Usain Bolt talks about his favourite teacher

Usain Bolt says he is indebted to his PE teacher

He may be the fastest man on earth, but there is one person Usain Bolt says he will never leave behind.

She is PE teacher Lorna Thorpe who set him on track to his Olympic gold medals and a world-beating 100m record time of 9.58 seconds

Bolt's 'second mother' Lorna Thorpe Lorna Thorpe says Usain Bolt was always full of energy at school

Bolt calls her "his second mother" and says: "She looked out for me fully. She made sure I was always in class. She made sure I always remained focused."

Bolt's journey to the Olympic heights began at William Knibb High School in Falmouth, Jamaica, in 1987.

Miss Thorpe taught Bolt at the time he decided to give up cricket and football in favour of athletics.

She recalls: "From day one, he always ran at the head of the pack and you could see he was enjoying it. When you saw his strides, you realised he was somebody special."

And she is still inspiring a generation of young people today.

Lessons may be over, but for the school's athletes the hard work is just beginning.

At 4pm every day, they head out onto the playing field to begin a rigorous schedule of stretches and sprints. All under the watchful eye of Miss Thorpe.

Miss Thorpe has her work cut out. She is preparing these youngsters to take part in what could be the biggest event of their lives: Boys and Girls Champs.

William Knibb athletes training The William Knibb school has been twinned with a school in London

Every year up to 30,000 spectators pack into Kingston's national stadium to watch high school students compete. Up to 100 schools take part and competition is tough.

On the final day you can cut the atmosphere with a knife. Failing for these children is not an option. For them, it is the winning rather than the taking part that counts.

Some say it is this rigorous training and "can do" mental attitude which contributes to making Jamaicans some of the best sprinters in the world.

And it was here, in this stadium that Usain Bolt got his lucky break when he was spotted by talent scouts.

Fittingly, just in time for the 100m final, Bolt makes an impromptu appearance to cheer on the young athletes.

When he enters the stadium, the already electric atmosphere turns to fever pitch and the crowd goes wild. It's obvious to see (and hear!) the positive impact Bolt has on these children's lives.

He says: "The kids work so hard to be the best at Champs. It means so much to them. When I was growing up, winning a gold medal at Champs was like winning a World Championship gold medal.

"There's a lot of talent coming up. But I keep telling these kids, you're not going to catch me!"

Despite being a world phenomenon, Bolt does not forget where it all began for him, back at school in Miss Thorpe's PE lessons. But what was the man really like at school?

Usain Bolt at Champs Usain Bolt turned up to watch the Champs

"Usain was just Usain. He could not keep still. Energetic. He was always on the move. He was a joker outside the track, but on the track it was down to business.

"We are very proud that he came here, that we were able to work with him and encourage him to accomplish his goals."

Earlier this year, Miss Thorpe paid a visit to Tower Hamlets School in London which has been partnered with the William Knibb School through BBC school-twinning programme World Class.

The schools are already sharing stories and swapping ideas in the run-up to London 2012.

To find out how you can get a twin for your school and follow the progress of Olympic athletes like Usain Bolt go to bbc.co.uk/worldclass

More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

Commonwealth Class Stories

Get involved

  • Image copyright Chris GraysonSign up

    Join Commonwealth Class and contribute to our monthly debates


  • Commonwealth Class - Assembly packsEducation pack

    Download your Commonwealth Class education pack


  • cclsComing up

    For more information about upcoming debates


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.