Meet Yohan Blake, the Beast who is driving Usain Bolt nuts

Yohan Blake earned his nickname for a brutal training regime – and his efforts are now paying off

As a youngster growing up in Bogue Hill, near Montego Bay, Yohan Blake used to skip school to bowl at a stick in the back yard. "Cricket is my first love," he admits. "As a boy I'd rather have played for the West Indies than go to the Olympics. That was my dream."

Instead of becoming the next Michael Holding, at the age of 22 the boy from Bogue Hill has become the man who has knocked Usain Bolt for six – not once, but twice – on the eve of the London Olympics. In the 100 metres final at the Jamaican trials at the weekend, Bolt got caught napping in his starting blocks and couldn't catch his training partner, Blake winning by 0.11sec in 9.75sec. In the 200m final in the early hours British time yesterday, Bolt was ahead going into the home straight but Blake (right) powered past him to win by 0.03sec in 19.80sec.

"It's back to the drawing board," Bolt said. "I feel a little bit weak but I have three weeks and hopefully it will be enough to get me into shape. I am the Olympic champion and I have to show the world that I am the best."

For the time being, Blake can claim to be the best sprinter not just in Jamaica but in the world. He has struck down the Lightning Bolt twice in 48 hours. He has shown that his victory in the World Championship 100m final in Daegu last year, when Bolt was disqualified for a false start, was far from hollow. He has demonstrated that his 19.26sec clocking for 200m in Brussels at the end of last summer was no fluke indication of his potential over the longer distance.

All of which sets the scene for a mouth-watering double head-to-head at the London Olympics. Think Ovett v Coe, but with a Jamaican high-speed twist.

Nobody is writing off Bolt, least of all Blake. "I know what Usain has to offer," he said yesterday. "I know he was not 100 per cent here." Glen Mills, the veteran sprint guru who coaches both men, warned: "Usain may be a little off at the moment but by the Olympics he'll be on top of his game."

Bolt was just about at the top of his game at the last Olympics, in Beijing four years ago, blitzing to gold in the 100m in 9.69sec and 200m in 19.30sec (world-record times he lowered to 9.58sec and 19.19sec at the World Championships in Berlin the following year). Late in 2008, he was asked on Television Jamaica's Morning Time show if there were "any athletes out there who he saw as a potential threat". Without hesitation, Bolt replied: "Watch out for Yohan Blake. He works like a beast. He's there with me step for step in training."

Blake was 18 at the time and did not even make the Jamaican team for Beijing. He had finished fourth in the 100m at the World Junior Championships in 2006, 0.05sec behind the winner, Harry Aikines- Aryeetey of Great Britain.

It was in the summer of 2008 that Blake moved to Kingston to join Bolt's sprint stable, the Racers Track Club. It was not long before his work ethic prompted the easy-going Bolt to call him "the Beast". The nickname has stuck.

"Why do they call me the Beast?" Blake says. "Because even when we have breaks I still train. On Christmas break, coach Mills has to call and say, 'You are on a break. You need to take some rest.'

"That is how I work. When you guys are sleeping at night, I am out there working. That's why they call me the Beast. I work twice as hard as everybody else."

The remarkable thing is that Blake and Bolt work together side by side every day on the track at the University of West Indies.

When Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe were at their peak as the British kings of middle-distance running, they would go to such lengths to avoid one another in races that one broadsheet national newspaper ran an editorial lamenting: "It is as if they are playing a game of postal chess."

Blake has overcome one blip in his career. In 2009, he was one of five Jamaican sprinters who tested positive for a stimulant contained in an energy drink. He served a three-month suspension.

A quietly spoken soul, Blake says that when he is not beasting away on the track and in the gym, he prefers to stay at home playing dominoes rather than going out partying like Bolt.

It might all have been different for him had his school principal at Bogue Hill not seen him bowling on the cricket field. O'Neil Ankle was astonished by the speed of Blake's run-up. He persuaded him to try sprinting instead.

Not that Blake has forsaken his first sporting love. During the track-and-field off season, the Beast can be found performing as a demon bowler on Sundays for Kingston Cricket Club. In one match earlier this year, he took four wickets for 10 runs. It is the sporting personal best in which he takes the greatest pride.

 

Get Adobe Flash player

 



Days to go to the Olympics

24: Number of gymnasts who scored a perfect 10 at the 1924 Paris Olympic Games.

Suggested Topics
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballStriker in talks over £17m move from Manchester United
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
boksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor