Last Updated on
The following article is from NBCOlympics, used with permission.
A breakdown of what Usain Bolt needs to do to break Michael Johnson’s 200m world record
By Joe Battaglia, NBCOlympics.com
BEIJING — When Michael Johnson set the 200m world record of 19.32 seconds at the 1996 Atlanta Games, all of the factors that he needed to be perfect for such an achievement turned out to be perfect. NBC track and field analyst Ato Boldon, who won the bronze medal in Johnson’s record-setting 200m race, has outlined the similar stars that must align for Jamaica’s Usain Bolt to break that record in Wednesday’s 200m final.
“Every now and then Usain will fall asleep in blocks. He does it in the 100. For him to get to approach a time like 19.32, he has to be alert when gun sounds, be moving with everyone else and have good reaction time. He can’t be coming up from behind. Usain has become more consistent and is making himself into a very good starter. In the 100, he had an excellent start but it didn’t put him out of the blocks first. At his height it’s very difficult for him to get out of the blocks first. But a great start for him would be second out of the blocks.”
“Usain showed at Worlds last year that he can be the best turn runner in the world. In that 200 race he actually beat Tyson Gay on the turn and I consider Tyson Gay to be the best turn runner in the world. Tyson was the only runner in the world last year to run the turn in under 10 seconds. I don’t think Usain will need to run a sub-10 second turn, but the closer he gets to 10 flat, the easier he makes that last 100. If he runs a sub-10 second turn, he is almost certainly going to break the record. In looking at the numbers, if Usain runs the turn in 9.9, that means he only has to run the last 100 in 9.4. He just ran 9.6 out of the blocks which means he can probably run close to 9.2 in a flying start.”
“To be quite honest, in the last 10 times Usain has run the 200, the number of times I’ve seen him go from zero to 200 without looking around is once. I don’t think he can take his eye off the road once and break this record. He needs to say ‘I’m going to put my head down and I can’t be looking around in the stands or nothing.’ He can’t even take a glance because the research and evidence shows that the minute you take your eyes off the track in front of you, you slow down. It doesn’t have to be a big turnaround either. He can’t play around. It’s going to require maturity. I don’t know if he can do it. I think he’s going to be on pace through 100, and then finds a chance to blow it. I’d hate to see him play around and run 19.39.”
Somebody to push him
“There is no substitute for, ‘I gotta get away from people.’ In Atlanta, Michael had guys like me to rabbit for him. I think Usain is going to need there to be runners with him, ideally through the 150. I just don’t know if there is anyone that will be able to stay with him to 150. Walter Dixand Shawn Crawford have the best chances. Shawn Crawford will definitely be the closest off the turn. If Usain has runners close to him deep into the race, he will have more incentive to keep running hard. The fewer runners he sees close, the more likely it’s going to be that he backs off.”
“It may not look like it watching the replays, but Michael Johnson ran scared in Atlanta. He wasn’t scared of me, but Frankie Fredericks (of Namibia) had beaten Michael a couple times during the year and the only time Michael beat Frankie was in that race in Atlanta. To this day, I think Michael would tell you that. I don’t think Usain is scared of anyone in this field. The only runner he might fear is Wallace Spearmon, but he knows Wallace is not the guy that used to be beat him. I know Usain is not scared of Walter Dix. He’s beaten him before. And he knows Shawn Crawford isn’t in the type of shape it would take to beat him. I don’t think it will matter, but it could.”
“The only person who has ever run a sub-19.6 200 out of lane three is Michael Johnson. Everybody else that has run that fast has done it from either lanes 4, 5, 6, 7 or 8. Usain has drawn lane 5. Wallace Spearmon drew lane 9. Ideally, Usain would have wanted lane 9 because that is a great lane for tall runners since the turn radius is not as tight and you get on the straight earlier, before everyone else if you do it right. Lane 5 is fine though, and might actually be good for Bolt because of the staggered start, it gives you a weird illusion of runners being closer to you than they actually are. If he’s seeing bodies close to him, he may run at 100 percent for longer.”
A little wind
“It’s very deceiving but there has been some wind in the stadium. I’ve looked at results and was surprised to see wind readings. In the women’s semis, they ran into a headwind. If Usain gets even a modest tailwind behind him, he could break the record. The wind reading tonight could be the difference between him running 19.40 and 19.30.”
“Usain and Michael’s running styles are wildly different. Michael kept everything compact and ran with his arms not far from his body. Usain, I guess you could say, is a gangly runner and he has such high knee lift, where Michael hardly picked his knees up. He has the most knee lift of any runner I’ve ever seen. It’s not necessarily because of his height. I’d like to see if Usain can keep his motions more compact.”
“Does Usain want to set the world record? I’m not sure he’s even thinking about it. I know he told (NBC reporter) Bob Nuemeir that he wasn’t. I think the most important thing to him is winning the two gold medals. That could determine whether he runs hard all the way through the finish or shuts it down if he has a huge lead.”