9.58 reasons Usain Bolt is so fast

Written By komlim puldel on Kamis, 17 Juli 2014 | 20.01

At 17-years-old Usain Bolt obliterates the field in a junior international race in 2004.

What makes Usain Bolt so fast? Source: Getty Images

WITH less than a week to go before the Commonwealth Games begin in Glasgow, organisers are holding out hope Usain Bolt takes to the track.

The Jamaican superstar, who has had an injury-disrupted season, is unlikely to compete in the 100m and 200m individual races but has made himself available for 4x100m relay.

It's a huge blow for organisers but he should at least be there in some capacity.

Here we look at what makes Bolt so fast and why he has been able to become a six-time Olympic champion, and the fastest man ever over 100m with a world record time of 9.58 seconds.


According to a paper by scientists published in the European Journal of Physics, Bolt achieved his world record time at Berlin in 2009 by reaching a speed of 12.2 metres per second, or 43km/h despite having to overcome an enormous amount of drag. With his sizeable 1.95m frame, Bolt is less aerodynamic than the average human. The scientists found that less than eight per cent of the energy his muscles produced was used for motion, with the rest absorbed by drag.

Usain Bolt explodes out of the blocks. Source: News Limited


The University of Virginia SPEED clinic's Max Prokopy studies what makes elite runners like Bolt so fast. He said Bolt had "tremendous genetic advantages". For example, his foot springs off the ground with about 453kg of force, almost double the 226kg of force of an average person.

Bolt is taller than the majority of his competitors and his strides are about 2.44m — 20cm longer than the other leading sprinters, on average. He took 41 steps during his world-record run in Berlin, while his closest rivals took 44. "His stride frequency is about the same as his competitors," Penn State associate professor Stephen Piazza said. "But his stride length is longer and that's really what allows him to run the 100 metres as fast as he is able to."


While further research needs to be conducted into this theory, a study has found Jamaicans have particularly symmetrical legs in comparison to Europeans. "Furthermore, in children symmetry in the legs, particularly in the knees, predicted their willingness to sprint and their sprinting times when they were adults," said professor John Manning of Northumbria University.

Usain Bolt has "tremendous genetic advantages". Source: AP


Jamaican athletes with West African ancestry have significantly more "fast-twitch" muscle fibres than runners from other parts of the world. Bolt's ancestry is indeed West African.


Bolt pretends he's being chased by something. "I just imagine all the other runners are big spiders, and then I get super scared," he said.


Bolt is more about rest than work. "I am supposed to be at the gym at 10am, but that's when I get up."


When he does drag himself to the gym, it's all about lower body. "I do a lot of hamstring curls and leg extensions," Bolt said, adding he also focuses on his core. "My back is slightly weak. I try not to get too bulky." His other focus in the gym is women. "When I'm at the gym, I think about chicks, going to the beach, and looking good. I do it for the girls."

Check out the fire in the eyes. Source: Getty Images


Despite being the fastest man in the world for the best part of a decade, Bolt still has a hunger to break his own records. "You always need to have that mentality of being second and trying to get into the position of No. 1 — because there will always be someone trying to do that," said legendary British athletics coach Frank Dick. "Look at Bolt. He holds the world record. He's the fastest man ever. But he's still out there trying to beat what he has done."


Now there is no science to this, but Bolt said he ate 1000 Chicken McNuggets over 10 days at the Beijing Games. So, 100 nuggets a day apparently equates to Olympic gold.

Bolt's diet is not as strict as most athletes'. Source: Supplied

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