How Usain Bolt Continues To Leave His Competition In The Dust

Usain Bolt cemented himself as the fastest man in the world by winning gold in the 100-meter sprint in Rio on Sunday for a third straight Olympics. He is the only man in history to three-peat in the event.

The 100-meter dash is quick and offers little room for error; the winner of the race is usually decided within the first three seconds after the sound of the starter’s gun. The world-record holder is famously considered a slow starter but does most of his work on the final leg of the race. In Sunday’s showdown, Usain Bolt came from behind in epic fashion with only 40 meters of runway left to overtake the USA’s Justin Gatlin, who had to settle for silver.

On Tuesday, Bolt struck again. He was so dominant in the 200-meter heat that he practically jogged for half the race, winning with a big grin on his face while his challengers struggled to keep pace.

But how does the Jamaican phenom manage this feat time and again?

By now, all questions surrounding his recent injury have been answered. During the pre-Olympics qualifier last month, the 29-year-old suffered a hamstring injury that sidelined him and created doubt about his ability to compete in Rio. But he promised to be back in top form for the Games, and so far, he has delivered on his word.

Justin Gatlin, Yohan Blake, and LaSwhan Merritt are all considered to be the Jamaican’s biggest competition heading to Rio Olympics. However, even they are now content to fight for Usain Bolt’s scraps.

But how does one become the fastest man alive? Let science provide the answer.

Aside from the fact that the lanky Usain Bolt, at six-foot-five, can be considered the perfect specimen for sprinting, Dr. Greg Wells, University of Toronto’s Goldring Centre for High-Performance Sport assistant professor, told CTV News that height is only one factor in Bolt’s speed.

In fact, while it may not make sense at all, coaches look for the athlete’s ability to jump at first before recruiting them.

“You’re looking for someone who’s bouncy, someone who’s really explosive, someone who’s really powerful,” he said. “People who can jump far and have that explosive ability tend to have Type 2 muscle fibers – the explosive muscle fibers.”

This is also why Usain Bolt probably wouldn’t do well in marathons, because his muscles are not built for that purpose. Apparently, those who excel in long-distance running have the “slow-twitch fibers” and are categorized as Type 1.

It can also be said that sprinters like Usain Bolt are considered as freaks of nature. Whereas the average person has an equal distribution of Type 1 and Type 2 muscles, the fastest ones have about 90 percent of fast-twitch muscles in terms of distribution. They also have longer bundles of muscle fibers compared to the average runner, and that’s their innate gift.

Of course, it comes with a lot of training as well. Usain Bolt maximizes his strengths by leaping forward. What makes him special, however, is he gets faster during the race while other sprinters decelerate.

An article from Bustle said that when Usain Bolt shattered the world record in the 100-meter sprint, he clocked in at 27 miles per hour. Naturally, the longer the track, the slower he becomes. For instance, at 400-meters, his best time was 45.28 seconds and at 800 meters, his time was two minutes and 10 seconds — not so impressive.

That’s because Usain Bolt just couldn’t expend that burst of energy for long durations. It’s also the same reason he has never run a full mile in his life, because that would be a pointless exercise.

The Telegraph quoted Dr. Ian Bezodis, the director of Sports Biomechanics Laboratory at Cardiff Metropolitan University, as saying that even Usain Bolt’s superhuman abilities could not escape the laws of physics.

“The first foot contact after the blocks might last about 0.2 seconds, then it gradually reduces to about 0.1 seconds at maximum velocity,” he said. “It’s all about being powerful in each ground contact.”

Imagine this: To become the fastest man alive, Usain Bolt actually spends more time in the air while sprinting than on the ground.

[Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images]