Significance journal – How Usain Bolt can run faster – effortlessly Usain Bolt holds the current 100m world record, at 9.58s, and has been described as the best sprinter there has ever been, dramatically reducing his running times since he first won the world record in 2008. Bolt ran 9.58 seconds for the 100 meters at the 2009 Berlin World Championships.
Significance study highlights the three key factors instrumental in improving Bolt’s performance, which combined produce an improvement of 0.13 seconds.
1) Bolt’s reaction time is surprisingly poor, in fact one of the longest of leading sprinters. By responding to the gun as quickly as possible without triggering a false start, with 0.10s, he would shave 0.05 seconds off his world record to 9.53 seconds.
2) advantageous wind conditions can help athletes improve their times, although this is supposedly taken into account. Bolt’s Berlin record of 9.58 seconds benefited from a modest 0.9 meter per second tailwind. If he were to benefit from a maximum permissible tailwind of 2 meter per second, he would expend less effort on beating wind drag and reduce this record further by 0.05 second to 9.48 seconds.
3) Running at altitude reduces the air density in the wind drag calculation, as was witnessed at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City (2240m above sea level), where significant improvements over short distances were displayed (although for longer distances the altitude makes running more difficult). As a result, athletics world records are only permitted at altitudes of up to 1000 meters, but this still allows Bolt to reduce his time by a further 0.03 seconds to 9.45 seconds if he runs at this altitude.