Usain Bolt: the fastest man on earth completes treble hat-trick. What is the secret of his speed?


When it comes to athletics record holders some questions are frequently asked

Question 1: Who is the fastest man on earth?

Question 2: Which athlete has completed treble hat-trick?

Bolt has completed a treble hat-trick, winning all three gold medals in Beijing, London and now Rio. Bolt has completed a treble hat-trick, winning all three gold medals in Beijing, London and now Rio.Question 3: Who has won gold medals in 100, 200 meters and 400 meters relay races thrice in Olympics?

Question 4: Who has maximum Olympics records in athletics?

Question 5: Who holds maximum records in athletics?

Answers may have some variations in terms of facts and records, but common thread is indeed Usain Bolt. Here is why:

Answer 1: Usain Bolt from Jamaica is the fastest man on earth. His 100m time of 9.58 seconds during the 2009 World Championships in Berlin is the current world record

Answer 2: Usain Bolt has completed a treble hat-trick, winning all three gold medals in Beijing, London and now Rio.

Answer 3: Usain Bolt has won 100, 200 and 400 meters relay races thrice in Olympics (Beijing, London and now Brazil)

Answer 3: Usain Bolt. He is nine times Olympics champion

Answer 4: Usain Bolt holds maximum records in athletics. He is 13 times world champion

Between his Olympic successes Usain stayed firmly in the global spotlight winning three gold medals and setting two individual world records at the 2009 IAAF World T&F Championships in Berlin, Germany. He lowered his 100m time to a staggering 9.58 secs, his 200m time to 19.19 secs and running the third leg helped Jamaica to gold in the 4x100m. He defended his World Championships title in the 200m at the 2011 IAAF World T&F Championships in Daegu, Korea and anchored Jamaica to another world record of 37.04 secs in the 4x100m. In 2013 at the IAAF World T&F Championships in Moscow Usain won the 100m, 200m and 4x100m to make it 8 World Championship gold medals.

Usain is currently one of the biggest names in the world of sport – both on and off the track. But the million dollar question is – what is the secret of Usain Bolt’s electrifying speed? How does he manage it?

Scientists and physicists have been trying hard to decipher these riddles since long. Here are some answers

Scientists say they can explain Usain Bolt’s extraordinary speed with a mathematical model.

His 100m time of 9.58 seconds during the 2009 World Championships in Berlin is the current world record.

They say their model explains the power and energy he had to expend to overcome drag caused by air resistance, made stronger by his frame of 6ft 5in.

Writing in the European Journal of Physics, the team hopes to discover what makes extraordinary athletes so fast.

According to the mathematical model proposed, Bolt’s time of 9.58 seconds in Berlin was achieved by reaching a speed of 12.2 metres per second, equivalent to about 27mph.

Less dynamic

The team calculated that Bolt’s maximum power occurred when he was less than one second into the race and was only at half his maximum speed. This demonstrates the near immediate effect of drag, which is where air resistance slows moving objects.

They also discovered less than 8% of the energy his muscles produced was used for motion, with the rest absorbed by drag.

When comparing Bolt’s body mass, the altitude of the track and the air temperature, they found out that his drag coefficient – which is a measure of the drag per unit area of mass – was actually less aerodynamic than that of the average man.

Effects of drag

Jorge Hernandez of the the National Autonomous University of Mexico said: “Our calculated drag coefficient highlights the outstanding ability of Bolt. He has been able to break several records despite not being as aerodynamic as a human can be.

“The enormous amount of work that Bolt developed in 2009, and the amount that was absorbed by drag, is truly extraordinary.

“It is so hard to break records nowadays, even by hundredths of a second, as the runners must act very powerfully against a tremendous force which increases massively with each bit of additional speed they are able to develop.

“This is all because of the ‘physical barrier’ imposed by the conditions on Earth. Of course, if Bolt were to run on a planet with a much less dense atmosphere, he could achieve records of fantastic proportions.

“The accurate recording of Bolt’s position and speed during the race provided a splendid opportunity for us to study the effects of drag on a sprinter.

“If more data become available in the future, it would be interesting to see what distinguishes one athlete from another,” added Mr Hernandez.

Bolt’s time in Berlin was the biggest improvement in the record since electronic timing was introduced in 1968.

Large stride

John Barrow at Cambridge University who has previously analysed how Bolt could become even faster, explained that his speed came in part due his “extraordinary large stride length”, despite having such an initial slow reaction time to the starting gun.

“He has lots of fast twitch muscle fibres that can respond quickly, coupled with his vast stride are what give him such an extraordinary fast time.”

He said Bolt has lots of scope to break his record if he responded faster at the start, ran with a slightly stronger tail-wind and at a higher altitude, where there was less drag.

Bolt’s Berlin record was won with a tail wind of only 0.9m per second, which didn’t give him “the advantage of helpful wind assistance”, he added.

“You’re allowed to have a wind no greater than 2m per second to count for record purposes, so without becoming any faster he has huge scope to improve,” Prof Barrow told.



OLYMPICS SPECIAL: Usain Bolt creates history; wins 100 meter race in three consecutive Olympics

RIO DE JANEIRO: As the king of sprinting and the biggest global star at the Rio Games, Usain Bolt of Jamaica held aloft his index finger, signalling that he was No. 1, during introductions Sundaynight as a smitten crowd chanted his name

Then Bolt proved it again, winning the 100 meters in 9.81 seconds, a coronation that secured his place as the greatest sprinter of all time. He is the only man or woman to win the Olympic 100 three times, which he accomplished at three consecutive games.

His main rival, Justin Gatlin of the United States, the 2004 Olympic champion who later served a suspension for doping and was booed Sunday, took the silver medal in 9.89 seconds. Andre De Grasse of Canada won the bronze in 9.91.

As the exuberant Bolt ran down Gatlin in the final 40 meters, he pounded his chest. He then blew kisses to the crowd, hugged some spectators and carried a toy Olympic mascot around the track before giving it away.

Finally, Bolt struck his signature pose, known as To Di World, cocking an elbow and aiming his fingers toward the sky, as if launching an arrow or a lightning bolt.

 He is also favoured to win a third straight gold medal at 200 meters in Rio and yet another as the most vital member of Jamaica’s 4×100-meter relay team.

 “Somebody said I can become immortal,” Bolt said. “Two more medals to go and I can sign off. Immortal.”

 Gracious in defeat, Gatlin said of Bolt, “He rises to the occasion. He is a great runner.”

 Even an athlete as great as Bolt, though, can be upstaged on rare occasions. That happened Sunday when Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa set a world record in winning the 400 meters in 43.03 seconds, shattering Michael Johnson’s 17-year-old record of 43.18.

 Running on the outside in Lane 8, where he could not see his competitors, van Niekerk astonishingly shaved more than four-tenths of a second from his previous career best of 43.48 and more than a second from his season’s fastest race before the Olympic final.

 “I was running completely blind,” van Niekerk said, stunned. “I was out of my mind. I thought I would lose.”

 Fairly or unfairly, given the tainted state of track and field due to doping, that performance may bring as much scepticism as celebration.

 For Bolt, Sunday’s victory carried both a sense of festivity and farewell. He will turn 30 Sunday as the Rio Games end. He has said repeatedly that these will be his final Olympics.

 He plans to retire next year after the world track and field championships in London, with one transcendent career goal remaining: to take his world record of 19.19 seconds at 200 meters below the 19-second barrier.

The 100 meters “has got to be the most universal event other than the long jump,” said David Wallechinsky, president of the International Society of Olympic Historians, speaking ofSunday’s victory. “Everyone’s tried it at least once in their lives. To be the best in the Olympics three times in something that everyone has done at least once is incredible.”

 When Bolt crossed the line Sunday, it was not with the same astonishment as that night eight years ago at the Beijing Games, when he was new to the public and to the 100 and he finished in 9.69 seconds, easing up and celebrating before the finish but still smashing his own world record.

Nor did Sunday’s performance match the wonder of the 9.58 that Bolt ran a year later to set the current 100 record at the 2009 world track and field championships in Berlin.

As with his victory at the 2012 London Games in 9.63 seconds, winning for Bolt is now more about career achievement, historical standing and dominance in the biggest moments than about mere startling speed.

 He stacks wins as if they were poker chips. Since he became an otherworldly figure with his performances in 2008, Bolt has won 69 of 74 races. His only truly important defeat came with his elimination on a false start in the 100 at the 2011 world track and field championships in Daegu, South Korea.

 “It was brilliant,” Bolt said of Sunday’s race. “I didn’t go so fast but I’m so happy I won. I told you guys I was going to do it.”

 Before the Olympics, Bolt had raced little this season. In recent years, he has become vulnerable to nagging injuries in his back that radiate into the muscles of his legs.

 He withdrew on July 1 from the final of the 100 at the Jamaican Olympic trials with a slight tear in his left hamstring muscle. But Jamaica’s rules, unlike those of the United States, which require a top-three finish to qualify for the Summer Games, allowed Bolt to be entered in the Rio Games anyway.

 Some U.S. sprinters joked at the time that Bolt always seemed to sustain some injury before the Olympics or world championships. Sure, they said, he would be ready for Rio.

 “It’s a tradition,” Tyson Gay said.

 But sprinting is a lot like boxing in the sense that they are individual and elemental sports, one man against another with his legs or his fists. Sleights, real or perceived, become dramatically exaggerated.

 Bolt said he was disappointed by the joking remarks of Gatlin and other Americans, adding: “I think they have not learned over the years that the more you talk, the more I will want to beat you. It’s one of those things, but I’m looking forward to it, should be exciting and they will feel my full wrath as always.”

 In the end, the buildup to the Olympic 100 turned out to be more playful than antagonistic. Bolt held a news conference here featuring samba dancers and a Norwegian journalist who broke into a worshipful rap song, saying he hoped that the Jamaican star would again prevail.

 Bolt said he was surprised to hear Gatlin booed beforeSunday’s final. As he often does, Bolt reacted relatively slowly to the starting gun, slower than every competitor but one. He is 6-feet-5 inches, and it can take his body some time to unfurl, like a flag.

He also may have grown somewhat cautious after that false start at the 2011 world championships. Once, one false start was permitted. Now, an early lean or even a reaction to the gun in under a tenth of a second brings automatic disqualification.

 But Bolt’s biggest strength is not the first 50 meters. It is the second 50 meters. He is so tall, his legs so long, that he takes only 40 or 41 strides over 100 meters, where other sprinters might need 43 or 44 or even 46.

 He also holds his top-end speed better than others. No sprinters speed up at the end of a 100-meter race as it appears they do. That is an optical illusion. The winner is not the person shifting into another gear but the one slowing down the slowest.

 At the 2015 world track and field championships in Beijing, Gatlin had Bolt beaten but leaned too early, wobbling with a kind of swimming motion. Bolt caught him at the line, winning by a hundredth of a second.

 Again Sunday, Gatlin got a quicker start, but Bolt chased him down.

 “His legacy will depend on what he does with the rest of his life, Wallechinsky, the Olympic historian, said of Bolt. “The best is if he goes around, giving clinics, and travels the world like Muhammad Ali and becomes well known in Africa and Asia and is someone that everybody loves,” he said. “Or he could just have a good time for the rest of his life.”