The much-anticipated match-up between Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake is fast approaching. Bolt is a household name and the face of track and field. But Blake, who could potentially overtake him, is relatively unknown. He’s kind of a mystery. While Bolt is known as a party animal, Blake elicits adjectives like “brooding.”
Who is this newcomer? What’s his story? Well, here are the top 10 facts you need to know about Yohan Blake.
Yohan Blake is the youngest 100-meter world champion ever.
At the 2011 World Championships, Blake won the 100-meter to become the youngest 100-meter world champion ever at the age of 21. Previously, the youngest 100-meter world champion was Carl Lewis, who held that title at the age of 22.
Blake’s nickname is “The Beast.”
First of all, awesome nickname. Really fantastic. The world of nicknaming hasn’t been doing too well in recent years, mostly subjugated to some variation on the first letter of the first name and the first few letters of the last name. “The Beast” is quality stuff.
He’s so nicknamed for his intense workout style and regimen. He’s obsessed with hard work. He keeps working and working and then he works harder. As Blake put it, “When you’re sleeping, I’m working, I’m toiling through the night. It’s what great men do.”
He has the nickname inked onto his shoes.
Usain Bolt gave him his nickname.
Bolt and Blake are training partners. When Blake joined Bolt’s training group Bolt became impressed with Blake’s talent, but even more so with how relentless his work ethic is.
They’ve stopped training together in recent days because of how seriously they take their rivalry, but they will return to being friends after the match.
He grew up poor.
As he says, “I wasn’t born with a golden spoon in my mouth. It was a really tough life. So many times, we had no money to even get to school.”
Blake sold empty beer bottles to afford to get to school and carried water on his head for distances because none was available at home.
His favorite sport is cricket.
He spends his spare time watching his favorite sport, cricket. Cricket was his first love. When he was 12 years old he used to skip school to play cricket in his yard.
In fact, it was his playing cricket that first got him discovered for his running skills. The principal at his school thought he had the makings of a sprinter and sent him off to a new school where his skills could be developed.
Blake’s rivalry with Bolt extends to cricket too and they compete against each other when they get the chance.
He intends to become a professional cricketer.
“As a boy, I’d rather have played for the West Indies than go to the Olympics. It was my dream,” Blake says.
Even though Blake is now at the Olympics instead of the West Indies, he hasn’t given up on that dream. He intends to pursue a professional cricket career after his track career is over.
He spent three years living with his coach.
As a high schooler, Yohan Blake was coached, trained, and mentored by Danny Hawthorne. He lived with Mr. Hawthorne for three years, from 2005 to 2008. Hawthorne was who Blake was sent to train with by the principal who discovered him.
Blake’s relationship with Hawthorne ended abruptly when Blake left his home without any notice to join Usain Bolt’s training group, the Racers Track Club in Kingston. Hawthorne only found out from a phone call from Blake’s parents well after he had already left.
Hawthorne had been thinking about leaving his job with the school and joining Blake on the international circuit, but when Blake saw Bolt race at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, he knew what he wanted and what he needed to do.
His first nickname was Claude.
He was the sixth of seven children in his family. Growing up, his family always referred to him as Claude. Frankly, “The Beast” is a vast improvement.
He missed the 2009 World Championships after failing a drug test.
Yohan Blake missed the 2009 World Championships in Berlin after receiving a three-month suspension for testing positive for a stimulant called methylxanthine. At the time methylxanthine was not actually prohibited, but Blake was still served a suspension. It has since been put on the prohibited substances list.
Blake claims he unknowingly ingested the substance in an energy supplement. In his defense, methylxanthine used to be a common ingredient in nutritional supplements and nasal sprays while being listed under a different name.
He skipped training when Michael Jackson died.
As previously stated, Yohan Blake is known for how seriously and intensely he takes his training. He doesn’t take much time off. But one of the few times he did was when Michael Jackson died.
Blake says he took a week off after Michael Jackson’s death; a week he spent crying.