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August 18, 2009

History was made this past Sunday in Berlin when Bolt set yet another world record. When he did it in Beijing in 2008 by clocking in 9.69 - the world gasped, screamed and then celebrated, but many wondered if there were drugs involved, if he could do it again or if it was just a fluke, etc.

Usain answered by sealing the deal with another world record. Many expected him to win and for many it was only a question of "how fast will it be this time?"

What many don't know and others choose to ignore, is that the "lightning bolt" phenomenon almost didn't happen. Derived from all his interviews is the fact that sometime in 2005 Bolt, having suffered back and knee injuries on top of partying a bit much, had to make a decision "to be or not to be", "to focus or to drop it". Inspired by his earlier success, Bolt obviously decided to stay in Track & Field and the rest is history.

In one of the published interviews, his coach revealed also that there were changes made to Bolt's running technique at that time which led him on a string of victories and straight into the history of sprinting two years later. That fact alone should make it clear that talent is great, but an improved skill is even better, and that's the real deal maker or breaker.

Bolt is a beautiful example of good genetics and raw talent reinforced by better technique. His running technique alone is far more superior than anyone else's in the recorded history of running. Compounded by his physical and psychological attributes, that seem to be superior to other athletes as well, Bolt paints the future of sports in radical colors.

Funny enough, some of the physical qualities that really contribute to his success, are traditionally thought of as negative factors. His height (6'4), for example, is deemed inappropriately tall for a sprinter. It is true, a tall dude with a bad technique is bound to be a mess. Yet a tall dude that uses his body's natural mechanics instead of powering through them - will always be ahead of the pack. Why? Simple. Geometry, physics and biomechanics at work, and they will work beautifully in synergy, if you let them.

An analysis of the footage from Berlin reveals that Tyson Gay (274spm) happens to have a higher cadence than Bolt (257spm). Bolt actually upped his cadence from 254 spm at the Olympics in '08. Gay's (18.6) and Bolt's (18.5) degree of falling (leaning forward) is virtually similar. Yet Bolt is taller (Gay is 5'11) and his technique is better, and the combination of all of that contributes to the difference in output and the result produced. More likely than not, the power runner Gay will never be able to run faster than Bolt. The same goes for Asafa Powell, who was considered to be the "promised one" by the Jamaican federation officials. Unless there is a change in their technique - the future belongs to Bolt.

One of the most significant differences in the technique of these three stars is their ability to use the forces at work when running. Both Powell and Gay try to muscle their way whereas Bolt uses gravity to his advantage, he describes it as "smooth sailing". In the game of muscles vs gravity, muscles will always loose and you can bet on that.

It was a question that was of interest to millions around the world in '08 - what would the world record have been had Bolt not started celebrating early thus slowing down quite a bit. That question was answered on Sunday. He would have run 9.58 then and could have possibly ran even faster now. One-time world record-holder and three-time world champion Maurice Greene agrees.

Considering all current players in the field of sprinting, our prediction is that Bolt will keep on winning and will probably re-write history again and more than once.

There is another thing of major significance that the world witnessed. Compare to the race in Beijing, where the distance between Bolt and his opponents was so huge that it became a worldwide joke, as did his celebration before actually crossing the finish line, the one in Berlin looked slightly different. This time around the other guys were lined up right behind him much closer (in the world of sprint it is still pretty far behind) and he ran faster than before.

Just like Roger Bannister with his 4 minute mile, Usain Bolt had opened the door for the rest of the world and people followed. That is a type of change that extends beyond sports, that crosses all borders and changes the perception of "possible".

Like a few select phenomenal others, Bolt instigated a change in our psyche. That's why when he won in Berlin, whether you feel it or not, you won with him, your world was changed as well and it was changed forever.

"I always say: anything's possible." - Usain Bolt.

Article by Dr. Nicholas Romanov
Composed by L. Romanov

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