Usain Bolt’s Dream of a Sub-19 200m Run and Scientific Secrets of Jamaican Super Sprinting

Usain BoltJust a few days after Usain Bolt left Bangalore in September 2014, the athletics world welcomed the news of his ambition of making a 200m dash in less than 19 seconds. The 28-year old Jamaican, who holds world records in 100 and 200 meters, has stayed out of competitive sprints in either category for the better part of the 2014 season due to a foot injury. The only exception was his running the last leg of 4 x 100m relay for Jamaica at Glasgow Commonwealth Games on August 1 and 2. But the celebrated sprinter, who began training, last week, has many facets to his personality and beyond his fantastic exploits on the track; he is a confirmed party animal. The fun-loving Bolt will not let go of a chance to make his presence felt in parties and nightclubs around the world on his frequent travels. Some days back, he swigged beer at the famous German Beer Festival and a little earlier, he came to Bangalore for a promotional activity.

While the 100m sprint is considered as the most glamorous of all athletic events, it doesn’t require a rocket-science analysis to prove that the fastest man is one, who clocks a minimum time in 200m. Usain Bolt is the reigning Olympic and world champion in both sprints and he is right about thinking on a sub-19 200m run in near future. Bolt has done the 100m in 200m in 9.58 and 19.19 seconds respectively, setting these world records in a space of one week during the World Athletics Championships in August 2009 at Berlin.

The 100, 200 and 400m track events require pure speed and raw muscle power. The runners use blocks at start to reduce air-resistance but in most cases, athletes realize their full potential only after the first 60-70 meters. Therefore, 200m race can be run in less than twice the time taken for the 100m dash because the blocks would be used only once. World record holder in 200m, Michael Johnson was a BBC commentator at Berlin, when Bolt began his historic 200m sprint on August 2, 2009. And in finishing the race in 19.19 seconds, Bolt took away 0.13 seconds off Johnson’s 1996 WR of 19.32 seconds, set in 1996 Atlanta Olympics. In his comments, Johnson described Bolt’s attempt as incredibly amazing but lowering the record by another 0.20 seconds will be a tall order. Of the current crop of athletes, Usain Bolt has the best credentials to achieve the feat. Unlike 100m, the 200m sprint is done on a bend and ends at a home stretch, therefore, speed endurance becomes critical in this race. Athletes must have powerful muscles and use different energy systems for the curved portion in the race. Bolt has a large body frame and he stands 196cm tall to give him the long strides necessary for 200m sprint. But being a Jamaican lends him further advantage.

Scientists looking into genetics of Jamaican sprinters’ dominance in short-sprints have found that D allele, a variant of a gene called Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme, or ACE in humans make their hearts larger. Compared to normal people, those with D allele get a faster supply of highly oxygenated blood to their muscles. Such condition also leads to a better response while training. The possibility of D allele in people of West African origin is somewhat higher in relation to people of European and Japanese origins but in Jamaica, such possibility is the highest. As per the scientists, there is reason for such a unique occurrence in Jamaicans. During the years of transatlantic slave trade, 10 million people were forcibly evicted from Africa to be sent to the Caribbean. More than a million such slaves died en route, while some were off-loaded in different islands. The last stop for the slave ships was Jamaica and anyone, who made it that far, had better be the toughest of the tough. As per another group of research scientists, higher content of aluminum in Jamaican soil also offers some advantage. Usain Bolt and Veronica Campbell come from Jamaican regions, particularly rich in aluminum ore. The presence of aluminum in environment and diet promotes creation of certain proteins by altering the genetic activity. This is ideal for developing fast-twitch muscle fibers. These preliminary investigations appear viable since Jamaican men and women have proved themselves as the fastest runners in short-sprints and Bolt is no different.

For the benefit of Indian readers, here is more on Bolt’s Bangalore visit. The big guy was a cynosure of all eyes as he interacted with a select gathering of celebrities at Indira-Nagar’s Puma Social Club. Bolt was the main invitee by the Club, where the exotic décor was modeled on Jamaican theme. Later in the evening, he attempted a rap at a trendy club. Next day, the Jamaican speedster tried his hand in exhibition cricket, where he captained a 4-a-side cricket match against Yuvraj Singh’s team. Batting first, Team Yuvraj made 58 in four overs. Yuvraj made 24 off 14 balls and Tare 30 off 11. Team Bolt required 10 runs off last two balls and Bolt whacked the first for a straight six. With 4 required off the last, Bolt missed a massive heave but it was a no-ball. Bolt finished his victory with another huge six that went out of the park and ended his performance with a 19-ball-45, including 5 sixes. Later, Yuvraj avenged his cricket defeat by beating Bolt in 100-meter sprint as the champion sprinter allowed Yuvraj to get past him. A showman himself, Yuvraj celebrated his win in the same way that Bolt had done after his victory in the 2012 London Olympics.

R K Gupta

R K Gupta

Mr. RK Gupta has been a prolific Kridangan writer on major international sport-events for last two years. Basically a Mechanical Engineer and Administrative Management Post Graduate, Mr. Gupta took to blog-writing as a hobby after his retirement in 2011. He graduated to full-time sports-writing after joining Kridangan.com in 2013. Most of Mr. Gupta’s posts are topical and analytical in nature; completely distinct from usual media reports. His narration on popular sports-events lends uniqueness to the reporting and makes it enjoyable for global sports readership.
R K Gupta

R K Gupta

Mr. RK Gupta has been a prolific Kridangan writer on major international sport-events for last two years. Basically a Mechanical Engineer and Administrative Management Post Graduate, Mr. Gupta took to blog-writing as a hobby after his retirement in 2011. He graduated to full-time sports-writing after joining Kridangan.com in 2013. Most of Mr. Gupta’s posts are topical and analytical in nature; completely distinct from usual media reports. His narration on popular sports-events lends uniqueness to the reporting and makes it enjoyable for global sports readership.

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