The data behind Usain Bolt's last ever 100m final

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It speaks volumes about Usain Bolt's popularity that during the final race of his career in the 4x100m relay at the World Championships in London, his unfortunate injury practically overshadowed a shock win by the hosts Great Britain.

To see the greatest of all-time go out the sport like that was truly heartbreaking, particularly after the 100m final hadn't exactly gone to plan either.

Seven days earlier, fans in the Olympic Stadium were stunned by Bolt's failure to win an individual gold medal in a final for the first time since 2011.

Much had been made of the Jamaican's imminent retirement but not many had even considered the possibility he wouldn't actually win his last two finals.

The controversial Justin Gatlin and fellow American Christian Coleman made it a US one-two in the 100m final, while Bolt was left trailing three-hundredths of a second behind the winner.

The result left the stadium and probably even Bolt himself in a state of shock. How had that just happened?

Well, Leeds Beckett University have conducted a detailed study on the race to reveal exactly where it all went wrong.

We say wrong, but by most athlete's standards, a bronze medal at a World Championships would represent a fantastic achievement - not for Usain Bolt, though.

16th IAAF World Athletics Championships London 2017 - Day Ten

Bolt's Achilles heel throughout his entire career has been his start to races and unfortunately, that proved his downfall once again.

The data discovered by LBU showed his reaction time was the seventh quickest (0.183 seconds). In his prime, he would be able to recover from that and still storm home in first but on this occasion, the 31-year-old just didn't have quite enough time to edge out in front.

What will frustrate Bolt the most is the difference between his and Gatlin's reaction time (0.138) was greater than the gap between them at the finish line. That's how small the margins are.

It meant Bolt was up against it as soon as the gun went off. As you can see by the graphic below, the time it took the 11-time world champion to take his first four steps was significantly longer than his fellow medalists.


The Jamaican's height advantage meant he was always going to require fewer steps to cross the line (41), compared to Gatlin (44) and Coleman (47), but he also achieved the fastest max speed across any 10m split, clocking an impressive 11.76 metres per second.

So ultimately, Bolt's race was over before he had even made his first stride. That might sound cruel but it's part of the beauty and attraction of short distance races. One small mistake in the blink of an eye is enough to end the chance of glory.

It was Michael Johnson who once said: "They don't give you gold medals for beating somebody. They give you gold medals for beating everyone."

16th IAAF World Athletics Championships London 2017 - Day Nine

And Bolt did beat everyone who threatened to challenge him for nearly 10 years - 19 gold medals earned from the Olympics and World Championships are the evidence.

It's true, Usain Bolt didn't get the fairytale ending he probably deserved after such an illustrious spell as the face of athletics, however, his loyal fan base won't remember how his career started or how it ended but all of the fun in between.

Justin Gatlin
Usain Bolt
Commonwealth Games
Mo Farah
Yohan Blake

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