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Track And Field
Waiting For The Record
Usain Bolt relaxes while training at the University of Birmingham yesterday. -
Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer
Hubert Lawrence, Gleaner Writer
LONDON'S cool weather probably will prevent really fast sprinting in the Olympics. However, even if the Games were being held in sunny Kingston, the 100-metre world record of 9.58 seconds is so good that it might survive attacks even by the very best.
If you're looking for the record to fall in London, stop. History says it has never been lowered on British soil.
The best the Brits can boast about on this account is a world record-equalling run by Jamaica's Asafa Powell of 9.77 seconds in Gateshead in 2006.
Typically, we think of world record holder Usain Bolt as a slow starter with a whirlwind finish. In Beijing, he was marginally second to the 60-metre mark en route to his phenomenal run of 9.69. Both he and eventual runner-up Richard Thompson of Trinidad and Tobago arrived at the 60 in times faster than Maurice Greene's world indoor record of 6.39 seconds.
Bolt did it again in Berlin at the 2009 World Championships. This time, despite his reputation as a slow starter, he led at 20 metres and pulled further away as the field accelerated to top speed. Then with trademark Glen Mills form and relaxation, he avoided much of the usual late-race slowdown.
Don't take my word for it. Statistics released by the IAAF, the governing body of the sport, draw a picture of a fast-starting AND fast-finishing tall man.
Here's what the IAAF calls a biomechanical breakdown of his Berlin stunner, by 20-metre increments.
0-20 20-40 40-60 60-80 80-100
2.89 1.75 1.67 1.61 1.66 2.89 4.64 6.31 7.92 9.58
Look at that race again on YouTube or on your souvenir recording of the 2009 World Championships. He only slowed down in the last 10 metres when he looked to his right for Tyson Gay and Powell. Then he turned to the track side clock.
The doxology of sprinting dictates that 6-5 men are slow starters. Equally, most fast starters are compact. In Beijing and Berlin, Bolt came close to bending the rules out of shape. To my mind, except for that little look right and left, the 9.58 was the best 100 ever from a technical perspective and in terms of the time.
Even better, it came as the climax of a two-day four-race sequence in a major championship. So did Bolt's 9.69, and while the Berlin 100 had the benefit of an assisting wind of 0.9 metres per second, the Beijing wind reading was 0.0.
Gay has also run 9.69 seconds for 100 metres. By comparison, his 9.69 came in a one-off Shanghai race with the maximum allowable aiding wind of 2.0 metres per second.
As good as the American is, when you compare both 9.69s, it's cheese to chalk. In zero wind, his 9.69 is worth 9.78. He ran 'faster' when he chased Bolt home in Berlin in 9.71 seconds.
In other words, the 9.58 is so good that it may deny the efforts of would-be record breakers for years to come. They have to contend with the zero-tolerance false-start rule. That came into effect in 2010, after Bolt made headlines in Beijing and Berlin.
When the mark was creeping down from Green's 1999 time of 9.79 to 9.77 in 2005 and 9.74 in 2007 by Powell, it seemed that new records could be set at any moment. Now I'm not so sure. In fact, if you yearn for a new record in the men's 100, be patient. You're in for a bit of a wait.
If, after all that mumbo-jumbo, you still want a 100-metre record in the London Olympics, pray for good weather. When Powell equalled his 9.77 in Gateshead, the weather was uncommonly warm for England at almost 30 degrees Celsius. That's just about twice the 15 degree chill that prevailed at the recent London Diamond League meet. A little Caribbean warmth on August 5, the day of the men's 100 final, might change history.
Hubert Lawrence has covered athletics since 1987.