World's fastest man - Usain Bolt Running World Records 2012

World's fastest man - Usain Bolt Running World Records 2012

Jamaican sprint star Usain Bolt has already been dubbed that fastest man on earth.  He holds the world records at 100m and 200m after running 9.58 seconds and 19.19 seconds respectively at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin.

But scientists reckon Bolt could run even faster - and they've used simple maths to prove it.

Scientist John D Barrow explained in a report published in Royal Statistical Society journal Significance that Bolt could shave another tenth of a second - a lifetime in 100m sprinting terms - off his 100m time without any change to his sprinting ability.

Barrow identified three key areas where Bolt could benefit:

1. "The 'B' of the BANG"

Despite being the fastest sprinter of all time, Bolt's reaction times are surprisingly poor. He was the second-slowest off the blocks in the Olympic 100m final in Beijing in 2008 and third-slowest when he broke the world record in Berlin a year later.

His running speed is already faster than the "ultimate maximum speed" calculated by Stamford University, reaching speeds of up to 10.6 metres per second, but with a faster reaction time, his finish times could be even faster.

His reaction time in Beijink was 0.165 seconds, but the fastest man off the blocks had a reaction time of 0.133 seconds.  Barrow argues that if Bolt can reduce his reaction time to 0.13 seconds his speed would take him to a time of 9.56 seconds - a new world record.  If Bolt could sharpen his starts to a 0.12 second reaction time, that world record could drop to 9.55 seconds.

And if Bolt was able to take Linford Christie's phrase "Go on the 'B' of the BANG" to the very limits and react at the fastest allowable time of 0.10 seconds, he could achieve a 100m time of 9.53 seconds.


2. Gone with the wind

Wind speed can affect sprinters' performances markedly and Bolt's world record was achieved with a 0.9m/s tailwind.  For a time to be declared viable for world record purposes, the tailwind must not exceed 2.0m/s.

If the new faster-reacting Bolt ran with a 2.0m/s tailwind, that optimum world record time could be lowered by another five hundredths of a second to 9.48 seconds.

3. Air we go

Sprinting at altitude could provide Bolt with even more opportunity to improve his times.  Wind resistance (drag) caused by sprinting through the air is measurably lower when running in the thinner atmosphere at altitude and this reduction in drag could help Bolt shave even more time off his world record.

Barrow explained that every 1,000m of altitude would decrease his 100m running time by about 0.03 seconds because of the decreased air density.

The maximum allowable altitude for valid world records is 1,000m, meaning Bolt's optimum 100m world record could be pruned down to 9.45 seconds.

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