Thursday, November 03, 2011

Fastest Man Ever

There is no argument that Usain Bolt is the fastest man alive at the moment. The fastest man ever? That is another question altogether. Usain Bolt shattered all preconceptions of how fast humans can run when he broke the world record in style with a 9.58 second 100 meters. His record time at the Beijing Olympics was at 9.69 seconds, and he did that while taunting his opponents. But will Usain Bolt be the fastest man ever? Will the time for the 100-meter dash go down to the 9.4s or even sub-9?

Here is a very interesting account throughout. It's a long read, but a good one. Excerpt:
He is, as far as we can tell, the fastest human who's ever lived — in 2009, at a race in Berlin, he ran the 100-meter dash is 9.58 seconds. This translates to an average speed of just over 23 mph (with a top speed closer to 30 mph). His '09 performance in Germany was .11 quicker than the 9.69 he ran at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the fattest chunk ever taken off a world record at that distance. Considering the unadulterated simplicity of his vocation and the historic magnitude of his dominance, it's easy to argue that Bolt has been the world's greatest athlete of the past five years. And yet there's an even easier argument to make than that one: Within the next 10 years, Bolt's achievements as a sprinter will be completely annihilated. 
This is not guaranteed, of course, but it's certainly more plausible than speculative — for the past 30 years, the men's record in the 100-meter dash has been assaulted so continually that many of its former record holders don't even qualify as difficult answers to trivia questions. This was not always the case: Jim Hines broke the 10.0 barrier with a 9.95 at the (high-altitude) 1968 Olympics; that mark stood for 15 years before Calvin Smith ran a 9.93 (also at altitude) in Colorado Springs. But since 1983, the record has been shattered more than a dozen times. Ben Johnson's steroid-fueled 9.83 in '87 was the first massive blow, but eight others have chipped away at the record with increasing regularity (Bolt just happened to use a sledge hammer).
There's some interesting insights into what it takes to be the best as well:

Is there a ceiling to how fast a man can run? Will there be a day — maybe in 50 years, or maybe in 500 — when someone runs the 100-meter dash in 8.99 seconds? 
"In order to answer this question, you have to think like a sprinter. And sprinters believe that — someday — somebody will run the 100 meters and the clock will read 0.00." Ato Boldon tells me this over the telephone. Boldon is now known as a track analyst for NBC and CBS, but he's also a four-time Olympic medalist and the fastest man the island of Trinidad has ever produced (in 1998, he ran the 100 in 9.86). "And when a sprinter thinks like that, he's not trying to trick himself. It's how you have to think. This idea of human limitation is exactly what we're competing against. It's thinking about running a 8.99 that gets you down to 9.58. That's how it works."

No comments:

Post a Comment