Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Usain Bolt: Room for Improvement

We have previously stated here that we think Usain Bolt can lower the 100 meter world record.

We have suggested that he can start faster, train harder on his fitness and of course refrain from celebrating before crossing the line. All of which suggests that his 9.58 second 100 m and 19.19 second 200 m world records will be broken.

On Saturday the BBC aired a documentary on Usain Bolt "Usain Bolt: The Fastest Man Who Has Ever Lived". In this documentary Michael Johnson, the 400m world record holder and second fastest man over 200m (after Bolt) talks about the biomechanics of Bolts sprinting.

Johnson says of Bolt: "He has ... an incredibly long stride combined with the ability to execute a race like a shorter sprinter - generating the same explosive power. That combination makes him so much faster than the rest of the field."

But he suggests that slow motion video shows that bolt has lateral movement in his sprinting mechanics. In other words he moves his body side to side as he runs. This sideways movement reduces his forward power by wasting energy in keeping his balance. If Bolt were to remain still with his upper body as all good sprinter should, he may be able to propel himself even faster.

Of course the lateral body movement may be a result of other inefficiencies with Bolts mechanics. It is possible that he turns his knees or feet out a little. As Michael Johnson is an excellent  proponent of running mechanics and a highly qualified coach, we are sure that he and his team setup their cameras in the best way to measure these inefficiencies correctly.

One of the most important aspects of video analysis for sports is to ensure that we get video images that will allow us to do the analysis we want. If we are interested in Bolts side to side sway we need to have a camera directly in front and or behind him as he sprints down the track. We want to be able to measure how much his body moves laterally and see if his knees and feet are out of alignment. With this information we can help our athletes improve their mechanics and speed.

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