Want to see Usain Bolt at his fastest? Don’t worry, that won’t happen until Saturday.
The next-to-last night of these Olympics is when the finals of the Men’s 4x100-meter relay is taking place at Wembley Sadium, and is where Bolt has a real chance to break his own record for the fastest 100-meter split in history.
If you think Bolt’s world record time of 9.58 seconds in the 100-meter is fast, he could cut over a second off that time on Saturday.
At the 2010 Penn Relays, Bolt ran a clocked 8.79-second split in the anchor leg for his Jamaican team, a time that shatters his record in his 100-meter dash. Yet, there are rumors Bolt ran a sub 8.7-second split in anchoring the Jamaican team in the 2011 IAAF World Championships at Daegu, South Korea.
While Bolt’s individual split was not recorded in Daegu, the Jamaican foursome broke their own world record by running the 400 meters in 37.04 seconds. That accounts to a mile time of less than two-and-a-half minutes.
While Bolt did not set the world record in the 100 or 200-meters in 2012 like he did at Beijing in 2008, he and Jamaica have a high chance of setting the world mark in the relay.
Considering he has the world’s second-fastest man in Yohan Blake running the third leg and handing off to him, the only challenge Bolt should have in his final 100 meters of these Games will be going under the squad’s time in South Korea.
While these times seem like lunacy compared to times put in the individual events, lower split times in relay races make sense because three out of the four runners are already moving by the time they receive the baton from the prior leg.
In the individual 100-meter dash, runners usually don’t reach their top speed until about 50 meters into the race. In the relay, sprinters have a 20-meter acceleration zone, which means they take significantly less time to reach their peak and thus are able to run at or near peak speed for a longer distance.
Splits are not officially recorded due to the fact that the exchange zone means one runner could run 110 meters while another runs just 90, for example.
Like with most things not officially recorded in sports, there are claims of ridiculous times from prior eras. For instance, 1968 100-meter champion Jim Hines claimed he ran an 8.2-second split to come back for U.S. victory the 4x100-meter final in Mexico City. Proof? We’ll have to get back to you on that.
Since some timers might begin a split when a runner receives the baton rather than when they cross the mark 100 meters from the finish line we might not know how fast Bolt runs 100 meters in his final race in London.
That doesn’t mean the world won’t be watching. Bolt’s last dash in London might not put his name in the individual record books, but it will still provide him a golden opportunity to set another world record in an already-unprecedented repeat performance.