There are a lot of nervous people out there wondering if Usain Bolt will be able to deliver come late August and defend his World titles  over the short sprints at the IAAF World Athletic Championships in Daegu, South Korea. This, after two relatively ordinary showings in Rome and Ostrava in the past two weeks.

In those races Bolt won in 9.91 seconds, defeating countrymen Asafa Powell and Steve Mullings respectively but not with his usual flair and dominance. Now, if these races had occurred in mid-t0-late August I agree there would be cause for nerves. In fact, there would be cause for whole scale panic. With Tyson Gay lurking in the wings waiting for any opportunity to exploit Bolt’s frailties, the lanky sprinter cannot afford not to be ready.

However, those World Championships are still  roughly three months away and Bolt is approximately five weeks behind schedule. Remember, because of what has been described as a ‘setback’ in training, Bolt’s preparations for what is an important year in his career had been delayed for some time. He was expected, or should I say, he usually makes his season debut in a 400-metre run at the Camperdown Classic but this year he was a no-show. In fact, he was so far behind in his preparations he did not grace the track one single time locally this season.

The last time he did, he ran a spectacular world-leading 19.56seconds at the National Stadium during the Jamaica Invitational last May. He said then that he was taking it easy because he needed to allow his body time to recover from the two very strenuous years in 2008 and 2009 when he smashed records at the Olympic Games in Beijing and at the World Championships in Berlin.

As it turns out Bolt had to cut his season short because of spasms in his lower back, spasms that eventually caused him to go down to Gay in Stockholm and eventually caused him to call time on his season. As a result Bolt has not run in more than nine months as he needed time to heal and time to prepare for the challenging season before him.

Now that he is ready to run again, new challenges have emerged. The first of those is that Bolt is using competitive races to round into form and that creates its own set of issues. The fact is, if he was running at the C’Down Classic or at a local meet against lesser mortals, Bolt would have had time to get into competition shape without the scrutiny. He would have won easily and nobody would know or even care who came in second. As it is now he competing against the best in the world when he is not at his best and this gives the illusion that he has come back to the field. Here, however, is the reality.

In Rome, Bolt ran what could possibly be the worst race technically that he had ever run. His start was atrocious and he popped up too quickly from his drive phase as a result his transition was so bad it defied description. By then Asafa was two strides ahead and looking like the likely winner. Bolt then used his raw speed and power to overhaul Powell at the line, even though his form had reverted to what he used to look like back in high school. His head and shoulders went backwards and his legs splayed all over. Still, he won.

It was like he forgot how to sprint and he admitted as much when he revealed that he was blasted by his coach Glen Mills who asked him if he had forgotten how to do same. In Ostrava a week later, Bolt looked a little better while rising to the challenge presented to world leader Steve Mullings. This time, however, he assumed the lead a little earlier and actually eased off the throttle just before he won. Mullings was a close second in 9.97seconds.

I am sure Mills is going ask him the same question again, which brings me to the second challenge that Bolt faces as he prepares for late August while competing on the world stage. In the four or so years that he has been working with Mills, Bolt was actually learning how to execute his sprinting. He never mastered it. With the protracted break because of his injury worries, it would seem as if Bolt has forgotten the fundamentals of the technique mainly because of the lack of practice. This has resulted in the poor execution that we have seen so far and which has resulted in the relatively slow times that we have seen from the world’s fastest man.

What has also become evident is that his handlers might have to consider having him participate in the National Championships at the end of June just for him to get race fit, that is, practicing the technique that allowed him to generate the maximum performances from his sublime talents. That, I believe, would help him immensely as he could perform not under any pressure to win since he already has an automatic bye to Daegu as defending champion.

I am sure his handlers must be considering this as the world champs draw ever closer. I am also sure that by the time it does, Bolt will be ready to deliver once more.

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  1. JDMAN says:


  2. Rick Case says:

    Very well said, good analysis. Choosing the spotlight events to knock off rust is absurd and risky. These can lead to injury from poor execution of technique under high pressure to perform. Take time and run Usain… don’t leave out the 200m either.

  3. donovan says:

    I agree with this article. Physical fitness and injuries are the two sides to the same coin. Bolt doesn’t need to peak before late August,as he will not have to qualify for any of his events. For most others in the 100M & 200M including VCB they have to qualify at the Nationals so they have to peak twice.

  4. JAMCAN says:

    I agree, no need to panic! Mr. Mills may well have him run at the trials and you might even see him in the 400m.
    He will be ready for the world’s and look out for more world records there!

  5. superg says:

    Great Analysis
    I too, think there should be no real need for panic just yet. These are just the first 2 races that Bolt has competed in. He will deliver in time.

  6. Normalyn H-Sang says:

    Bolt is not superman he is only human and a young one at that, so please John Public leave my star alone. Whatever time he runs wherever, whenever, he always does Jamaica proud. Dont pressure the youth.

  7. J. Williams says:

    Allow Usain. He will deliver.Stop beating on him.

  8. sandrab gordon says:

    Those were his two first races and the whole world expected him to break the record.Give him time to get into his running again. I am pretty sure he Knows what mistakes he has made and will correct them.
    The other athletes are burning out them selves at the moment,I am sure some of them won’t make the world championship the way they are going or, they will be looking at his trainers bottom trying to figure out the make.

  9. Jermaine says:

    Everyone thinks that a athlete is going to run fast everytime he touch the track but fast time comes from not just hard training but a proper mind set, good climate conditions and just feeling the vibe to let go an fly.

  10. anthony matthews says:

    Based on the events that led to Bolt’s nine month lay off,I would say that he is on target as it relates to where he wants to be.The greatest area of worry to me is his start.Given his height, he will never be a great starter.On watching his races repeatedly, I noticed the tendency to go from side to side after getting off the blocks.First step goes off to the side, second off to the side, the third off to the side again It is my opinion also,that at the ”on your marks position” he has too much shoulders hanging past the line.His height and length of legs plus the accentuated over hang of his shoulders past the line, makes him come out almost too low, thus the fight to maintain balance,hence the side to side step.In other words,his transition from the blocks to the first stride, is almost too abrupt.The answer?Ease the blocks back 6 inches,allowing a better comfort range ,transferring that much more energy at the push off.As I said,he will never be a great starter,but can improve on what he has at the moment. let me point out, thats just a humble observation.

  11. Lorna Ellis says:

    Great article. Hope its read by those involved and take notice.

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11 comments so far
levyl Posted by: levyl June 2, 2011 at 8:31 am