No one individual has taken a sporting discipline to such heights as that of Usain Bolt since his burst on to the sprinting arena in 2007 and the stronghold he has had since with an array of world records to boast.
Bolt’s record breaking time of 9.58 sec in the 100m at the Berlin World Championships in 2009 was exactly one year after taking the Olympic gold in Beijing in a time of 9.69. With Bolt shaving 0.11 sec off not only his personal best but the world’s fastest ever, this was the largest ever margin of improvement in the 100m since the beginning of electronic timing.
In this Guinness World Records 60@60 series, we also looked at Carl Lewis who, in 1988 at the Seoul Olympic Games, ran a then fastest 100m time of 9.82 seconds. If Lewis was in the same race as Bolt in Berlin, Lewis would have finished 10 metres behind. An incredible parallel.
In the same meeting in Berlin, Bolt also ran the fastest 200m in a time of 19.19 seconds. Not bad for a runner who once confessed that chicken nuggets were behind his success in breaking the world record in Beijing. Aged just 22 years-old one may add.
His achievements at the Olympic Games in Beijing resulted in three gold medals in the 100m, 200m and 4 x 100m with Jamaica and ended with Bolt sealing his place among the greats and in the hearts of fans worldwide.
This would also lead to the rich rewards of such success and he soon became the highest paid athlete ever in track and field with sponsors queuing up for him to front various campaigns. With Bolt breaking record after record and etching off milliseconds of his times bit by bit, you can easily understand why.
Moreover, with 20 million people in the UK alone watching Bolt clock his second fastest time ever in Beijing, aided by his unique personality, character and, as some would argue, arrogance, helped build the perfect profile.
So how did Bolt get to this point in his career and why is he so fast?
Bolt was born on 21 August 1986 in Trelawny, Jamaica, and grew up with his parents, Wellesley and Jennifer Bolt, his brother Sadiki and his sister Sherine. Bolt spent his time playing cricket and football in the street with his brother as a kid with the latter in particular a keen interest and is a huge Manchester United fan. When meeting then manager Sir Alex Ferguson in 2012, Bolt pleaded for a trail at the club but, sadly, athletics needed him more.
It was at Waldensia Primary where he first began to show his sprinting potential, running in the annual national primary-schools' meeting for his parish. By the age of twelve, Bolt had become the school's fastest runner over the 100 metres distance. Bolt continued to explore other sports and it was his cricket coach in fact that urged him to try track and field events.
So an athletics career would get underway and Bolt won his first annual high school championships medal in 2001, taking the silver medal in the 200 metres with a time of 22.04 seconds. Under the guidance of new coach Fitz Coleman, Bolt turned professional in 2004. Bolt’s main focus was on the 200m and he became the first junior sprinter to run the 200m in under twenty seconds, taking the world junior record outright with a time of 19.93.
In his early days as well as up until the current day, Bolt has often been accused of being lazy and taking a far too relaxed stance towards his training, diet and overall performance throughout his career, especially in his earlier days. He was often pressured to move to America to realise his full potential but knocked back continuous demands and remained in Jamaica, his home.
The year 2005 signalled a fresh start for Bolt in the form of a new coach, Glen Mills, and continued to run in the 200m. Bolt yearned to run in the 100 metres but Mills was sceptical, believing that Bolt was better suited for middle distances.
However Bolt's demand to run in the 100m would finally become reality and he entered to run the event at the 23rd Vardinoyiannia meeting in Rethymno, Crete, aged 18 years-old. In his debut tournament run, he set a personal best of 10.03, winning the gold medal and feeding his enthusiasm for the event.
His improvement in the 100m was clear to see by all race-by-race but Bolt continued to split his time between the 100m, 200m and would also run in the 4x100m relay with Jamaica alongside his nearest competitors such as Asafa Powell – achieving record breaking times in the latter as well.
Bolt would soon prove he had what it took to cut it in the competitive 100m field when, in only his fifth competitive senior run at 100m, on 31 May 2008, ran a time of 9.72s at the Reebok Grand Prix held in the Icahn Stadium in New York City. Bolt would then go on to take a stronghold on the 100m scene in the years to come.
The aforementioned Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 saw him collect three gold medals and, in London 2012, as expected, he took a further three gold medals. Either side of the Olympics Games, Bolt carefully selects when to race, focusing on World Championships and other important meetings.
In terms of how and why he can run so fast, as part of Guinness World Records 60th anniversary celebrations, in which Usain Bolt accepted his certificate for his achievements, we interviewed leading names in the athletics field to discover exactly why.
At a glance the lazy view and notion of why Bolt is perhaps so fast would lead you to point at his extremely long legs and even longer stride he takes whilst sprinting. Well, actually, this is one of the key reasons – in addition to his raw power, strength, technique and high levels of fitness of course.
Nick Davies, General Secretary of IAAF, paid testament to his long legs and that this reason alone ensured that Bolt would be moving his legs as quickly as his shorter competitors but his stride would be 20cm longer.
Moreover, John Barrow at Cambridge University, who has previously analysed how Bolt could become even faster, echoed this statement by saying that his "extraordinary large stride length" is the catalyst despite having such an initial slow reaction time to the starting gun.
"He has lots of fast twitch muscle fibres that can respond quickly, coupled with his vast stride is what gives him such an extraordinary fast time." Tyson Gay, who was running alongside Bolt when he broke the world record in 2007 in New York, mentioned to the press that it felt like ‘his knees were going past his face’.
Long legs is brought on by his tall frame. Bolt stands at 6 feet 5 inches and his gangly yet muscular frame is out of the norm when compared to the normal, shorter builds of his competitors who tend to be 6ft 2in and lower.
Bolt in recent years often toyed with the media with discussions about possible retirement – especially in the wake of the London 2012 Olympics. However, he will make the trip to Rio in Brazil next year but did announce in February 2015 that he would retire from athletics after the 2017 World Championships in London. We should not forget that he is still just 28 years-old. 28 years-old.
He is already one of the most successful track and field athletes of all time and, with the Olympic Games in Rio just next summer, his last Olympic Games appearance, Bolt would like to add three more gold’s to further cement his place in the record books. And, having since told the press that he has begun to like his vegetables, it won’t be chicken nuggets this fuelling his speed.