Usain Bolt, no dope, only chicken McNuggets and magical yams
Getting into the blogging flow, I’ll try to start with some topics that interested me these past few days.
“You want the truth? I got up at 12. My masseuse brought me nuggets, of course. I’m serious. I didn’t want to go to the cafeteria. I went straight to the track and my masseuse brought me more nuggets.”
Fueled by chicken McNuggets and magical yams, Usain Bolt broke world records in the 100 meter and 200 meter dashes. In the 100, he set a new world record of 9.69 seconds. What’s amazing is that,
1) There was no measurable wind (each meter per second of tailwind subtracts about .05 seconds from the sprinter’s time)
2) His left shoelace was untied as he stepped across the finish line, and
3) He looked to his right for his main competition, Asafa Powell (former world record holder and Jamaican neighbor), saw that he wasn’t there and slowed and celebrated in the last 20 meters.
Amazing. With the 1.7 m/s tailwind he had in New York when he last broke the world record, he could’ve reached 9.59 seconds. If he ran his hardest through the finish line, he might’ve even dipped into the 9.4s. Beyond amazing.
In the 200 meter dash he gave the race his all and finished with a 19.30. This broke Michael Johnson’s 1996 world record of 19.32 seconds, the record that people thought was unbreakable. To see the progression of the 250 fastest times in history, see The New York Time’s interactive graphic.
But with an amazing athletic achievement comes reason for suspicion. With doping so widespread, are Usain Bolt’s world record times really believeable?
Though Bolt broke world record times seemingly effortlessly, he has many arguments in his favor.
1) By nature, professional sprinters are below 6 feet in height. Usain Bolt towered over his competitors at 6 feet 5 inches and 198 pounds. Out of the blocks, he was the second to last to react to the gun in the 100 meter because of his large frame. When he got started however, his longer strides gave him an edge over the competition. Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell ran the race in about 45 strides. Bolt took only 41 strides to reach the finish line. From a physics standpoint, Bolt has a higher knee lift which gives him more force. While other tall runners take longer to bring their trailing leg back in front of their body, Bolt does it quickly.
Just as 6’4″ Michael Phelps has a 6’7″ armspan, the lower body of a person that is 5’10″ to eliminate drag, and double jointed ankles, Usain Bolt has a clear technical advantage.
2) Usain Bolt didn’t come out of nowhere. He’s been training since childhood and competing at the international level since age 15. Unlike other “late-bloomers” who gain their edge from performance enhancing drugs, Bolt simply has the training under his belt to do better.
3) Though Jamaica has no anti-doping program in place, Bolt has never failed a drug test before these Olympics. In Beijing, he’s been tested at least 6 times and the Jamaican Olympic team has been visited at least 36 times by drug testing authorities. Could a poor country with a population of only 3 million evade drug authorities at an international level? Highly unlikely.
As athletic training becomes more competitive and sophisticated, it’s obvious that sprinters will reach levels previously thought unattainable. When people with physical advantages like Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps come along, world records ARE going to be broken consistently.
This post is getting to be longer than I intended, but on one final note, Usain Bolt’s father credited the Trelawny yam for his son’s performance. They’re believed to have medicinal properties and are grown in huge volumes in Jamaica. “It is definitely the Trelawny yam,” he told reporters after the race.
I need to find some of those yams.