I’ve been sitting on this article for months with hesitation. Here is the preamble on why I never posted it (until today).
The problem with doing splits is you need extremely good video, preferably non-compressed HD quality, as well as the video of the starting gun showing the smoke coming out to start the timer. You cannot use the sound of the gun. Also, you can’t go on first movement, because it doesn’t factor in reaction time.
To refresh your memory, here is the race video on YouTube.
In Yohan Blake’s 19.26 200m run, the best I can come up with is 10.14 and 9.12, though some people think it’s closer to 10.20 and 9.06. No one knows for sure unless we get more video footage.
You can’t blame the starter as he was behind the runners, which is unusual, because he should be on the infield. (I guess he didn’t want to get speared by the javelin throwers!) However, there were speakers installed behind the blocks.
Also, Yohan Blake ran the race on a very wide track… almost a 125m curve/75m straight compared to most tracks being 116m/84m (see the runners compared to the Beijing track – photo below). He also had Lane 6 so the curve was not as tight compared to Lane 3 on a “standard” IAAF track. For Dimensions and Configuration of IAAF tracks, see Track Dimensions: How Many Feet is 400 meters?
Assumptions and Known Variables
Let’s cover some of the assumptions and known variables of the top four 200 meter races of all time:
- slowdown – assume 1 sec acceleration out of blocks
- Michael Johnson had a bad lane 3, AND stumbled on the 2nd step
- For MJ, we don’t know his 1996 100m SB, only his PB
- Bolt in Beijing ‘08… He slowed down before finish line in the 100 meters
- Yohan Blake had a very poor reaction time
- Yohan Blake ran the race on a very wide track, which should give a faster 1st half, but it didn’t
Comparing the Splits from Top 4 200 meter All-time
Michael Johnson 19.32, Atlanta
This is one of my favorite races, because he had a bad lane draw (Lane 3 instead of 6 with a sharper curve) and he stumbled coming out of the blocks.
He ran nearly all out for the first 100, within 0.03 of his PB for the 100m, and most amazing, he hardly slowed down for the 2nd half (0.08 slowdown)! Talk about speed endurance! Usain Bolt has a slowdown of approx. 0.35 sec for the second half, so we know Bolt is human after all.
MJ’s splits were 10.12 + 9.20 = 19.32, therefore Johnson still had the fastest second half ever recorded until Blake broke it with his 19.26
Usain Bolt 19.19 & 19.30
I think we’ve dissected Bolt’s 2 WR enough in previous articles, but it’s a shame he didn’t run through the line in Beijing for the 100m, to get a true idea of his 100m WR.
His execution is consistent. Run the first half 0.30 slower than your 100m PB for the 1st half, and expect a slowdown of 0.35 sec for the second half.
For Bolt 19.19 WR, which is almost “doubled his 9.58 WR”, you simply can’t double your 100m time to get predicted 200m time, even though “double your best 100m plus/minus 0.2 seconds” is the norm.
To determine your 200 meter potential from a 100 meter time, it’s really twice your speed reserve (using Bolt 09 = 0.34 for each 100m segment) plus your second half slowdown (0.35) that predicts your 200m time.
Yohan Blake’s 19.26
Yohan Blake admits he can beat Usain Bolt and set a new world record. In fact, at a recent interview, he admits the instructions from Coach Glen Mills was “take it easy on the turn, and fly down the straight”. And it was a short straightaway to boot (not the traditional 84m straightaway)!
MJ’s near even pace still surprises me (0.08 slowdown), but I have never seen a world class negative split until this race. If you assume one second acceleration out of blocks, then he ran the 2nd half faster than the first (9.14 vs 9.12).
Some people think it’s closer to 10.20 and 9.06, which would make 9.20 vs 9.06, which is absolutely insane.
Blake’s “speed reserve” execution is similar to Bolt’s… run the first 100 about 0.30-0.35 seconds slower than your best 100m.
But his 2nd half split was the real shocker.
A negative split?
And you wondered why I initially though it was a timing malfunction?
Gone with the Wind
Wind and cross winds are always a factor in the 200 meters. My pet peeve is the current method is not an accurate way to determine if tailwinds help a sprinter. I covered that topic in Wind Assistance: Do Illegal Tailwinds help Sprinters?
Granted, in both of Bolt’s world records, he had a headwind, not to mention 4 rounds of the 100 meters and 3 rounds of the 200 meters. We’ll have to see how 5 rounds of races (3+2) will affect these sprinters in a 200m, since each race is now reduced form 4 rounds to 3 rounds per race.
The Battle of Bolt and Blake
The 200 meters in London 2012 will be a very interesting matchup. Most likely, they will have run 3 rounds (not 4) of 100m prior to the 200m. It will not be a straight invitational final. We know the strengths and weaknesses of Bolt and Blake based on the chart above. So it will be a matter of Bolt regaining his form from 2009 and Blake “running down” his opponent. When you are in front, you can run relaxed.
Let the Games Begin!
Note the starter in this picture, but they did have speakers in the blocks.
Usain Bolt’s 100 meter split at Beijing 2008. Compare that with the photo below of Blake & Dix.
From the 100 meter splits above and from Beijing, Yohan Blake’s race was a very wide track.