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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Beijing 2008: Men's 200m

USAIN BOLT: 19.30 s World Record!

Usain Bolt is the fastest man in the world. Ever. No question. The debate around whether the 100m or 200m record holder is the fastest man on the planet is now irrelevant, because they're the same person! The only question now is which performance is more spectacular? And over the next day or two (the race has just finished, 10 minutes ago, so this is hot off the press, so to speak), we'll get hold of some data and look at that very question, so check in later. For now, a brief description of the incredible performance...

Bolt lights up Beijing - a rare record double

Usain Bolt shocked the world on Saturday, when he ripped a 9.69 second time to claim the 100 m Olympic title. It was not so much the win (he was the world record holder, after all) as the manner of the victory that was spectacular, because he did it celebrating over the line, costing himself perhaps 0.05 seconds (maybe more, maybe less, I'd guess a 9.64 s was probable).

Tonight, there were no premature celebrations, just the fastest 200m race in history. He got off to a good start, and ran an impressive bend, building a lead of around 3m by the time he entered the straight.

And then he got into his running! He opened that lead up, leaving behind the American challenge and Churandy Martina of the Netherlands Antilles as he pushed on to finish in an incredible 19.30 seconds! Second went to Martina (after his 4th in the 100m race), 0.5 seconds back, while Wallace Spearmon finished third, but was then disqualified for running out of his lane, and so the bronze went to defending champion, Shawn Crawford of the USA. There was then late drama as Martina was also disqualified (following an appeal by the USA) for running out of his lane, which meant that Crawford got silver (having finished 4th) and Walter Dix got bronze. Sad for Martina, because 4th in the 100m must have been tough to take, but this result will be devastating (Thanks to a reader for pointing this out after we'd done the initial post)

But make no mistake, this was all about Bolt. Ever the entertainer, he left the celebrations for after the race today, clearly focused and working hard to crack that world record. He even dipped at the line, which probably gave him the record outright! In so doing, he becomes the first man to hold BOTH 100m and 200m world records since electronic timing began! (Don Quarrie, another Jamaican, was the last person to do this, but did it when timing was a mix of hand and electronic)

Basic race analysis, with more to follow

It's so early that we don't have much in the way of analysis yet - if anyone knows the 10m split times, please let us know, I'll get onto it immediately. But I can tell you that Bolt took 42 steps in the first 100m, and 38 in the second 100m. That compares to his 41 steps to win the 100m title on Saturday. So his bend, where the step length is often shorter thanks to the turn, was actually not compromised much - the split times will reveal an interesting story about this first half. If I had to guess, I would say that he did a faster first half than Michael Johnson in 1996.

Comparison with Johnson?

You may recall that when Johnson broke the record, he did the first 100m in 10.12, and the second 100m in 9.2 seconds. I would suspect that Bolt's first 100m will be under 10 seconds, given the similarity in stride length compared to Saturday's 100 final. His second 100m will obviously also be under 10 seconds, but not 9.2 seconds like Johnson. Again, this is a guess, but I'd say it's likely that Bolt did around 9.90 and then 9.40 seconds. All we need now is the split times to either prove or disprove that!

A headwind - is there room for improvement?

Perhaps most remarkable of all, he did it into a slight headwind - 0.9m/s! That means, I dare say it, that we can look forward to another Bolt WR in the future, as he likely has a tiny amount more in the bank!

For now, Bolt is the man of the Games, along with Michael Phelps. He has electrified (pardon the pun) the world of track and field, and is suddenly the biggest name in the sport. His agent's phone, still ringing from the 100 m race, will now be ringing off the hook in the weeks to come as everyone will want a piece of Bolt.

It's amazing to consider how meteoric his rise has been. Who would have believed, just four months ago, that by August, we'd be referring to a dual world record holder over 100m and 200m? Michael Johnson's 200m world record was regarded as "indestructible", and few would have picked Bolt to break the 100m record.

Yet he's done both, with panache and style, and Jamaica are the kings of the track (they won the only other gold on offer tonight - the women's 400m Hurdles).



Anonymous said...

At this point, it would be devastating to Track and Field if he were caught doing the D word. Didn't he somewhat come out of nowhere?

david said...

What an athlete! He has it all, temperament, exceptional speed and muscle endurance.. I think Bolt's 200m time is the better performance for the following reasons
1. My rule of thumb for a 200m elite athlete is their 100m time doubled. So if you take his 100m time that projects to a 19.38s.
2. As you mention he ran into a negative wind 0.9m/s, from my experience a -1m/s wind will result in a 200m time of about 2 tenths of a second more per 200m.

Therefore his 200m time was by a short head the best. I predict he will run 19.10 with no wind and 9.55s for the 100m.


david said...

Here we go..Silver medalist Blonska's A sample tested positive for anabolic steroid methyltestosterone and her second sample would be tested later on Wednesday, said the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). That explains her improvement of 600 points in the heptathlon.


思斌 said...

I have watched the final.
It's incredible to break the WR with 0.5 seconds ahead of the silver medalist.

Anonymous said...

OK. I have been looking at MJ '96 and now Mr. Bolt. MJ '96 took 22 strides (pair of steps) in the turn and 18 in the straight. Tonight Bolt did 21/17.
These are my estimates, I do not have access to a high quality video. Anyone else dissecting this?

Also, unlike the 100 Bolt went earnestly for the record 100%- with a full lean. I do not think this performance is easily replicated, tailwind or no.

Anonymous said...

The key to Bolt's performance seems to be that he takes fewer strides at the same rate as other elite sprinters. Thus, he covers more ground at the same turnover rate, which obviously makes him faster. So what I don't get is how he does this. Tall people aren't usually able to move their legs as quickly as shorter people, right? So either he has some weird genetic advantage that allows him to run like a short guy even though he is tall, or his performance is aided by PEDs. I just don't understand how else it could be possible????

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Everyone,

Glad to see the comments lighting up, and people have made some insightful observations so far---we will take that as a testament to the caliber of our readers!

To reply to Anonymous's comment about Bolt's height and athletic ability, from time to time we do see things like this occur. The last athlete I can think of is the former San Antonio Spur (NBA) David Robinson.

Robinson was about seven feet tall, but had remarkable coordination and speed, very unlike other seven footers. Most attribute his athletic ability to the fact that he had a massive growth spurt in early adulthood while he was at university. The theory is that his neuromuscular system was quite developed as he was "normal" height during childhood and adolescence.

Another example, although not as profound as Robinson, was Dennis Rodman, who also had a big growth spurt around the age of 20 I think. He reached a final height of 6'10" or so, and could move very well for a big man.

Either way we look at it, though, what appears to be evident is that Bolt has superior neuromuscular capabilities which allow him to maximize musculo-tendinous stiffness (to maximize force production) and also to move his limbs at a rate similar to much smaller athletes.

Or he could be doping, a valid concern some of you have raised.

In the mean time, he sits atop the heap of sprinters and has turned in two remarkable Olympic performances!

Kind Regards,

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,

Thank you very much for your insightful response.

"Either way we look at it, though, what appears to be evident is that Bolt has superior neuromuscular capabilities which allow him to maximize musculo-tendinous stiffness (to maximize force production) and also to move his limbs at a rate similar to much smaller athletes."

So, essentially, you're suggesting that he's really, really adept at beating the force of gravity. Is there any way to quantify how difficult it is for a guy as tall as him to lift his legs as fast as guys 3-5 inches shorter?

Thank you again for an excellent blog.


Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi All

Thanks for the feedback. An incredible performance, and perhaps to respond to each comment, one by one.

First, I agree, if Bolt is found to be using drugs, it would be perhaps the biggest blow to the sport ever. Ben Johnson was a pivotal moment in the sport's history, but this would be catastrophic, given the last 18 months of scandal, and the spectacular, apparently invigorating attitude Bolt brings to the sport. We'll look at that in a post soon, I suspect.

Then to Dave, thanks for the comments. The debate around which record is better is fascinating - the stuff of bar-room conversation (admittedly, for slightly 'nerdier' track and field enthusiasts). The rule of thumb of doubling the performance works perfectly here if you consider that BOlt might have done 9.65s in his 100m had he not celebrated. Then he'd have run 19.30...so right on the money!

As for your second post on sudden improvements, I hate to point out to readers that Jamaican athletics has improved out of sight in the last 8 months. Their women in particular are incredible, and they've won 5 medals in two sprint races so far, with more to come.

That raises a flag, unfortunately, and I hope Bolt is not involved in it, if there's anything at all going on...

Then to anonymous, I'm quite sure that he doesn't take that few strides in the second 100. I've looked at the race many times now, from many camera angles, in super slow motion, and I'm certain that it's actually 20.5 strides in the 1st 100m, and 18.5 strides in the second. In terms of steps, as mentioned in the post, it's 41 and then 38 (give or take half a step), so it's not incredibly long compared to Johnson.

I really look forward to the split times though, they'll make for fascinating reading...


Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Andrew

Thanks for the compliment.

I'm not sure that "beating gravity" is quite the right word, though I see where you're coming from. I think the key might be in the ability to harness energy that is stored in the tendons on landing and then to use that energy to assist the subsequent contraction. I've certainly never seen a more "elastic" runner than Bolt, though pinning down what that word means is another thing altogether!

But if you think of the muscles during sprinting (any movement), they have to apply a force to accelerate the limb, and the size of the force determines the speed of acceleration. So it's not difficult to appreciate that if the tendons are able to store energy to assist with the muscle contraction, then the work required by the muscle is reduced.

Then the other crucial thing is timing - I really do believe that sprinting is limited not only by the ability to produce force to accelerate the limb, but also to slow it down! When sprinters tear their hamstring muscles, it happens when the hamstring is trying to slow down the leg during the swing phase. The muscle tears, often, not because the muscle is weak, but because the brain fails to recruit the muscle at the right time and in the right amount.

So, using that illustration, it seems to me that a secret to sprinting success is the ability to time the contraction, and also to activate the muscle in the right amounts, and that might be what Bolt has.

In terms of quantifying it, they could do detailed biomechanical analysis and work out the torque and force requirements of the muscle to accelerate the limbs (once you know their mass) enough to sprint like Bolt does. I don't know that this has ever been quantified for taller rather than shorter guys, though, so this is all speculation.

it's difficult to know how doping would impact on it either. Bolt is certainly not a muscular runner - he looks more like a 400m runner, and incredibly elastic, as I said. That's why I lean towards the neuromuscular as the advantage, but I really don't know. It's an incredible advantage to have, and the history of the 100m event has made me suspicious and cynical! But perhaps Bolt is just that unique...?


Anonymous said...

As far as I heard, Bolt was an incredible talent with top performances already in his youth. Does anybody has information on that ? I guess its important to get a feel for the credibility of performances when you know where an athlete "comes from". I know that most good endurance athletes have shown superior performances already at a young age. Look at the results of junior world championships in cycling from 10 years ago. You find all the names that are on top of the sport these days. How does this transfer to track and field ? I am sure there is information on Bolts junior days and sprint times out there ?

Anonymous said...

Not only was Spearmon disqualified, but after a protest from the American delegation so was Churandy Martina (apparently he stepped on the line twice). So eventually silver went to Shawn Cawford (winner of the gold in Athens) in 19,96

david said...

Usain Bolt progression

2001 age 15 - 45.35

2001 age 15 - 21.73
2002 age 16 - 20.58
2003 age 17 - 20.13
2004 age 18 - 19.93
2005 age 19 - 19.99
2006 age 20 - 19.88
2007 age 21 - 19.75

2007 age 21 - 10.03

These times show he would light up the world one day…and he has.


Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

HI Guys

Thanks for the comments and information - you guys are legends, thanks Dave. You all provide the data that drives the site, thank you!

I'm going to use that data and information to do a post on Bolt tomorrow, where I try to explain just where this guy came from.

Again, if anyone has the 10m times from this 200m race, can you imagine what a great analysis it will be to overlay his 100m speed with his 200m speed? It's late now, and sleep then work beckons, but I'll certainly get a bit more detail into a post sometime tomorrow morning!

So join us then! In the meantime, if you haven't seen the race, enjoy it!


david said...

Central American and Caribbean Youth Championships: 2002 (1st, 200m & 1st, 400m). Usain Bolt would have qualified to run in the Olympics A standard in the 400m at the age of 15 and in the 200m at the age of 16.


Di Yard Man Writeth said...

tsk tsk. We can explain how michael phelps is built like a dolphin making him ideal for swimming. We can even explain how 5'7 spud Webb has a higher vertical jump than 6'6 michael Jordan. We can even block out the fact that bolt has been the name behind Tyson gay for the last years. Forget himbeing 21 22 now. Prior to that he was in junior world. As a matter of fact forget the American media spot lighting Tyson gay. Bet none of you heard of walter dix til the trials. Stop hating. He can run point blank.

Anonymous said...

Ross, Jonathan;
What's your contact info? I've been writing a blog on sports and technology in the US and would like to synch up with you. Thanks, Phil, www.pulsejam.com

Anonymous said...

It's interesting to see how many people cry "doping" from "pure eye observation". Just assume that really all sprinters use peds bolt is still lightyears ahead of them. has the jamaican federation found a new wonder drug? or are they really that much better. maybe they use the same thing phelps does (a new heart drug that prevents muscles from tiring...). but how would that help in a sprint? he isn't very muscular (compare him and ben johnson 88) and if you look at his progression it has been comparatively slow over 200 m in the last few years (just 0.6 in the last 4 years!).

In my opinion he just has a better build to sprint than those muscular men of the past decades. he should be compared with a kangaroo more than with other sprinters. i think he could really be clean - and if he's not i'm sure the others are juiced as well so that he still seems to be the only one with some kind of wonderous substance...maybe miraculix elixir? ;-)

Anonymous said...

I will be very shocked and upset if Bolt fails a test. There would have to be something very sinister going on if he does dope as his mind bending times didnt just start out of the blue. I read somewhere that he has had 11 tests so far so that gives me hope. Sometimes you just gotta throw away cynicism and just believe for the sake of the sport.

Unknown said...

Anonymous has an interesting comment about Bolt's build. Surely a sprinter needs power but it could be that the extra bulk is a hindrance to top speed. It's an interesting question.

Anonymous said...

11 tests? Please. Marion Jones passed over 150 tests in her lifetime before they finally caught her lying ass.

Quite frankly, anyone going under 9.8 is a doping fiend and I'd be willing to bet even money that if you cleaned the sport entirely, 10 seconds might emerge as a legitimate barrier once again.

David Barry said...

I've a question for you guys.... there looks (to my non-expert eyes at least) to be an extraordinary gap in the 200 - there's Bolt and Johnson, then daylight (0.3sec) to third.

The gap is much smaller in the 100 - even if Bolt ran 9.65, it's less than 0.1sec to Powell's PB, less than half of the 0.3sec gap in the 200.

Is there a reason for that? My own guess would be that most sprinters go for glory in the 100 and make the competition there stronger, when some of them might be better off concentrating on the 200.

Anonymous said...

You mention in the comments here that David Robinson and Dennis Rodman had growth spurts at around 20. Now I can't think of a single person I have ever known who has grown taller at that age. At least not noticeably. By the time you get to sixteen or seventeen that's pretty much it, and any change from then on is usually filling out, be that in thegood or the bad sense. So how common are these late growth spurts? Is it just something that happens in US college students on basketball students or is it a wider phenomenon?

Anonymous said...

i rate Bolt could pull a michael phelps in the athletics, if he tried the long jump(with those legs of his im sure he could)and the 400m and 4x400, 4x100,400m hurdles,4x100, 100m and 200m. (maybe not the 110m hurdles, thats totally different but theres the possibility) and possibly high jump making it what 8 (maybe 9), but obviously he would not do such a thing because of burnout and training requirements.

Anonymous said...

Another thing you need to consider- 1996 MJ ran in lane 3, Bolt in lane 5. We don't have the specific track radii of each venue available- but clearly Bolt was at an advantage in the lesser radius, especially with his gargantuan stride. Obviously not as big a factor as the headwind, but still an aide.

Anonymous said...

I am no scientist and I have no wonderful data but I am Jamaican who enjoys and research athletics extensively. So I will address the issue as to why Jamaicans have suddenly gotten great.

Quick history lesson:

1948-Herb Mckenley 2nd-100m(despite the fact that he was a 400m runner who only ran the 100m to help sharpen his speed)
1968-Lennox Miller 2nd-100m
1972-Lennox Miller 3rd-100m
1976-Don Quarrie 2nd-100m 1st-200m
1980-Don Quarrie 3rd-200m
1980-Merlene Ottey 3rd-200m
1984-Merlene Ottey 3rd-100m&200m
1984/88/92-Ray Stewart only man to make 3 Olympic 100m finals
1988-Grace Jackson 2nd-200m
1988-Ben Johnson(JA born Canadian doper)
1992-Juliet Cuthbert 2nd-100m&200m
1992-Merlene Ottey 3rd-200m
1992-Lynford Christie 1st-100m (JA born British sprinter)
1996-Merlene Ottey 2nd-100m&200m
1996-Donovan Bailey 1st-100m
2000-Tayna Lawrence 3rd-100m
2004-Veronica Campbell 1st-200m 3rd-100m

Since Jamaica entered the Olympics there have only been 3 times that we have failed to medal in the sprints.

From this list you can see we have a long history of sprinting talent that is only matched by the USA. Now that drug testing is finally catching up the cream is rising to the top.

We are on a PED which is called extreme passion for sprinting. I will invite you all to come to our Boys & Girls High School Championship which is unmatched anywhere in the world. There you will see our junior athletes at their very best. We have had many other extremely talented juniors who failed to make it at senior level due to a lack of discipline & being pimped out by the American college system.

Oh and as for Usain I first saw him at 15 and he was considered a phenom then. He ran 19.93 at age 17. So I actually think his development is slow. I can tell you from personal experience he partied too much & was very undiscplined in training. What has happened is that for the first time in his life he started taking his craft seriously. He has gone from going to the gym a couple times a week to at least 4 times a week, stopped playing basketball when he should be practicing and less partying.

If you saw him running as a child he was totally un-coordinated, hands all over the place, head swinging left & right, yet he ran far better than his competitors.

What has happened is that he has finally listened to one of the greatest sprint coaches in history (Glen Mills) and has adjusted his technique and the world is seeing the benefits.

He is a freak of nature, from the days when he was running bare-footed in Trelawny, Jamaica at the age of 10.
Thank God that he has given us such a wonderful gift of nature that we can sit and marvel at and see what the human body can achieve at its optimum.

Anonymous said...

Oh I forgot to mention Donovan Bailey is a Jamaican born Canadian sprinter. Sorry about that ommission.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Anonymous

Thanks for the comment - I'd love to take you up on your invitation and come to visit your school championships!

Does anyone have video footage of Bolt as a 15 year old? I doubt it, but I'm intrigued by your mail, and would love to see it. I wonder if he will be a catalyst for even more sprinters to come through in the future. That would be something, to see four or five guys racing at 9.70 speeds...


Anonymous said...

I have read the above analyses and it is very good work. I have found however that everyone has missed one very important piece of the puzzle. I believe that Usain can get his time down to around 19.10s not only because he ran into a headwind but also because he ran 19.30s after previously running 4 rounds of the 100m and 3 rounds of the 200m! The young man is incredible. Just phenomenal. I think we have a lot more to see from him in the future...

Anonymous said...

I'm curious if a track athlete has ever set three world records at three different events in one week like Bolt has...pretty freaking impressive.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

HI William

yes, fantastic performance. I know that Jesse Owens once broke 4 records in a day in a meeting in the USA. It was Big Ten Meet in Michigan (not sure how prestigious), and in 45 minutes, he broke 3 and equalled a fourth.

But on the scale of the Olympics, hard to see that it's ever happened. In fact, it can't have, because the one record in the relay is very rarely broken, and where else would the third record come from? So perhaps two (though Bolt's 100m/200m double is a first for the Olympics), but three seems unprecented.


Anonymous said...

Doing some hunting around - it looks like Wang Yungxia set 3 world records in about five days in 1993, but two of them were for the 3,000m (the other for the 10,000m).

Anonymous said...

I saw Usain Bolt run in the Jamaica School competition and at that time I think he was about 12 and he won everything (by miles). I remember thinking it was unfair he was much taller and bigger than the other kids who looked like dwarfs. Then came the World championships and at 15 he became the youngest world junior champion ever! He ran times as a teenager that seniors only dream about. However, I agree with another writer on this blog...I think his development was slow because he never took it seriously and he went to clubs too much. It impacted his training and he suffered from injury after injury in 2004 and 2005. At 17 he went to Athens but did not make it pass the first round for the 200, since he was injured.

His success now is not a surprise to anyone following his years as a junior...He always had raw talent and we are happy he finally started to grow up and be more focussed.

Below is a link to an interview with Bolt in Barbdaos as he prepared for the Junior Pan Am Games in 2003


tim newman said...

how about we look at this from a different perspective?

if there are any true athletes or passionate followers of sprinting visiting this site then many of you would know of exceptional talents who you are 100% certain are not using drugs. You probably have a friend, or maybe even yourself.

I personally know of several athletes in this category. One has a lifetime PB of 10.09, the other ran 9.93.

Both are of mixed race, both lifetime clean athletes with prodigious raw ability from the day they competed.

Given that, how unbelievable is it that given better genetics, and from a talent pool mch larger than ours (i am in australia where we have 20m people and t&f is very much a minority sport where less than 1/100 kids compete), that there are others superior to these marks?

in fact, isnt it surprising that there isnt more?

We have a great, federally funded sports institute here, so these athletes can pretty much perform their best, however they still have day jobs, as t&f doesnt attract the same sponsorship here as other sports.

The 2 athletes i mention are- and i know this is race based, but it seems relevant- predominantly white. Given the prowess of black athletes, a greater gene pool, better sponsorship, and a higher t&f sport profile, is someone running 0.2-0.4s faster THAT unbelievable?

The Sports Scientists said...

Jim said, You mention in the comments here that David Robinson and Dennis Rodman had growth spurts at around 20. Now I can't think of a single person I have ever known who has grown taller at that age. . ."

It is not that common, Jim, as far as I know, which is precisely why guys like Rodman and Robinson found themselves in such unique situations. Indeed it is not normal to hit growth spurts like that, but for whatever reason it happened to them and it was advantageous as they were both playing basketball when it occurred.

Most of us are as you mention---we stop growing "up" in our late teens and reach our maximum height.

Thanks for visiting us here and for the comment!

Kind Regards,

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,

Thank you very much for your insightful response.

"Either way we look at it, though, what appears to be evident is that Bolt has superior neuromuscular capabilities which allow him to maximize musculo-tendinous stiffness (to maximize force production) and also to move his limbs at a rate similar to much smaller athletes."

So, essentially, you're suggesting that he's really, really adept at beating the force of gravity. Is there any way to quantify how difficult it is for a guy as tall as him to lift his legs as fast as guys 3-5 inches shorter?

Thank you again for an excellent blog.