Usain Bolt won the men’s 100 meter title at the 2008 Olympics. Like, seriously.
While the Jamaican icon would later fight stiff competition from Yohan Blake and Justin Gatlin later in his career, there was absolutely no one who could touch him that summer in Beijing.
After snatching compatriot Asafa Powell’s world record earlier in the year with a blistering time of 9.72 seconds in New York, Bolt then went one better on his way to glory in China.
Bolt wins in Beijing
That’s because Bolt won his first individual Olympic gold medal with a blistering time of 9.69 seconds, despite several key factors that seem to thwart his hopes of bettering the world record.
No, we’re not talking about the opposition because Bolt was miles ahead of silver medalist Richard Thompson, but rather the circumstances that affected him personally.
For starters, post-race footage showed Bolt’s laces had come undone the moment he crossed the line and we don’t forget the infamous story of him eating chicken nuggets. .
Bolt and his chicken nuggets
According to NBC Sports, Bolt wrote in one of his autobiographies, “Honestly, I ate nothing else the whole time I was in China except chicken nuggets.
“It was the only food I could really trust that wouldn’t affect my stomach. Arriving at [pre-Olympic] training camp I had tried a local Chinese meal, which was not like the ones we eat in the West, and my body was not reacting well.
“So knowing I could count on nuggets, I decided that was all I would eat. And I ate them, for breakfast, lunch and dinner, washed down with bottled water .
Bolt celebrated early
However, the key detail that interests us the most is the fact that Bolt actually started celebrating 20 yards before crossing the line, stretching his arms and thumping his chest in delight.
It is truly remarkable to see all these years later the fastest man in history make the Olympic final look like a sporting event by slamming down the tools and slowing down with so much of the race to run.
But at the same time, it can’t help but wonder what time Bolt might have been posting if he’d given up on the celebrations and maintained that speed throughout the final yard.
Also, it’s worth noting that when Bolt set the current world record of 9.58 seconds the following year in Berlin, he did so by saving the celebrations for once the race was over.
How fast could Bolt have run?
Well, wonder no more because the question of how fast Bolt could have run in Beijing was answered later in 2008 by a panel of experts based on his acceleration and speed.
According to Phys.org, a team of physicists from the University of Oslo led by Hans Kristian Eriksen went into overdrive to try to calculate how fast Bolt might have gone without the celebrations.
“It all started with an interview Usain Bolt’s coach published in mainstream media before a Golden League competition in Zurich,” Eriksen told PhysOrg.com at the time.
“He claimed Bolt was on track for a record 9.52 seconds, had he not slowed down. Then it seemed to us that, given reasonable video footage of the race and some assumptions on its acceleration, it should be possible to “calculate” what that time would have been.
And by extrapolating Bolt’s speed data before he slowed down in his celebrations, Eriksen’s team were able to calculate that he could have posted a time of 9.55 seconds with a margin of error of 0. .04 seconds.
So in other words, if Bolt had crossed the line in Beijing, there might be reason to believe that the 100m world record would actually be stronger today than it was. in Berlin.
And even in the worst-case scenario where the time could have been something closer to 9.59 seconds, it still blows Bolt’s actual time since the Olympic final out of the water.
just a little fun
As the physicists themselves have admitted, there is no real way to know for certain how fast Bolt would have run, as factors such as wind speed and potential fatigue could only be speculated.
Additionally, the extent to which Bolt would have continued to accelerate or not is also conjecture.
However, even as fun physics, it’s still amazing to think that the monumental 100 meter world record we know today could potentially would have been even crazier had it not been for some legendary celebrations.
Then again, we might rather keep Bolt’s showboating in the history books than shave a few extra hundredths of a second off the record sheet.
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