Silent Archimedes

Olympics – Usain Bolt and the new generation of men’s 100m sprinters

Posted by silentarchimedes on August 16, 2008

Disappointed at NBC

Before I begin talking about the 100m, I am so disappointed at the NBC broadcasts of the Olympics. How do you not show the Men’s 100m Olympic final live on NBC?? It’s one of the main events of the Olympics. It was scheduled for 10am EST. Instead they are showing a non-medal basketball match between the U.S. and Spain. Atleast switch to the race when it happens! The whole race takes under 10s! Jeesh. After seeing all the headlines of the results, we’re supposed to care when NBC finally shows it tonight? And NBC is acting like it’ll be live the way they talk about it. This is a joke. I already feel sorry for the West Coast population for not being able to see Michael Phelps races live.

My related post: NBC Olympics equals “No Bolt Coverage Olympics”

Insane Usain

Ok, on to the 100m. I’ll say it right away. Usain Bolt is the most amazing sprinter I have ever seen. He is a man among boys (picture courtesy of Getty Images, left, Dix, center, Bolt, right, Gay). He was utterly dominating throughout the entire 4 rounds. In round 2, he ran a 9.92s after shutting it down at 40m! He had a 5 meter lead halfway through the race and just coasted, looking to the right, then left and then right. The easiest 9.92 ever. When you compare his round 2 race to Asafa Powell’s and Tyson Gay’s, it was pretty obvious who was going to run away with the Gold medal. Powell shut it down at about the 75m mark but still looked like he ran hard. Gay pretty much ran hard all the way, maybe until the 90m mark, and finished second in his heat.

The 100m final was a complete domination:

Medal Country Athlete Final
Gold JAM Usain Bolt 9.69
Silver TRI Richard Thompson 9.89
Bronze USA Walter Dix 9.91
4th AHO Churandy Martina 9.93
5th JAM Asafa Powell 9.95
6th JAM Michael Frater 9.97
7th TRI Marc Burns 10.01
8th USA Doc Patton 10.03

(left, courtesy of Getty Images, from left, Dix, Thompson, Bolt)

Bolt’s 9.69 shattered the old world record of 9.72 he ran in New York earlier this year. He now owns the top two times, and is 0.05s faster than Powell’s old record of 9.74. That’s a mile in 100m terms. What’s even more amazing, is that Bolt didn’t run hard all the way through. With a huge lead at 50m, he once again started coasting, and pounding his chest and spreading his arms in victory. This all with a good 10 strieds left in the race!! What happens when he runs his hardest all the way? A 9.50?? He really should have done that and really shatter the record. Even with that, he beat the field by atleast 0.2 seconds. What hope do other sprinters have now? Powell ended up finishing 5th and his time wasn’t even close. Richard Thompson and Walter Dix (he should cut his hair. Get another 0.03s) looked good in the earlier rounds and deserved their medals. Gay didn’t even make the finals. Bolt was the only one that backed up his words, and fulfilled the hype of a Bolt-Powell-Gay final.

Bolt, 22, at 6ft 5in, represents the coming new generation of 100m sprinters. He is tall, takes huge strides, and has a much lankier build than the traditional muscularity of the past generation. After Carl Lewis’ generation of skinny runners ended in 1990, the next 15 years saw mostly big legged, big upper body runners dominate the world records. First Leroy Burrell, then Donovan Bailey and Maurice Greene. Even Powell has the traditional build.

What is amazing about Bolt is that he has the traditional 200m and 400m build. As a matter of fact, his main event is the 200m and he didn’t even start running the 100m until this past year! After Michael Johnson dropped down from the 400m to the 200m and shattered the world record, you knew other great sprinters would be looking to do the same. Bolt’s success in the 100m will make other 200m sprinters think about dropping to the 100m.

Bolt seems to not have reached his peak yet. He is still a raw 100m sprinter and can improve his technique and reaction times. It will be interesting to see what times he will get at his peak.

What happened to the United States domination?

The next question to ask is, what is happening to the United States domination of the 100m? The top six times and world record times are all non-Americans. Actually, the times are of Powell’s and Bolt’s, both Jamaicans. With Tim Montgomery and Justin Gatlin’s world records erased by doping suspensions, the United States haven’t had a world record holder since Maurice Greene in 1999. With Tyson Gay at 26 years old, it appears he has peaked with no chance of a world record. His greatest showings the past year gave people hope, but his hamstring injury during the US trials destroyed any chance of him winning at the Olympics.

Although Walter Dix, the reigning NCAA champion, won the bronze today, he seems to be flying under the radar and he has a good chance of improving his Olympic time of 9.91. However, to beat the new record of 9.69 would require a lot of him in the next few years.

My related Olympic posts:

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