Media day: Unsane Bolt strikes again, illusions

I am of course going utterly gaga over Usain Bolt’s recent performances at the World Championships in Berlin.

First, there was the mind-blowing 9.58 in the 100m. Keep in mind that before Bolt started running the race for real about 18 months ago, the record was 9.72. He beat his own world record by 0.11s – totally ridiculous.

His astounding performance leads to perverse charts like the 100m world record progression:

He’s the last three little x’s in the bottom right.

Okay, and then he ran the 200m in 19.19 last night, beating his old world record there by another 0.11s.

Keep in mind that those other guys he’s roasting are (with one exception) the other fastest guys in the world. This isn’t a high school track meet.

Now, that one sprinter who’s missing, Tyson Gay, is actually the second fastest man in the world in the 200m. But his best time is a mere 19.58, so… not in the same league. It’s hard to imagine one person being that much better than everyone else in the world. But it’s happened.

Bolt is a freak of nature – the first really tall guy (6’5″) with enough coordination and footspeed to run fast. The crazy thing is that he’s only going to get better. He turns 23 today, and apparently sprinters really hit their prime at around 27.

Furthermore, and this is something I haven’t seen anyone else point out yet, his 200m time is slow. For the first time since the advent of electronic timing, the 200m WR is more than twice the time of the 100m WR. The sprinters in the 200m are at top speed for longer: the first 100m starts slow, from the blocks, but the second 100m is at a full sprint. Thus, the 200m is the only track even in which the increased distance also increases the average speed. So you’ll find the best 200m times are faster than 2x the best 100m times. You can see for yourself here and here.

Not the case now, as Bolt’s 9.58 and 19.19 attest. My hypothesis: he is simply not in good enough shape to sustain his top speed for 200m. In fact, you can see him visibly tiring in the last 20-30m of the race in the video above. As he gets better, we’ll see that 200m time drop to fall in line with historical expectations. Before Bolt ran, the records were 9.74 and 19.32, a difference of .16s. So based solely on his 9.58, a 19 flat or so is in the cards.

But he’ll get faster in the 100m, too. So sub-19 (fantasy-land, now) is on the horizon. I’m calling it here: Bolt will run a sub-19 200m.


I really like optical illusions, and have posted a few in the past, such as this one:

Those snakes aren’t actually rotating; they just look like they are. Anyway, I came across a really cool one recently:

In this case, those green and blue spirals are actually the same color. No, I’m not kidding. Feel free to open up Photoshop to check for yourself, or head here for a detailed look and an explanation. More color illusions of this ilk here, and more illusions in general at the top page of Akiyoshi Kitaoaka’s amazing site. Enjoy!

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3 Responses to Media day: Unsane Bolt strikes again, illusions

  1. wingerz says:

    love the chart. also love his post-race antics.

  2. cychan says:

    those “blue” and “green” looking spirals are nuts. that’s got to be the coolest optical illusion i’ve seen yet!