Although there has been no scientific evidence put forward, the most used suggestion is the yam that the athletes feed on, particularly athletes like Usain Bolt and Veronica Campbell Brown who hail from one of the leading parishes that produce the tuber — Trelawny in the north west.
Bolt himself has joked about the idea on countless occasions and there is some amount of acceptance, albeit reluctance by naysayers, that the yam is indeed the tonic of speed, if not endurance.
“It is the coconut water, I tell you — the one with the rum in it,” said Jorge Vasquez, a waiter at the Copacabana Hotel in the Havana suburb of Miramar.
“It must be the coconut water, but not only the coconut water. They put the rum in it and it makes them run, run, run,” Vasquez maintained.
Like the typical Cuban, Vasquez admitted a love for Jamaicans on a whole, and the island’s athletes in particular. Being so near to Jamaica, too, meant something extra special for him and his Cuban comrades, he said.
“We are all one people, we are Caribbean people, we don’t speak the same language, but we are the same.
“We love when Jamaicans run well. Usain Bolt is our hero and you have Asafa Powell, Yohan Blake and Shell (Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce).
The hotel worker said he plays only a “little” baseball, Cuba’s national sport, but has a long history of following sports in this north Caribbean island, pointing to his countryman Javier Sotomayor as inspiration and whom he described as the greatest high jumper of all time.
Sotomayor, Vasques said, is his very good friend and predicts that the world record mark of 2.45 metres, set by the great Cuban, will not be broken.
“It will stay for a long, long time, just like how Usain Bolt’s records will not be broken for a long time, may never be broken,” he said.
Vasquez is merely one of the voices in Cuban that shout Jamaica’s name when the athletes do well.
“We love your athletes and we all cheer them along when they run,” said one of Cuba’s leading biochemists Dr Manuel Raices Perez-Castanedo, business development executive of the Centre of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Havana.
“I myself love Usain Bolt. We jump and celebrate the success of Jamaica’s athletes when they do well on the world scene. My family and I are fascinated by the performance of Jamaica’s athletes, but you should see my neighbour jump and shout when Bolt and the other athletes win their races,” Dr Perez-Castanedo said.
The practice of asking one who looks like a foreigner, who often struggles with the right Spanish pronunciations, where he is from is regular here. But when the country’s identity is disclosed as that of Jamaica, the name Usain Bolt naturally follows as a response.
“Bolt is very popular here in Cuba,” Dr Perez-Castanedo said. “We in Cuba have watched him perform in ways that no other sprinter has done and that is something special. We will be cheering him on at the World Championship,” Dr Perez-Castanedo said of the global athletic event, which begins in China’s capital of Beijing next weekend.
Is Usain’s success all in the yam, or the rum?