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The London Telegraph has written a comprehensive piece on Usain Bolt, the fastest sprinter on earth, as he is preparing for the London 2012 Olympic Games this summer.
Weyand is widely quoted in the press for his expertise on human speed. He is an SMU associate professor of applied physiology and biomechanics in the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education & Human Development.
By Mark Bailey
The fastest man on earth is lying motionless on the spongy blue running track at the University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica. He appears to be asleep. The elongated limbs of his 6ft 5in body stretch across the track like felled branches. Protruding from beneath his hitched-up T-shirt, a xylophone of abdominal muscles glistens in the midday sun. From a nearby festival the mellow patter of reggae floats along the warm Caribbean breeze. A contented smile melts across Usain Bolt’s face.
This supine figure is surrounded by people in a hurry. A film crew, sponsors and PRs are scuttling around, planning, chattering. A photographer is preparing for his next shot, and wants Bolt in a horizontal position. Unbeknown to anyone, some teenage boys have clambered over a fence and are hiding behind an advertising banner. At intervals they pick up the banner and stealthily shuffle closer to their idol, like cartoon spies tiptoeing behind a cardboard bush. …
… Research by Ethan Siegel, an American theoretical astrophysicist, suggests that Bolt represents a physiological leap forward. The men’s 100m world record has dropped by 0.05 seconds every 10 years since 1968 (when Jim Hines became the first man to break 10 seconds). But Bolt has been performing at a level three decades beyond what should be achievable in the present era, according to Siegel’s graphs. And Dr Peter Weyand, a leading physiologist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and an expert on the science of sprinting, says “Bolt is a freak – he defies the laws of biology.”
Bolt is blessed with unique physical gifts. “He is such an unusual physical specimen and one need not look beyond that for an explanation of his speed,” Mark Denny, a Stanford University biology professor, tells me. With his long legs, Bolt takes 41 steps to complete the 100m. His rivals take 44. He has a high percentage of fast-twitch muscle fibres, which produce explosive speed, and he can channel more than 1,000lb of force through each stride – double the human norm, according to Dr Weyand. Professor Alan Nevill, a biostatistician at the University of Wolverhampton, suggests his superior height enables him to dissipate heat faster, so his muscles can work harder. …
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By Margaret Allen
Senior research writer, SMU Public AffairsView Archive →