– Derek M. Hansen –
I like everone else watched in amazement as Usain Bolt tip-toed through the tulips on the last 20 meters of his 100m Olympic final on Saturday, August 16th. The time of 9.69 seconds barely gave an indication of what he could have run had he decided to run hard right through the finish line. The slow-motion replays made his achievement look even more outrageous as he waved his arms around and beat his chest like he was one of the “Village People” tracing the letters for YMCA.
Commentary from former athletes such as Donovan Bailey (CBC) and Ato Boldon (NBC) maintained that Bolt could improve technically out of the blocks and further put the world record out of reach. Fellow competitors were using words like “freak of nature” and claiming that he could have run “9.54” had he not slowed down. On the other side of the fence, Ben Johnson told London’s Daily Mail when asked if he thought sprinters were still doping 20 years after his positive test, “How shall we put it to avoid being sued by everybody?” However, even if you look at it from Ben Johnson’s point of view, what Bolt accomplished was still amazing. It is much similar to what Johnson did to a field of competitors who at one time or another either tested positive or admitted to doping. Perhaps the playing field is level, at least for the top eight or maybe even the top 16 competitors.
For those of us in the trenches trying to glean some meaning from Bolt’s accomplishment and apply it to the training of other athletes it is a daunting task. But I have learned a few things from the accomplishment of Usain Bolt and the 100m final in general. Here are some key thoughts that have crossed my mind since Saturday:
Where do we go from here?
Let’s watch the 200 meters and carry on the discussion after that race. I think we know that Usain Bolt can run a faster 100 meter time if he simply runs through the finish line. Based on his 100m speed, we can assume that Michael Johnson’s World Record of 19.32 seconds is in jeopardy. If Usain can carry on with his training undisturbed and he doesn’t let his accomplishments go to his head, I’m sure we’ll see more amazing races. At the speeds he’s running and the pressures that go with being a gold medallist and world record holder (public appearances, running meets to make more money despite the conditions, does he have a girlfriend?), staying healthy and avoiding injuries will always be a concern. But for now, his recent accomplishments have certainly got people thinking about the limits of human performance.