The study done by a Cambridge University mathematician suggests a number of factors that would make it easier for the Jamaican sprinter to break his 9.58 record without having to improve on his fitness.
First, Bolt is slower reacting to the starting gun. At the world championships in Berlin, he was the slowest to react to the starting gun, taking 0.146 seconds to get going as compared with .0119 seconds for the speediest starter. This means it actually took Bolt just 9.434 seconds to run the 100 metres race.
Under international athletics rules, sprinters are judged to have made a false start if they leave the block within 0.1 seconds of the starting gun.
Scientists suggest that even with this limitation, Bolt could safely cut his reaction time from 0.146 to 0.13 seconds. This would lower the final time of the sprint from 9.58 to 9.56 seconds.
Secondly, researcher John Burrow suggests, when Bolt ran his epic race, he had a tailwind of 0.9 metres per second. He calculates that if he had the maximum allowable tailwind of 2 metres per second, he would waste less effort battling the wind drag. And if this ideal condition he managed a reaction time of 0.1 seconds, he would reduce his record by a whole one second.
The research published in the latest issue of Significance Journal of UK’s Royal Statistical Society suggests how far we are from any type of ‘ultimate sprinting speed’ in the men’s 100m and the scale of improvements possible.
“These are amazing improvements but they can happen without Bolt becoming a better sprinter,” writes Burrows.
Other observers however have chosen to approach it cautiously. Prof. Mark Denny of Stamford University says it is possible for Bolt to achieve a clinical time of 9.48 seconds. However, he says the reasons suggested above may not work in reality.
“It is easy to say Bolt could attain 0.05 seconds with a perfect start, but trying to achieve that sort of quick getaway got him disqualified in the finals of last year’s championships,” cautions Prof. Denny.