At last year’s Beijing Olympics, I thought Usain Bolt’s 100m victory was one of the most amazing athletic performances that I’d ever seen in my life! How could anyone run 10.69 whilst easing down and celebrating in the last 20m. What would he do if he ran flat out for the full race? Well we found out on Sunday, when he broke his own world record to set a new mark of 9.58!
9.58 is a ridiculous time for the 100m. But what’s even more incredible is the margin by which he smashed his previous record. He ran a whole tenth of a second quicker then when he won Olympic gold. That might not sound much, but in 100m that’s not breaking a record, it’s smashing it to pieces with a sledgehammer!
After the race I immediately thought that he could perhaps run as quick as 9.5 seconds, but now he's saying he could go as low as 9.4
The former three time 100m World Champion Maurice Green agreed with Bolt in believing he could run 9.4 seconds. He went onto say:
"I've always said as time goes on, that man will progress. Man will get faster and technology will build things to make man faster.’
Now this comment got me thinking, there has to be a limit to how fast any human can run over a certain distance, just as there has to be a limit as to how far we can jump of throw something.
I remember ages ago reading an article, which said that we’ll eventually reach a point in time where no more world records will ever be produced, as Man will finally reach his optimum capability in athletic performance. I think the article said we might get to this point in 60 to 70 years time from now.
When I say that there has to be a natural limit to what humans can physically achieve, I'm saying this under the assumption that no performance enhancing drugs are used; and secondly that we don't reach a stage in the future where athletes are genetically modified by scientists so that they start performing super-human feats.
Over the last 100 years through the advancement of technology, training methods and techniques; improvements in diet and nutrition, all athletes have naturally become quicker, stronger, and more powerful.
This goes across the board in all sports, but again going back to my first point, no matter how much progress we make in terms of technology there must surely still be a limit to what is achievable in natural athletic performance.
In terms of athletics I think we're approaching the point already. If you look at womens athletics you rarely see any world records set anymore!
Just thinking off the top of my head the world records in the women’s 100m, 200m, 400m, and 800m have all stood for over 20 years. The thing is, no female athletes ever come close to breaking these records, they're all practically unattainable.
The women's 100m record is 10.49. The winner of this week’s World Championship, Sally Anne Fraiser from Jamaica won in a time of 10.73 which is the third fastest in history, yet nowhere near the record!
There’s a simple reason for this, and it's because all the women's world records from 100m up to 1500m have serious question marks hanging over them concerning the use of drugs!
The 100 and 200m records are still held by Florence Griffith Joiner, who shortly after setting both records at the Seoul Olympics in 1988 retired from athletics. She then died in her sleep 10 years later after suffering an epileptic seizure at the age of 38! The 400m record of 47.60 set in 1985 is still held by the East German athlete Marita Koch, yet it’s still rare to find women running under 50 seconds for 400m.
It’s now commonly acknowledged that during the 1970s and 80s East German athletes, particularly in swimming and athletics were using performance enhancing drugs so like many people I'm slightly sceptical about that 400m record.
If we assume that no drugs are being used we may need to start getting used to the idea that we'll see fewer and fewer world records being set, but in regards to Usain Bolt there’s still a lot more to come from him. Any further records he sets are going to last for years to come.
A lot will depend I suppose on how fit and motivated he remains in the next few years. There’s nobody who can really compete with him at the moment. It’s just him against himself and the clock.
What I’d like to see him do, perhaps in a few years time is step up to 400m. He’s got almost the perfect build for that event. He’d have to work on his stamina and endurance, but I believe he’s got so much talent he could probably set world records at 400m to.
In the meantime I will look forward to seeing what he can produce in the 200m later this week and the relay. You just know it’s going to be something special!