Australian sprinter Jarrod Geddes was offered with every athlete's dream - the opportunity to train with Usain Bolt and his Racers Track Club team mates in Jamaica last year. SPIKES chats to the young sprint talent about his unique experience.
Firstly, how did the opportunity to train with Bolt come about?
"Back in January 2013 my manager, Hayden Knowles, sorted out a trip for about 12 of us to train in Jamaica. We stayed at GC Foster College and trained under Maurice Wilson and this was my first life changing experience of Jamaica.
"This year it went to another level, late in 2013 I met Usain’s father Wesley who was in Sydney with Mrs Bolt when he met up with Hayden and Bolt’s (business) manager Norman Peart, whom Hayden knows very well.
"My manager has a partnership with Usain’s business manager Norman Peart. Norman co-manages some of Hayden’s athletes and I am privileged to be one of them; I was given the chance to train with him and the club for three weeks."
What were your initial thoughts on training with Bolt?
"I was incredibly taken aback by it. My first thought was: is this true? Is this real? Hayden said, ‘yes, it is going to happen.’ I had a few weeks to prepare and the nerves started to build.
"It was a bit intimidating going over there with a 10.37 100m PB."
How was that first session?
"It was fantastic. Norman Peart drove us to the track and introduced me to Mr (Glen) Mills (Racers Track Club head coach). I felt like a little fish in a big pond. I was the only white guy, and I thought people must be thinking: ‘what is he doing here?’. When I got the chance to run around the track it started to sink in. I’m sure my jaw hit the floor a few times!"
Was what it like meeting Usain Bolt?
"I met him at either that first training session or one of the other training sessions. He was helpful and open with everything. He had this belief in everyone. On one of the repetitions I ran, I entered the home straight he yelled out: ‘keep your shoulders down and stay relaxed.’ That was a boyhood dream.
"I had met him before back at the London Diamond League meeting [last July] when we both competed in the relay. I definitely didn’t approach him but he came up to me and spoke about how much he loved Australia and holidaying there.
"That sparked the conversation: 'do you remember the last time you were in Australia? My manager helped set that up.' He remembered the baby kangaroo and the koala bear that met him on arrival to the charity ball."
Can you remember what he specifically liked about Oz?
"The women, apparently [laughing]. He loves coming to Australia. It's Australia, what's not to love?"
Conversation starter: Usain Bolt shares the spotlight with a tiny kangaroo in Australia.
What was the biggest difference you noticed about the way that The Racers trained compared to you?
"Obviously, the load is a lot higher than what I'm used to, but what I really noticed was the intensity they brought to training. That is what sets them apart and allows them to reach that next level.
"They are bitter rivals when they step on the track, but you don’t feel that when they are training. If someone has missed something technically they'll say something, so it is not like they are trying to take advantage of each other.
"They are trying to help each other. Mr Mills is the father figure of the group. He looks after everyone."
Was it hard to win their respect?
"It took a couple of sessions. It was probably the first Thursday when we did a blow out 250m followed by a rest and then 3 x 180m. I pushed myself to near exhaustion. That is when they realised that I wasn't just there for the experience of training next to Bolt. I was there to work hard."
Tell us something new about Bolt...
"He's incredibly focused when it comes to the training. When he’s at the track he means business."
"Most people see him winning the 100m and 200m by three or four metres and then posing to the crowd. Yet that only comes about because of hours and hours of training. He pushes himself to the limit."
"I saw him on the ground during quite a few sessions hollering in pain, not wanting to do another rep. But each time he got up and completed the rep. The pain he put himself through every day made me aware that that is the level I need to be at every day."
What is the biggest thing you learned from the experience?
"It is all about hard work and dedication. You see them (the Jamaicans) out there training every day. It is about far more than just the 100m final.
"As his nickname suggests – he is a beast in training. He would be first to the training track and last to leave the training track. He was the first into the gym and the last guy to leave the gym. He puts the hours in to make himself the best he can be.
"One day I remember in the gym, two or three guys around him are hurting and he says: ‘come one, get up’ while he shows no sign of pain. He has that hunger and drive to push himself more and more."
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What most impressed you about Yohan?
"His back squat was really impressive. He had this ability to switch on and switch off. During warm up he is focused but casual. Then once the training starts he goes up to a whole new level."
Did you discuss cricket?
"Yes, we discussed how well the Australians were going against the Poms [England]. One day, I went to Chris Gayle’s Sports Bar and I found myself with Chris Gayle [West Indies cricket legend]. It was pretty good discussing the Australian cricket series against England."
Is there ANY element of training you are better at than Bolt?
"Not really. My relative power is pretty impressive and it is matter of now applying it with the correct technique. That is my strength as an athlete."
Have you been given the opportunity to train again with the Racers Track Club?
"I have the opportunity to go into camp with the guys in Europe should I make the Commonwealth Games team. To see them pre-comp will be very interesting."
Thanks Jarrod, and good luck!
Since this interview, the 20-year-old has ran a 200m personal best 20.59, making him first Aussie male sprinter to get a Commonwealth Games B standard qualification mark.