Usain Bolt Splits – 9.69 vs 9.58 – Can He Run Faster?

This is Part 1 of a 2 part series. Click here for Part 2 with 10 meter splits


Honestly, I didn’t expect Usain Bolt to run sub 9.60. 

I felt a WR was imminent after watching his SF, and I knew his chest thumping slowdown in Beijing showed me he could run low 9.60.

But a 9.58?

Now, in all fairness, I added Tyson Gay’s splits, just to show what it will take to beat Usain Bolt.  I mentioned his 9.68 +4.1 wind aided race winning the 2008 USATF Olympic Trials in a previous post.

You can also thank Tyson Gay for making Bolt push though the race.  Bolt came to Berlin to win.  The World Record was bonus.

Note: The 2008 Olympic Trials splits are courtesy of the USATF Women’s Sprint Development with the HPC.  2009 World Championships splits courtesy of the IAAF which can be found here. (PDF)


Quick Facts for Usain Bolt:

  • His reaction time was almost 0.02 seconds faster than Beijing, but his first 20m split was still 0.02 slower!
  • His 20-40 was faster by 0.03
  • His 40-60 was the same (most likely 0.85 and 0.82 seconds), thus his 60 meter en route split in Beijing was 6.32, compared to 6.31 in Berlin.
  • His 60-80 was faster by 0.03
  • His last 20 meters was faster by a whopping 0.07 which is no surprise from his chest thump in Beijing.

So, in terms of hundredths of a second, we have –2, +3, 0, +3, +7, a net gain (or loss, depending on how you look at it) of 11 hundredths (9.69 vs. 9.58)

How Fast Can Usain Bolt Run?

Just using simple math, if he had the same 20m start as Beijing, that would give him a 9.56.

If he improved 0.03 on his first 20m, considering he improved 0.03 from 20-40m and 60-80m, that would give him a 9.53.

So it really looks like Coach Glen Mills was right after all, as he once claimed Usain could run 9.52!

10 meter splits

If 0.82 seconds per 10 meters was the fastest recorded, then his 60-80 segment of 1.61 can be averaged out to an incredible 0.805.  Even Tyson Gay recorded a 1.63, which is a 0.81 + 0.82!  No one else comes close.

0.83 sec/10m was once the Holy Grail for top end speed for a 100 meter sprinter.

So while most WC 100m sprinters reach their top speed at 50-60m, all the athletes reached their top speed between 60-80 meters according to the data, which makes sense considering they are still accelerating from 40-50m.  Don’t let the 20m segments fool you, as it really skews the curve.

Bolt’s last 1.66 20 meter split is a result of a partial slowdown, most likely 0.82 + 0.84.

This leads me to the final part of the article: who gets the credit for the improvement? Top end speed, or speed endurance?

We know his training was delayed twice, so what is he doing that is helping set World Records?

The Secret?  Speed Endurance!

My theory is his speed endurance training sessions from 80-150m is actually helping his top end speed.  You want to “delay” your top speed as long as possible.  You want a smooth acceleration.. the longer, the better.

Those workouts of 4x30m, 1x60m, 1x80m, 1x100m, 1x120m, 1x150m on a short to long training plan session with full recovery are aimed directly for speed endurance (i.e distances from 8-15 seconds) but they will teach you to stay relaxed while utilizing your top end speed.

In the above workouts, we don’t even use starting blocks (except for the 4x30m). A simple falling start or rolling start is all that is required.  Block work can be saved on days when you have a technical block workout.

In a similar way, Clyde Hart likes to “train slower to race faster” which I’ve covered in several articles on this Blog.

Final Thoughts?

Bring on the 200 meters.

Click here for Part 2 with 10 meter splits.

Jimson Lee

Jimson Lee

Coach & Founder at
I am a Masters Athlete and Coach currently based in London UK. My other projects include the Bud Winter Foundation, writer for the IAAF New Studies in Athletics Journal (NSA) and a member of the Track & Field Writers of America.
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
  • Though many have discussed the qualities of peak maximal speed, sustainability and finish endurance I am most impressed with the 0.85 that was registered between the 20-30m region. Even Gay was reported to clip 0.87 in this area.

    There’s some special stuff happening here and as this pretty much covers the onset ramp of major step frequency and length deviations during acceleration transitioning. Are there some special qualities that are being delivered in this segment as well as the latter stages? Or is it simply improved strength and efficiency of the “drive phase”?

  • Thanks for the point of view, Chui.

    Yes, Jimson. Could you also please write a full article on the drive phase, the preparation that is specific to it and how it balances with a complete program?

    Thank you

  • I like the figure of 9.52
    We haven’t yet seen Bolt truly ‘finish’ a race. Sunday’s race was solid, yet he still crossed the line in showman style. if you watch the replay, at 90m he’s looking to his right and then back to his left as he begins to ease into his last stride…if he powered through and leaned at the tape, I’d say you might remove an additional .04 from his time…
    I’d predict that Bolt’s perfect race from start to FINISH would result in a 9.49 sec. Stunning, yes, but I believe we are watching the greatest sprinter of all time mature and come into his prime! Let’s not forget that he is still very young. His potential to get stronger and increase his max velocity is quite possible.
    Best of luck to all who are track and field fans.
    thanks for reading my ‘input’
    Chris H.
    Reno, NV.

  • Hi jamson , thanks for the good information that you provided herer about the new amzing world record…
    Could you please provide us with how much steps usain bolt and tyson gay covered in there 100m ?!
    42 was the magic number and i think maybe usain do less than 40!!

    Thanks alot


  • Of course he can run faster. Look at how low times have come since 50 years ago, so many people breaking to limits, new lows after new lows.

  • Jeff,

    Your statement that he can run faster is probably correct. However, your next sentence has no correlation nor draws a logical connection with the first sentence whatsoever. But assuming that it did could be somewhat disputed by the scientific phrase, “Correlation does not imply causation.”

    I would be more inclined to support your initial statement if you could provide specific information about Mr. Bolt’s training regiment and future plans or detailed charts which would imply an expectation of further decreased times for his forthcoming races.

  • TRIVIA: Tommie Smith’s Max stride length was 2.71m (8′ 11″) compared to Bolt’s 2.95m. Tommie is 6-3, Usian 6-5.

  • if bolt would have just ran through the line at the 2008 olympics we wouldn’t have to wonder how fast could have bolt ran he just has to be more of a sportsman and less of a showoff thanks!