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Usain bolts to another staggering record -

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Usain bolts to another staggering record

Meredith Griffiths reported this story on Monday, August 17, 2009 12:46:00

ELEANOR HALL: It's no surprise that he came in first but the way Usain Bolt won the 100 metres
sprint at the World Athletics Championships this morning stunned sports commentators and scientists
alike.

In a sport where records are chipped away by tiny increments, Bolt demolished his own world record
to win in just 9.58 seconds. Sports scientists are now asking are asking just how much faster
humans can run.

This report from Meredith Griffiths.

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: People expected Olympic champion Usain Bolt to run well this morning, but who
could have known he would deliver this?

(Sound of starting gun.)

COMMENTATOR: Bolt in four. Didn't get the best of starts but he is motoring now and he's passed
Tyson Gay. Gay is trailing the Jamaican. It is Bolt's race. It is Bolt, it's Gay. It could have
been Powell - 9.58 seconds!

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: The 22-year-old Jamaican says he doesn't run for records but he set himself the
goal of finishing the event in 9.4 seconds.

USAIN BOLT: I don't know. I'll be the next one to break the world record next time but anything is
possible.

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: For decades 10 seconds was the benchmark for a world-class sprinter and only
the very best ever dipped under.

Maurice Green held the world record of 9.79 for six years, before Asafa Powell started chipping
away at it in 2005.

When Usain Bolt burst on to the scene last year, he was still only breaking records by of 2- or
3-hundredths of a second - today, he beat his own best time by 11-hundredths of a second.

So how does he do it? Kenneth Graham is the principal scientist at the New South Wales Institute of
Sport.

KENNETH GRAHAM: A very tall athlete. He is about 6 foot 5. Quite powerful and with his 200 metre
background, if he can get to a high speed, he has got the capacity to hold that speed and you know
100 metre running is really about doing four things well.

One is the reaction time. The second is accelerating up to running speed as quickly as possible but
that top speed is very high and in Usain's case it is at 43, 44 plus kilometres per hour and then
holding that speed across towards the finish line.

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: But Bolt's not alone. The top three runners all put in amazing performances
this morning.

Kenneth Graham again.

KENNETH GRAHAM: Psychologically people go, "wow the 9.6 barrier's been broken", we saw it many,
many years ago with the four-minute mile. No one broke the four minute mile first. Once one man
broke it then we had a number of runners going under that time and so, you know, we are seeing the
other runners also lifting the quality of their running performance.

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: But the head of biomechanics at the Australian Institute of Sport, Nick Brown,
says there is a certain point beyond which humans just won't be able to move any faster.

NICK BROWN: It is related to muscles' ability to contract and shorten so it has a ceiling that
certain muscles can only shorten at a top-end velocity and so that top end shortening velocity of
muscle will dictate at some point the top-end speed and the limit of human overground running
speed.

So, I don't know what that is and it is a very difficult problem to try and understand because
there are so many muscles that contribute to running fast over ground but, yeah, it probably is.
Have we reached it? Um, top-end speed probably getting closer but times in the 100 metres, no I
think they will probably continue to come down.

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: Do experts in this field think that like nine seconds would be possible?

NICK BROWN: I think a tenth of a second or two may be reasonable over the next decade or two
potentially but I don't think we are looking at sub-nine seconds. I don't think people are
expecting that or even trying to predict that.

ELEANOR HALL: Nick Brown from the Australian Institute of Sport ending that report from Meredith
Griffiths.