Fastest Man On Earth- Evolution

Posted

They say the clock ticks faster with the passage of time and that's certainly been the case in the history of competitive running.

The fastest human in recorded history is set to retire next month after the 2017 World Championships, a premier track & field event held every other year.

Eight-time Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt is the world's reigning champion in both the 100 and 200 meter sprints. The Jamaican-born speed machine first cracked the races at the 2008 Beijing games and has since accomplished a “triple double”, winning both events again in 2012 in London and 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.

30-year old Bolt also holds a “triple double” in the World Championships where he posted the all-time record for the 100 meter dash at 9.58 seconds.

Taking a snap shot of Bolt in action is like holding up a radar gun against the driving speed limit in most cities; his peak was 27.8 mph. But equally compelling is how much faster sprinters have become since the first modern Olympics took place in 1896.

Bolt’s Olympic record at the 100 meter competition was 9.63 seconds compared to Thomas Burke’s winning time of 12.00 seconds at the inaugural games 116 years earlier.

That 2.37 second gap, achieved over the course of 5 generations, is roughly equivalent to a 24.6 meter winning margin, or ¼ of the distance raced.

Do the same calculation for the 200 meter event- Bolt crossing the finish line in 19.3 seconds in 2008 and Walter Tewksbury claiming the race in 22.2 seconds at the Olympics in 1900- and the margin is smaller but still significant: Bolt leads by 30 meters in a 200 meter contest.

Between Bolt and his 19th and early 20th century counterparts, a parade of explosive sprinters have left their marks in the annals of running, inching ever closer to the speed master’s record.

American track champion Jesse Owens (photo above), famous for debunking Hitler’s myth of the superior Aryan race at the games in Germany, took first place in the 100 meter race at the 1936 Olympics, clocking 10.3 seconds.

Thirty two years later, Jim Hines became the first athlete to run the quadrennial event under 10 seconds, coming in with a time of 9.95 at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.

Three decades on, Canada’s Donovan Bailey pulled 9.84 at the Atlanta games in 1996 and held it until Usain Bolt burst on the scene.

Not surprisingly, improvements over the years in training, technique and nutrition were key factors in making the fastest go even faster. Turning sports into science also brought out new revelations about speed fundamentals on the track.

The Caribbean superstar hits the ground harder and releases quicker than his competitors. His long-legged strides complete the 100 meter race in 41 steps compared to 45 for his rivals.

Bolt reaches top speed around the 70 meter mark before starting to decelerate; it’s the sprinters who are able to decelerate the slowest that end up being the fastest.

No doubt, Bolt will be succeeded one day by another runner but in the meantime, can the track icon push history further for a “quadruple double” next month ?

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment

Shop For Our Books & DVD's

WEEKLY SPORTS PUZZLE

View larger Puzzle archive


THIS WEEK

10 years ago

FOOTBALL  April 26, 2008- Jake Long of the University of Michigan is first pick by the Miami Dolphins at the NFL draft. He signs a 5-year, $58 million contract, making him the highest paid offensive lineman in the league’s history. Long would stay with the Dolphins through 2012 and later join the Rams, Falcons and Vikings before retiring in 2017.

20 years ago

NASCAR  April 26, 1998- Bobby Labonte wins the DieHard 500 as the only driver for the Joe Gibbs Racing team. It was the 2nd season victory for the Texas native who also took 1st place at the Primestar 500. At season start, Labonte had finished 2nd to Dale Earnhardt at the Daytona 500, but landed 6th in final points standings at year-end.

30 years ago

GOLF  April 24, 1988- Rosie Jones wins the LPGA USX Golf Classic in a playoff against Kathy Postlewait. It was the second of what would be 13 total victories at the LPGA. The California native attended Ohio State University and turned professional in 1982. Though never clinching a Major, she placed 2nd four times in her career.

40 years ago

TENNIS April 29, 1978- Tennis twin prodigies Mike and Bob Bryan are born in Camarillo, California. The duo won 16 Grand Slam Doubles championships between 2003-2014 and were named ATP team of the decade. They also took gold in Doubles Tennis at the 2012 Olympics. Both played at Stanford University, winning back-to-back NCAA titles.