Sport

A champion athlete par excellence

MAMMA'S BOY: Jennifer Bolt is eveidently thrilled at her son Usain's great win in the 100m at the world championships recently.  

Great athletes have the capacity to raise their level of performance in big championships even when they are not hundred per cent fit. Usain Bolt is one such athlete.

We saw him do it in the London Olympics when an injury had hampered his preparations and he had suffered a defeat at home, his last since winning the 100 metres in a dramatic world record in the Beijing Games in 2008. He pulled off a similar feat the other night in Beijing in the World athletics championships, edging American Justin Gatlin in a tight finish that he is not familiar with. Already a legend having defended his Olympic titles in 2012, Bolt now has a record 17 gold medals from global championships.

Given the fast timings the 33-year-old Gatlin had returned in the run-up to the championships, Bolt was not the clear favourite this time, especially since he had missed the best part of 2014 due to an injury and had not been at his peak fitness this season.

Yet, no one was prepared to rule him out either.

When the moment came there was no stopping the Jamaican though, a victory in 9.79s, his best for the season, with Gatlin one-hundredth of a second behind. It was easier in the 200 metres for the man who considers that distance his domain. It turned out to be a no-contest for Jamaica in the 4x100m relay.

In the eyes of the critics Bolt has given the sport a credibility that it seemed to be losing following the recent doping revelations made by the Sunday Times and the official German broadcaster ARD.

Gatlin, a two-time drug offender and owner of the top six timings this season with a best of 9.74s, was viewed with suspicion if not scorn.

The pressure got to the American right at the start while Bolt got off to one of his best starts ever. At 6’5” Bolt has a disadvantage of getting off the blocks quickly though that height gives him crucial advantage in the second half of a 100 metres race, his long strides devouring the final 40 metres like no one else’s can. Studies have shown that Bolt takes about 41 strides to the finish while others take up to 44 or 45.

Bolt set his last 100m world record of 9.58s in the World championships in Berlin in 2009 when he touched a top speed of 44.17km per hour just past 65 metres.

His speed endurance is greater than the others and because of that he looks faster than the rest through the final 20 metres while in fact runners actually decelerate at that stage. Researchers had concluded that Bolt’s world records were ahead of our times.

The Jamaican has said he would consider retirement after next year’s Olympics. 

“It’s all about how I feel after Rio,” he was quoted as saying. In the past Bolt had also said that a 9.4s for the 100m was a possibility. Will Rio be the stage for such a record at the age of 30 for the greatest sprinter of all time?

(K.P. Mohan is a former athletics correspondent of The Hindu)

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Printable version | Mar 4, 2021 9:44:42 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/a-champion-athlete-par-excellence/article7600504.ece

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