The CHill Zone of T&F: Conway's View From the Finish Line

London Olympics 100 Meters – Execution

Aug 6th, 2012
5:18 pm PDT

Usain BoltGood news, bad news. The good news is that I got to see the final of the men’s 100 meters last night. The bad news is that once again I had no luck seeing any of today’s evening session online. I saw the morning session just fine, but didn’t see one complete event of the evening session. The feed kept freezing, dropping, and was blurry when it was up. The interesting thing is that it was only on the track and field feeds. My feeds for everything else were crystal clear! I almost felt like there was a conspiracy afloat because I’ve complained about NBC’s coverage.

I’ll have another night of watching ‘til midnight, a two hour nap, and then up to watch the morning session. So I feel like I’m a good day behind – although I know all of the results. At any rate, I wanted to take a look at that 100 meters, because it was the best race ever, with the best field ever put together.

That said, Usain Bolt dominated the field. He repeated as champion, ran the second fastest time ever, and did it against the best field ever assembled. For my money that makes him the greatest championship sprinter ever. Now, before some of you start getting your underwear in a bunch, I qualified it for a reason.

One, he has had a short history in the 100 (only four years) , and like it or not sprinters like Carl Lewis, and Mo Greene did have LONG careers where they put together both solid strings of wins, and several championships of their own. There is something to be said for longevity.

Two, the game has changed significantly. Sprinters pre-2004, met much more often, and there were a lot more head to heads. Yesterday’s race marked the second time in two years that Bolt & Blake met (1-1 in that time frame); the second time in two years that Bolt & Gay met (1-1 in that time frame); and the first time that Bolt & Gatlin have every met. Significant, because Bolt is one of those athletes that seems to love the spotlight and rise to the occasion – athletes like Christine Ohuruogu and Donovan Bailey come to mind. Nothing wrong with that, if you’re going to perform best to do it when the world is watching and will remember. But the question is would he be more vulnerable if he competed more against the best on a more regular basis? My guess is he would still sport a winning record, but there would be losses against his ledger – and there is nothing wrong with that.

He is, however, unquestionably the best championship sprinter we have ever seen, and my hat off to him. Because the one thing he does in big meets, that he doesn’t do in lesser meets, and that others fail to do, is execute his race nearly flawlessly! That is what he did yesterday, and that is why he won! Bolt was out with the field. Held his drive phase. Lifted beautifully, and relaxed and let his stride take him home. No one else did all of those things, which is why no one else crossed the line first! Execution in the biggest situations is Bolt’s gift/secret to success. So what of the competition? After all, these were the best marks for 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, & 7th places! What would they have had to do to beat this man executing at his best – ie, why did they lose?

Yohan Blake, 2nd, 9.75 – Blake  took silver, but like Allyson Felix is more of a 200 meter man. That may sound odd given his success in this event, but Blake does not generate great speed early. His strength is his transition when he comes up and “starts running”. He has great mid race acceleration, and a strong finish. That is what carried him to silver in this race, but the first 30 kept him from beating Bolt as he was unable to keep pace with the big man in the first half of the race. Had he been able to he may have repeated his triumph of Kingston, but Bolt faltered early in Kingston, he did not falter here. 

Justin Gatlin, 3rd, 9.79 – Gatlin  has the most consistent race pattern of any sprinter in the world – Bolt included. But as I said, Bolt finds his race in the big ones, and yesterday Gatlin committed a fatal flaw. He was out superbly, but came out of his drive phase too quickly. He came up, Bolt stayed down a fraction longer, but that fraction gave Bolt the acceleration he needed to burst right by Gatlin! Gatlin has a stride length nearly equal to Bolt’s, but lacks the turnover of Bolt – he has to over stride to accomplish his stride length. He was never going to catch Bolt once he went by him. And that shortened drive phase took away enough “oomph” from his transition, to allow Blake to pop by him as well.

Tyson Gay, 4th, 9.80 – Tyson  had great reaction in this race, but he still lacks good start mechanics. The reaction was wasted, as he still ended up behind the others within the first few strides. Still Gay’s forte has been great mid race acceleration and a vicious close – both failed him yesterday however. After watching both his semi and the final I understood why – while his turnover is as rapid as before his surgery, he’s not exerting the same amount of force into the track as he was pre-surgery – and therefore not getting the same pop/speed back from the track. So while he looked to be working as hard he wasn’t getting the same result. That’s the difference between the man that ran 9.69 and the man that ran 9.80 – only .11 difference, but critical when your opponent is Usain Bolt.

Ryan Bailey, 5th, 9.88 – Bailey was the one man in this race that could potentially match Bolt “stride for stride” as he is 6’4” and very fluid in full stride. In order to do that however, he will have to do what Bolt does from the gun, and that is execute a strong drive phase and transition. Bailey, who had a decent drive phase in the rounds, resorted to coming up and running in the final – death against the talent level of the men that finished ahead of him. He was “chasing” the field from the gun! He would have beaten any other field on the planet, but this was not any other field. When he learns to execute the first 30 meters, he could be the challenger that Bolt needs in a major.

The rest of the field never had a chance. The only other man in the race with the credentials to make an impact was Asafa Powell and his big race history said that he was not going to be a factor, and he wasn’t. A sprinter that is dependent on his start, he was out of it by 30 meters, long before he pulled up late in the race.

So, can Bolt be beaten in a major? Only if one of the above can put it ALL together under the lights. So on to the deuce, where Bolt is arguably the favorite. I say arguably because Blake is better at that distance and he’s run within .07 of Bolt’s record. The deuce won’t be as much fun to watch as this race, but it should be a great duel!

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9 Responses to “London Olympics 100 Meters – Execution”

  1. Hopeton says:

    Good analysis. The time was also good, 9.6+. No other athlete has ever been there. What do they need to do to get there before they pass their prime?

    • CHill says:

      Tyson’s best is 9.69, and he did it with a horrible start .. But your point is well taken, it was an extraordinary time …

      Not sure Gatlin can get there … Turnover will prevent him .. Not sure Blake can get there, early race will prevent him .. Though he might be able to improve it .. But just doesn’t seem to have early aggression … But if he can get that he might get there … Tyson has been there, but we will see if hecan get back there … He has to get his power back and I’m not sure if that’s a product of the surgery or not … Time will tell … Bailey has the most up side, because of his physical gifts … But he has a lot of work to do in the first half of his race … His plus is Smith … Smith trained atheltes don’t show their best improvement until the second or third season – Ato Boldon, Mo Greene, Jon Drummond, Jeter – and this is just his first season … If Smith can get him “dialed” in like the men I just mentioned, he could get there … We will see …

  2. Anderson says:

    Your analysis is good, but your missing one thing. Some of these guys just aren’t as natuarly talented as Bolt. Even if Gatlin or Baliey ran a perfect race, They still wouldn’t have been able to run strie for stride because they are just not as fast.

    • CHill says:

      Didn’t miss it, it’s irrelevant … Most naturally talented and “fastest” doesn’t always win … Case in point, the fastest man in the last three Olympic finals may have been Asafa Powell – yet he’s never finished better than fifth … His first 80 meters has shown the ability to run under 9.7, possibly under 9.6 – remember he led Gay for around 70 meters when Gay ran 9.69 !! But Powell has never shown the ability to execute under pressure …

      Case in point #2, Mo Greene … Rumors for years were that Mo was not the fastest man in his own camp, possibly not even #2 – many said Jon Drummond was fastest and Ato #2 .. But Mo always executed better under pressure … Frankly in the women’s race the fastest woman didn’t win … Jeter has shown to be faster than Fraser Pryce … But Jeter didn’t execute well and lost, while Fraser Pryce once again nailed what she had to nail …

      Now, you’re partly right in that if everyone in that race ran perfectly Bolt would be the winner – maybe .. He is physically more talented in that race than all but one man – Ryan Bailey … Bailey CAN match him stride for stride – but not today … Will he ever ?? I don’t know … But physically Bailey fits the mold, and may even be stronger as he has a stronger built body … But he hasn’t learned how to use it yet – though he did do his best in three rounds of Olympic competition !!

      Back to talent, history is full of stories of “fastest” man, and/or most gifted man losing … This race is about execution … Which is what makes Bolt’s win extraordinary as I pointed out before … He does his best under the lights … Gotta give him his props for that … And it’s THAT, not just his physical gifts, that have gotten him gold medals … If he doesn’t execute in Berlin he doesn’t win .. If he doesn’t execute in London, he doesn’t win .. Beijing he had no peers, there was no one there capable …

      • Nick says:

        CHill,

        re: your last paragraph. Couldn’t agree more; it’s ‘who shows up,’ not ‘who is fastest.’

        Lindy Remigino, 1952. The self-proclaimed 3rd fastest American, and big underdog to Herb McKenley. Lucky Lindy had a perfect start, perfect race, and edged Hustling Herbert at the line.

        Hasely Crawford 1976…

        The aforementioned Donovan Bailey, 1996…

  3. Rohan says:

    Finally Conway shows some respect to the talent Bolt is.

    • CHill says:

      He earned it … I give respect where respect is earned, not because others tell me I should respect … Bolt had a play day in Beijing … There was no competition there … Gay was sub par and no one else was capable … Even in Berlin, what I was waiting to see was Bolt v Gay in the deuce – and they still haven’t raced since ’07 … And there were questions about Gay – who then turned around and ran 9.69 before shutting down his season ..

      The problem is not all with Bolt … The problem, for me is that these guys don’t get to race except once a year, as I pointed out earlier … So difficult for me to say how “great” someone is because they won “a” race … That’s just me … People got mad because I wouldn’t anoint Powell as great because he was winning races and clocking fast time – but he wasn’t running against anyone creditable and when he did he lost …

      Since Berlin Bolt had lost to Gay in their only race, and lost to Blake in their only race … But Bolt came into London, under pressure, and ran against the best field ever with everyone ready to rumble – and crushed it … Props to Bolt … That earned respect …

  4. Rohan says:

    But it should have occurred to you a long time ago that Bolt is superior. (what else should he have done)How ridiculous of you to have Bolt outside of the medals in both sprints! Unheard of outside your forum.Yes he was below par entering London, but even so he still ran 9.86 and 19.83; yet Tyson out for over a year with great injuries and you plug him in for Gold?
    You write great articles, but sometimes i get the feeling that you are realy writing for US track and field.

    • CHill says:

      Why, because everyone says so … Like I said, too many holes … No comp in Beijing … Hasn’t raced much against the big guns … And all the talk about injuries, pulling out of races, training in private and going to see a specialist … I thought it generous to think he could run 9.8 with an injury … I pulled for Tyson because after one meet he was already down to 9.86 and had a month left to improve – his injuries behind him … The one thing I overlooked, as I mentioned also, is that his power is not back … His speed is, but his power isn’t … That’s where I made my mistake with Tyson …

      For the record, those pulling for Bolt were doing so because he’s Bolt … Not out of any intelligent analysis … For example, you cite that he ran 9.8/19.8 at his Trials, but did it ever occur to you that if he came out INJURED, that he would have exacerbated whatever problems he had going in and therefore may not be able to duplicate that again ??? Of course not .. You simply “feel” Bolt is better … And that’s fine … That’s how fans typically judge things – emotionally .. But then you get angry with me when I take out the emotion and try to look at the evidence before me .. But look at all the injury casualties this meet – Merritt, Liu, Kiprop, Idowu – studs all and big favorites … Even favorites lose when injured … Someone got mad at me for not making Liu the favorite, when he ran and then pulled out because of soreness … Now look, gone … It’s not about any national favoritism, simply going with the information I had at the time … After the opening round it was clear that Bolt would medal … It was not clear to anyone attempting to be objective that that was the case two weeks prior … Those giving him gold after Trials were doing so based on emotional favoritism … If that were the case I would make Spearmon favorite in teh deuce … I could cite that he’s run 19.65 and is due for a new PR … THAT would be favoritism … Reality is I don’t see him beating Blake, and with Bolt healthy I don’t see him beating Bolt either – even though he’s proven in the past to be one of the most talented 200 men out there .. But that’s another story …

      By the way, are you out there running around telling all those people that said that Blake would win that they don’t have a clue, are showing favoritism, and should have KNOWN that Bolt is simply superior ?? Or are you hassling me because I didn’t pick a Jamaican to win ?? Because that would be a sign of “nationalism” if you haven’t tried to clear things up with them as well …

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