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Still, the factors that all agree upon are history, tradition and hunger. In 1910 the establishment of the boys' high school championship in Kingston began a century of track obsession in Jamaica. Wint and McKenley finished one-two in the '48 Olympic 400 in London and proved that the easiest sport for a poor kid to embrace could actually pay off in education, riches and fame.
Cuthbert has another reason to believe Fraser is clean: the fear of violence. Jamaica, with its gun culture, machetes in many houses, the harsh treatment commonly meted out to homosexuals and others who fly in the face of society, has one of the highest murder rates in the Western Hemisphere. Sprinting is so important, some officials suggest, that Bolt would be killed if he tested positive.
Hearing that, Cuthbert doesn't even blink. "Jamaicans will chop guys," she says. "They love their sportsmen when they are doing well, and if not? If someone like Bolt should come up [positive]? He probably would have to move."
WE ARRIVE in Falmouth, capital of the parish of Trelawny, three hours later, legs jellied by the snaking pass that pretends to be a road. We're still decompressing when Leon (Jacko) Jackson shows up with papers in hand. Jacko, a former junior coach and a friend of the Bolt family, presents them without explanation. But the papers are a clear message for Carl Lewis: a photocopy of a 2003 article detailing Bolt's year-by-year schoolboy dominance—evidence that his greatness is nothing new.
Frater and the disgraced Mullings grew up in Trelawny. But on our way up to Bolt's town, Sherwood Content, nine miles away, Jacko confirms that, yes, before Usain the best sprinter to come out of the parish was Ben Johnson, busted for steroids after winning the Olympic 100 in 1988. Johnson's family immigrated to Canada when he was 15 and always came back to visit. But it took a few years for Ben to come back after Seoul.
"People had mixed feelings," Jacko says. "Some believe he was tricked, because Ben believed in his coach, Charlie Francis. But Ben wasn't tricked. It was offered to him, and he took it. He looked like Hulk, his eyes were red and yellow."
Jacko directs us through Sherwood Content's leafy downtown, where pavers hustle to finish the street in time for Bolt's return. Mist rises out of the surrounding hills. We creep along for a few minutes, then stop at a country shop with no sign but a dozen AIDS posters stapled to the outside walls. NUH TEK NUH CHANCE, instructs one. USE A CONDOM EVERY TIME!
Wellesley Bolt, proprietor, visibly sags when he hears who we are. "I don't see why I should interview with the Americans!" he cries, but then he sits and doesn't bristle at being asked questions. Carl Lewis, he says, is jealous and wrongheaded. He doesn't understand raw talent. Before Usain strained at the tape to set the world record in the 200, Wellesley hadn't ever seen his son dip. His son had never needed to. "And you haven't seen the best of Bolt yet," Wellesley says.
A woman walks in. Wellesley rushes behind the counter. He sells garlic and potatoes, spices, chips, assorted meats and things you don't want to see: cow foot; pig hocks, neck and back; fish head. Another woman steps through the door: He weighs out yams, bags them up.
His son got 10 scholarship offers to run in the States, Wellesley says when he returns. Usain turned them down: Too many Jamaican runners burn out over there, running every weekend. Usain went to UTech briefly, then decided to concentrate on running full time. His dad is worried more about sabotage.