Usain Bolt shatters another world record. Must be the yams!
At the world championships in Berlin today, Bolt ran the 200 meter sprint in 19.19 seconds. How does he do it?
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Bolt isn't a flash in the pan. A flash, yes. He's proven he can consistently shatter world records – one after another. That just does not happen. Period.
He's now the first man to ever hold both the 100 and the 200 meter world and Olympic records.
Cynics say it has to be drugs. Unfortunately, given the number of disgraced sprinters caught doping in recent years – most of whom, it must be said, have been Americans – people do ask that question. In time, the truth will win out. Till then, there’s no reason to presume guilt.
Too tall to run?
One way his times may be explained is his build. Sprinters aren't supposed to be tall.
Typically, people with Bolt’s lanky, 6’5” frame cannot match the times of stocky sprinters. They can’t turn their strides over quickly enough. Bolt, somehow, can. So, he’s got the turnover of his stockier peers, but the length of stride of a longer-distance runner. It’s kind of like the flipper-like feet and double-jointed arms that give top swimmer Michael Phelps an edge.
And then there’s the fact that Bolt is Jamaican. Let’s face it, Jamaica has replaced America as the top sprinting nation. And it’s a long-time coming, given the country’s love of the sport, the fact that it’s one of few tickets out of poverty, and that the world’s best coaches now come from there.
(Read my story from Jamaica about why the country breeds so many top sprinters.)
While reporting that story in Kingston, I met with supercoach Stephen Francis of the MVP track club, which stands for Maximizing Velocity and Power. The maverick coach certainly doesn't give tips from his own experience. The rotund man's fastest time may only be to the nearest jerk chicken shack.
Seriously, though, he's done wonders.
Today, Jamaican Melaine Walker became the latest MVP star to win a gold medal during these championships with her win in the 400m hurdles. She follows the fastest woman in the world, Shelly-Ann Fraser (Jamaican gold in the 100m) and Brigitte Foster-Hylton (and yes, Jamaican gold in the 100m hurdles).
“The MVP group out of Kingston, Jamaica, is having a fantastic championships,” said Boldon, when describing Melaine Walker’s gold medal in the 400-meter hurdles.
It's the yams, stupid!
Here's my theory: The reason people think these are drug-assisted victories is that when we watch Bolt it looks like WE must be on drugs. It's an other worldly experience.
Jamaican sprinters were so tired of getting tested for drugs during the Olympics last year that they started joking about the International Olympic Committee cooking up a new list of banned substances. No. 1 on that list, they laughed, would be yams - the staple of a rural Jamaican diet.
In fact, Bolt's garish designer track shoes are the result of that inside joke: bright orange because that's the color of cooked yams.
What do you think is going to be on the training menu of US and European sprinters next week?