You know what they say; all good things come to an end. And that really is the case when looking at Usain Bolt. The sprinter ran his final 100m last weekend, and signed off with a win in front of a packed home crowd in Jamaica. The night, as you might imagine, was an emotional one for all involved.
Bolt is set to retire in August after the World Championships in London, and it’s fair to say athletics will miss him. I mean, it’s fair to say we’ll all miss him. The 30-year-old is a showman, a real character – and above all, a damn good athlete. It’s easy to forget just how good the star has been throughout his career.
Ever since he was awarded the IAAF Rising Star award in 2002, Bolt has gone on to dominate in almost every category he’s been involved in. The gifted runner will mainly be remembered for his Olympic achievements, of which there are many. But he’s done so much more for the sport, on and off the track.
We shouldn’t move on too quickly, though. Bolt, who is the first person to hold both the modern 100m and 200m world records, is still competing. The man is still at the top, and is still winning. So as he nears the end of his career, let’s take a quick look at why he’s been able to dominate for so long.
Bolt’s relaxed demeanor is not just for show. It’s the result of being plagued by pre-race nerves in his early teens – before taking 200m gold at the 2002 World Junior Championships, the Jamaican was so nervous that he put his shoes on the wrong feet. After the race, he vowed to never let nerves affect his performance again. “I’ve learned over the years that if you start thinking about the race, it stresses you out a little bit. I just try to relax,” he says.
Criticised early on in his career for having poor technique, Bolt has done a lot of work to improve on his running posture – of which an effective knee drive is a key component. Sled pulls help to forge a powerful movement, while cable knee drives and hanging leg raises give him flexibility in the hip flexors, contributing to his high, ranging stride.
When he stands on the start line, Bolt is head and shoulders above the competition, both literally and metaphorically. At 6ft 5inches, his long limbs allow him to eat up the track in record time. Research published in the Journal of Sports Sciences has supported the claim that Bolt’s height gives him an advantage, by revealing that taller, leaner athletes have the edge over their bulkier counterparts.
Bolt’s coach, Glen Mills, sees strength training as essential to maintaining power and reducing the risk of injury. Bolt’s boulder-shoulders are the direct result of compound exercises with a barbell, which build both strength and endurance, giving him the upper body power needed to drive over the line.