Comparing Usain Bolt’s Record to 116 Years of Olympic History

Usain Bolt set an Olympic record last night after he ran the 100 meter race in 9.63 seconds. The New York Times has a brilliant interactive showing how Bolt’s performance compares to other Olympic runners in history:

Usain Bolt interactive shows how his 9.63 seconds in the 100m dash compares historically. Click on the photo to watch the video.

Based on the athletes’ average speeds, if every Olympic medalist raced each other, Usain Bolt (the London version) would win, with a wide distribution of Olympians behind him. Jesse Owens raced the 100m in 10.3 seconds in 1934. Carl Lewis did it in 9.92 seconds in 1988.

The question is: when will we see a sub-9.5 second time for the 100m sprint? And will we ever see a sub-9 second time in the 100 meter race?

Update (8/8/12): You can watch the video below:


Note: while you’re at it, you should also check out the NYT interactives on the 100 meter swim and the long jump.

Usain Bolt Repeats as 100 Meter Gold Medalist at the London Olympics

What a race in the men’s 100m final today at the London 2012 Olympics! I stayed away from Twitter and the Internet because I wanted to watch the race on NBC in primetime without seeing any spoilers. Usain Bolt did not disappoint and repeated as the 100m gold medalist from four years ago in Beijing. Here is Michael Wilbon on the historic race:

The race had everything except a world record, and that’s something Bolt simply doesn’t seem interested in at the moment. He still didn’t explode through the finish tape. He looked right, then left, to see who was on him. When the answer was “no one,” Bolt pulled up for a step. One step, when you consider his stride at 6-foot-5, is the difference between 9.63 and 9.53, which would have been a world record.

What seems to please him more than a world record is the drama he can create. Bolt could have come out and pronounced himself fit before the Games began, but didn’t. He probably could have beaten Blake if he’d wanted to, but why when you love the attention, perhaps even crave it? How many world-class athletes admit, as Bolt did Sunday night, to needing the crowd’s adoration before a race to take away the jitters? Having heard the ovation, bigger than what any British sprinter received all night, Bolt said to himself, “Game time!”

He had plantains, hash browns and fruit for breakfast, then chicken and rice, pork, “a chicken wrap from McDonald’s for lunch. … It had some vegetables, so don’t judge me,” he said.

You can hang on every utterance with Bolt, even when he says he might take on the 400 after these Olympics, because Bolt’s the biggest star in the Olympic universe. Michael Phelps is more decorated, but Phelps has no interest in entertaining, which is what stars do. Bolt doesn’t have to try, he just does it. He is, as Richard Pryor would have said, “a natural born star.” It requires nothing extra in his day. Bolt opens his mouth and a star comes out.

Bolt’s (in)famous celebration tonight:

Jamaica’s Usain Bolt celebrates his 100m gold medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Photo credit: Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY Sports.

Readings: Highest Paid Athlete, Trying Again, Usain Bolt

Some short (but interesting!) reads over the last few of days:

1) “Greatest of All Time” [Lapham’s Quarterly] – who is/was the highest paid athlete of all time? Hint: it’s not Tiger Woods or LeBron James. According to Peter Struck, associate professor of Classical Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, that honor goes to a Lusitanian Spaniard named Gaius Appuleius Diocles, who worked as a charioteer in Ancient Rome. According to Struck:

Twenty-four years of winnings brought Diocles—likely an illiterate man whose signature move was the strong final dash—the staggering sum of 35,863,120 sesterces in prize money…His total take home amounted to five times the earnings of the highest paid provincial governors over a similar period—enough to provide grain for the entire city of Rome for one year, or to pay all the ordinary soldiers of the Roman Army at the height of its imperial reach for a fifth of a year. By today’s standards that last figure, assuming the apt comparison is what it takes to pay the wages of the American armed forces for the same period, would cash out to about $15 billion.

2) “At First She Didn’t Succeed, but She Tried and Tried Again” [New York Times] – teachers: this is the story you forward (or discuss in class) to your students…How one lady in South Korea didn’t give up after repeatedly failing to pass the driving exam. Remarkable:

This diminutive woman, now known nationwide as “Grandma Cha Sa-soon,” has achieved a record that causes people here to first shake their heads with astonishment and then smile: She failed her driver’s test hundreds of times but never gave up. Finally, she got her license — on her 960th try.

Talk about motivation:

For three years starting in April 2005, she took the test once a day five days a week. After that, her pace slowed, to about twice a week. But she never quit.

3) “Usain Bolt: Fast and Loose” [The Guardian] – the world’s fastest sprinter sits down for an interview and explains that he actually wants to play football (soccer):

Ultimately, he [Usain Bolt] says, he’d love to make a go of playing football professionally. He’s being deadly serious. One of the perks of being Usain Bolt is that sporting stars love to meet him, so whenever he’s travelling and there’s time, he tries to train with a top football team. Last year it was Manchester United, a few days ago it was Bayern Munich. He’s still carrying a copy of the French sporting newspaper L’Equipe, which features a spread on his football skills and praise from Bayern manager Louis van Gaal. He shows me a photo of himself with his arm wrapped round the dwarfed 6ft German forward Miroslav Klose. “If I keep myself in shape, I can definitely play football at a high level,” he says.

A question I asked recently: will the 100m sprint be ever run in under 9 seconds? When do you think it will happen? In the next ten years? The next twenty? In other words, I am wondering if we’ll see the 10 second barrier become the nine second barrier…