Thursday August 20th, 2009

On Thursday, Usain Bolt smashed another world record by finishing the 200 meters in 19.19 seconds at the world championships. caught up with senior writer Tim Layden to get his thoughts on the Jamaican sprinter's historic performance. So what does this record mean?

Tim Layden: Bolt has erased everyone's conceptions of how low the record could go in that event. I think everyone thought he could lower the record in the 100 meters, but he took down a record that stood for 12 years, and then I don't think anyone expected him to break that record any lower. He basically wiped the slate clean of any expectations for that event. So the obvious question that comes to everyone's mind is -- is he clean?

TL: I won't unequivocally say anyone's clean because I don't know what they do in their bathroom or in the locker room. I hope he's clean -- he was fast at a young age, he has different dimensions than any sprinter we've seen; he has a bigger height and stride line than any runner, and I hope, for the state of the sport, that he is clean. What makes him so good?

TL: There are two components: one is stride frequency (how fast you can put one foot in front of the other), and the other is stride length. You can find a lot of guys who have a long stride but don't have a quick stride frequency. Bolt has the longest stride of any sprinter in history and he turns it over like someone six to eight inches shorter than he is. He has a freaky combination of skills; it's like if you had Shaq and Chris Paul in one person -- you're not supposed to be able to do that in the same body Can he get faster?

TL: He turns 23 on Friday, and we know athletes don't peak until their mid-to-late 20s. If he's clean and retains the enthusiasm he has for training and competing that he has now -- he hasn't always been the most enthusiastic trainer -- you have to think he has more left. On the Versus broadcast, Ato Boldon mentioned that some runners may just quit this event because Bolt's unbeatable-- do you think that will happen?

TL: It makes perfect sense, there are people I talked to last year at the Olympics who said he's made them reconsider what they want to do. This year at the world championships, runners behind him came in at 19:80; 19:89, those are all times that would contend for a world championship and Olympic medal throughout history and this time they weren't even close.

There's no question that young athletes have to consider whether they want to compete in this event or compete at all. On the other hand, maybe someone who would consider basketball might consider becoming a sprinter. There may be a Michael Jordan and LeBron-type athlete who might say, 'Hey, this guy is making a lot of money in a sport I hadn't really thought about.' They might give it a try now. What does Bolt do for the sport overall?

TL: He is that rare athlete in a sport who has changed the sport -- anyone at any age can look over the course of a sport and pick out an athlete who changed the sport just by virtue of their talent. Bolt's shaken every consideration about the sport and made everyone reorient their thinking about the sport, and he's done it with a smile on his face.

VIEW Photos of Usian Bolt at the World Championships

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