Jamaican sprint and world record holder Usain Bolt literally lifted track and field out of the doping doldrums at the Moscow World Championship as he reclaimed his world 100m title in emphatic style with a timing of 9.77 seconds, a season’s best, amidst heavy rain and a vociferous crowd. Just before the event, athletics’ credibility had again been called to account, notably after American sprint rival Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell tested positive for drugs.
But it was once again Bolt, the powerfully-built 26-year-old, who came to the rescue, at least in the short term. His show last Sunday was a treat to sports lovers across the planet who watched with disbelief as the Jamaican crossed the finish line and spread his arms as if he were soaring like a bird. All this guy can’t do is fly.
Two years back at Daegu, South Korea, the world championship lost its main charm after Bolt made a false start, helping his now-injured teammate Yohan Blake take the blue riband title. It was perhaps the only blot in an otherwise astonishing career. However, the Jamaican made ammends in Moscow by capturing his eighth world championship medal. Bolt also has six Olympic titles to go with his world records in 100 (9.58) and 200 (19.19).
‘I am happy but I wanted to do better. My legs were sore after the semifinals, I don’t know why, but the world record wasn’t on, so I came out just to win. Back in Jamaica, they do not expect less than that from me. They always expect me to dominate,’ Bolt said after the event. These days, Bolt hardly takes a backseat to any athletics legend, be it Carl Lewis or anyone. Plus, he’s in charge of rescuing a sport that’s been recently riddled with doping offenses.
Tyson Gay, Asafa Powell, Veronica Campbell-Brown and Sherone Simpson all tested positive weeks before the competition. Then, Trinidad and Tobago sprinter Kelly-Ann Baptiste withdrew from 100m because she was involved in a doping case. Another dark cloud hovering over track. Amidst such gloomy scenario, Blot’s role as the face of the sport has become all the more significant.
Disappointed with rising cases of doping in athletics, former US sprinter Maurice Greene, who has won five world titles, said, ‘Track needs stars like Bolt. But he’s not the only person in this sport that’s a star. We have plenty of stars. But it’s good that he shows his personality. He’s able to have fun with the crowd. That’s why people gravitate to him. That’s why they love him.
‘More than that, you need to have great races to overcome all of that (bad) news,’ he added.
Surprisingly, Bolt’s 6-foot-5 frame doesn’t exactly make him a model of aerodynamic perfection. But going by his timings in 100m, Bolt is arguably the fastest human being to walk on this planet. Even physicists who pored over every frame of his world record (9.58) setting 100m race in Berlin World Championships in 2009 are wowed after translating Bolt the runner into Bolt the mathematical model for a study in the European Journal of Physics. He uses an almost inhuman amount of energy to overcome air resistance, thanks in part to ‘extraordinary stride length’ and ‘lots of fast twitch muscle fibers,’ a Cambridge physicist told the BBC news network.
Or just think of him as ‘truly a freak of nature,’ writes George Dorsky at io9.com. Some of the eye-popping findings:
* Only 8% of the energy Bolt expended in the race was used for motion; the rest was to overcome the aerodynamic drag of his large frame.
* His maximum power output came less than a second into the race; figure about 3.5 horsepower, enough to power a ‘large vacuum cleaner.’
*His top speed came about seven seconds into the race at around
* Even without the slight tailwind he had that day in 2009, he would have busted the record with a speed of 9.68 seconds, say physicists who conclude that in Bolt’s case, he ‘is huge but has the coordination and quickness of sprinters who are normally much smaller.’ In short, ‘he’s a tall freak.!
In an interview with The Guardian, Bolt has revealed he plans to defend his Olympic sprint titles in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and not switch disciplines. He had previously suggested he could seek a new challenge in Rio, saying he wanted to have a go at the long jump, while he has continually been linked with the 400m, despite repeatedly insisting he does not want to step up in distance.
Bolt’s only intention now is to go for a hat-trick of winning all three sprint golds for a third time in Brazil. And going by his astonishing run in Moscow, that goal doesn’t look far-fetched at all.