will have run an exceptional race,' reasoned Mills.
'I believe he drinks but lives within the context of being an athlete.'
It sounded like the protective arm that shields Usain Bolt, the part-time extrovert, from the world.