Friday, August 21, 2009

Analyzing Usain Bolt's 19.19 Second 200m World Record

The Scientific Research Project at the 2009 IAAF World Athletics Championships has released the data for the 200m final and now we can break down Usain Bolts incredible 200m World Record of 19.19 seconds.

Click on the table below to get a closer look.

Let's pick out the key points for this race and see if we can compare them to his 100m splits.
  1. Bolt's reaction time in this race is 0.133 seconds. This is much better than his 0.145 second 100m world record reaction time. However we have already discussed this in a previous post and know that Bolt can start fast too.
  2. As expected Bolt runs the second 100m (from 100-200m ) faster than the first 100m. This is expected, as the start and getting up to speed takes time, while the second 100 meters can be run at close to maximum speed. Bolt's first 100m was run in 9.92 secs with the second hundred taking only 9.27 secs (a negative split). Interestingly, Michael Johnson ran the second 100 meters of his then World Record breaking 19.32 sec 200m race in 9.20 secs, which is faster than Bolt's second 100m in this race.
  3. Bolt's maximum velocity during the 200 meter race occurs somewhere between the 50 and 100 meter mark. His average velocity over this 50m part of the race is 11.57 m/s (25.88 mph). In comparison his 100m maximum velocity was 12.27 m/s (27.45 mph). Once again this is to be expected, as the 200m athletes needs to have reserves to complete the race and cannot run at the same speed as in the 100m race.
  4. Bolt slows down over each of the last two 50 meter splits as he begins to fatigue, covering each of the following 50 meter splits 2 tenths of a second slower. Watching the race, we can see that he is really straining to run fast, but he is still slowing down. It is expected that any athlete will slow down over the last 100 meters as the muscles tire, two hundered meters is a long way to go at full speed. We have mentioned that in this World Championships Bolt had already run four 100m races and three 200m heats before lining up for the 200m final. This has us excited at the prospect of seeing Bolt break this 19.19 second World Record, when he is fresh and has not run seven previous races.
All that is left to say is that we can expect Bolt to go faster in the 200 meter and 100 meter races in optimal conditions.

There is one record he does not hold yet and that is of the fastest 100m relay split. This record is held by his Jamaican team mate Asafa Powell in 8.70 secs. The anchor leg relay split is much faster than any of the other sprint splits, because the athletes have a flying start and are therefore able to reach top speed much sooner in the 100 meter distance. If Bolt anchors the 4X100m relay in Berlin this week, we expect that relay split record to be broken.


Anonymous said...

it's true that he did not run an 8.7 run in the relay, but he did run it in the 150 meter street race in manchester earlier in the year.
also , Bob Hayes ran an anchor leg with a time anywhere between 8.6 and 8.9 back in the tokyo olympics.shouldnt that be considerd as the best relay leg , if you take into account the poor conditions runners ran at in those days?

Dudley Tabakin said...

Bob Hayes ran a hand recorded time of 8.5 seconds for his 4X100 anchor leg in Tokoyo. Back in 1964 they used hand timing. To convert a hand timed 100m to fully automatic timing, you need to add 0.24 seconds. Check out this link for more details.
Therefore to the best of our ability we can predict that Bob Hayes time was 8.74. Although this is exceptional, especially considering the conditions and shoes..., it is not 8.70.
Also my research suggests Bolts 100m split in the 150 meter street race in Manchester was 8.72 seconds, still not as fast as the 8.70 that Asafa Powell anchored with in Beijing.
There is no doubt in my mind though that as soon as Bolt runs the anchor leg of the 4X100 meter relay, he will have a new record.

Anonymous said...

All things being equal, who would win in a race between Bob Hayes and Usain Bolt?

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