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Page last updated at 06:49 GMT, Tuesday, 18 August 2009 07:49 UK

What makes Bolt special

ATHLETICS WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Venue: Olympic Stadium, Berlin Date: 15-23 August
Coverage: Watch the action live and highlights on BBC Two, BBC HD, Red Button, Radio 5 live and the BBC Sport website (video for UK users only)
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Usain Bolt

Replay - Record-breaking Bolt wins 100m gold

By David Ornstein

The dust had barely settled on his stunning 100m victory at the World Championships, but already Usain Bolt was setting his sights on another incredible achievement.

Having just clocked a time of 9.58 seconds to smash his own 100m world record by 0.11, the 22-year-old Jamaican could be found assuring any who would listen that he was capable of running 9.4.

And, according to one sprint expert, that prospect is wholly possible.

"I got the impression from his interviews and his face when he saw the clock that he wasn't overly surprised to run 9.58," Raphael Brandon, head of strength and conditioning at the English Institute of Sport, told BBC Sport.

"I work with sprinters and you can predict from your training sessions what you'll do in a race.

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"One of the common things they do in training is 100m off a 10m rolling start and that gives you a very good guideline as to what you're capable of in a race situation.

"If he says 9.4sec is on then it's probably on."

The breakdown of Bolt's gold medal-winning 100m at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin on Sunday makes for interesting reading.

He was faster than all his opponents over every sector bar reaction time off the blocks.

Bolt completed his first 30m in 3.79sec, went through 20m-40m in 1.75, 40m-60m in 1.67, 60-80 in 1.61 and 80-100 in 1.66.

With any athlete committing a false start to be immediately disqualified from 2010, the reaction times are unlikely to drop but that does not mean he cannot make up time elsewhere.

"His time to 30m was relatively 'normal' for a world record-breaking performance and maybe he could take a few hundredths off that," said Brandon.

Usain Bolt
Bolt might have run even quicker had he not looked at the clock

"He might also look to shave a few hundredths off the final 10m. We didn't see any chest pumping, but he did look around with his head, which probably provided a negative momentum that would slow him down a bit.

"Shave a few hundredths off the first 30m and last 10m and then you've got 9.4."

The phrase 'easier said than done' would normally spring to mind but when it comes to Bolt - the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay world record holder - seemingly anything is possible.

After all, this is a 6ft 5in athlete who specialises in sprinting, a discipline which has traditionally seen taller individuals left floundering.

A study by the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine found that world champion sprinters ranged between 5ft 9in to 6ft 3in but Bolt has turned such evidence on its head.

"The two critical elements of a 100m performance are stride frequency and stride length," said Brandon.

"Previously, taller athletes would find their stride frequency was slower, but Bolt has a similar stride frequency to most of his rivals.

"On top of that, he has a longer stride than everyone else, which results purely from his anatomy - the longer your muscle fibres are the easier it is for them to contract at speed."

Bolt needed 41 strides to win gold on Sunday while Tyson Gay, who claimed silver with a magnificent time of 9.71, took 44½ strides.

If Gay is to challenge Bolt's world record it would appear he needs to improve his stride length while maintaining his stride frequency - which is easier said than done when travelling upwards of 27mph.

Brandon feels there is little reason why taller athletes, provided they have the correct attributes and are not channelled into other sports, cannot shape the future of top-level sprinting.

"Maybe it was obvious and maybe there are some biomechanists or sprint specialists who have known this for years but, like everything, it always seems so simple after the event," he said.

"The attitude was always: tall guys, long stride but slow; small guys, short stride but quick. But Bolt has shown you can be both tall and quick via long strides.

The attitude was always: tall guys, long stride but slow; small guys, short stride but quick - Bolt has shown you can be both tall and quick via long strides

Raphael Brandon

"There have been and there are very tall athletes, they just aren't in athletics.

"Michael Jordan is one of the fastest and most coordinated athletes of all time, but he played basketball, and there are numerous other examples, especially in America."

Bolt now turns his attention to the 200m, with the heats on Tuesday and the final on Sunday.

Gay will not defend his 200m title this time after pulling out of the event because of a groin injury. He will turn his attentions to the 4x100m instead.

Bolt will bid to join Gay, Justin Gatlin and Maurice Greene as the only men to achieve the 100m and 200m double in the same world championship and few would bet against him breaking the 19.30sec world record he set at last year's Beijing Olympics.

"He can win that 200m gold medal at 90% so he just has to decide whether he's going to try to do what he did at the Olympics (winning the 100m and 200m double in world record times)," added Brandon.

"He is obviously capable of doing it."



see also
Bolt storms through to 200m semis
18 Aug 09 |  Athletics
Bolt sets sights on 9.4 seconds
17 Aug 09 |  Athletics
Bolt sets record to win 100m gold
16 Aug 09 |  Athletics
Usain Bolt's record by the numbers
17 Aug 09 |  Athletics
Athletics World Champs photos
16 Aug 09 |  Athletics
Bolt surges to gold in new record
16 Aug 08 |  Athletics
Battle of the sprint kings
26 Jul 09 |  Athletics
Athletics on the BBC
21 Apr 11 |  Athletics


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