Here’s a little bit more from the program:
M.J: Over the years, improvements in the track, the shoes and in technology have all helped to reduce times, but for the athletes, not a great deal has changed since the '20’s: Guts, Hard work and determination.
For me, Ben vs Carl in 88 was the biggest story in the history of track. Even today it’s been reffered to. My reaction was: “This is amazing, all the build-up, all the attention, so many people around the world watching!”
In Seoul, Ben’s form meant his camp were confident.
C.F: We knew he was under the W.R from 1986 but he didn’t get the conditions to get it officially. In 1987, he had a pretty significant stumble 3rd step out in Rome but he still ran 9.83.
B.J: We didn’t like eachother. He thought he was better than me. ‘You had your time, you won 4 gold medals in 84, now it’s my turn to take over’. The rivalry was just great. It was great for track, for the fans, for sponsorship. If a person spends $2.5 million on me, it’s my duty to win the gold medal. They believe in me so they deserve a victory.
M.J: I’ve always found it amazing to think that before the race, Ben already knew what his body was capable of.
B.J: At 90m I saw the big clock because it was just about on my left but face on. And I saw 9 seconds, so I eased up a little bit and I put my hand up in the air and I looked at Carl. I didn’t jump for joy or go crazy 'cause I knew I was doing that in practice. So it’s just another meeting. Even when I left the blocks, I knew that it was a W.R. His handshake wasn’t a fair shake. ‘You’ve had your time. This is my time. Let me enjoy my victory. Move over.’
Neil Winter (writer): The one that stood out most of all was Bob Hayes. Had he gone on like the athletes do today, he’d have broken that W.R many times. He was just unbelievably quick. I believe he’s the fastest man that’s ever lived.
M.J: It takes a lot of dedication to be the fastest in the world and to be the best that you can be. In terms of sacrifice, it depends on the individual. You believe you can be the fastest but you’re not gonna get confirmation every day that you’re right. You’re gonna get lots of signs that you may be wrong, but you’ve gotta stay focused on proving yourself right.
Alan Wells had no easy way to gain strength and power and his rise to the top came from sheer hard work and commitment. Wells had a unique training regime more akin to a boxer than to a sprinter. His punishing schedule didn’t include weights but consisted of a speed ball and mat work.
A.W: The way you’re hitting the ball, you’re actually pushing off your foot. Everything’s coordinated. It’s similar to running. It was as hard as you wanted it to be (repetitions-wise). We did free-standing squats, bounds, hops and jumps. No weights. It was all focused on speed on the track.
M.J: Self belief has to come from within and not from listening to those around you. That’s where race favourite Asafa Powell went wrong and missed his chance in 2004.
A.P: Everyone was saying that there’s no way I can lose, so I started thinking that and saying to myself that I can’t lose. I think that’s what got to me.
M.J: Dealing with pressure is crucial in sprinting and self belief is everything when history beckons.
There’s a strategy. You get out of the blocks and you get into the drive phase but you can only hold that for so long. Then there’s a transition…there’s always a transition in and out of each phase. So the strategy and the phases and how long you stay in those phases and what those phases are, will depend a lot on what type of athlete you are. The start is vital. Harold Abrahams would practice this over and over to improve reaction time. Sometimes though, reaction times are in-built. Ben’s start was phenomenal.
B.J: In the semi final, I got out of the blocks so fast, I broke the sensor and the guy gave me a false start. It was only when they put it back on the replay that I didn’t move. I was too fast for the sensor. That race was faster than the final, actually. That was about a 9.6 if I kept going. I was ready to turn on all the engines.
C.F: When you get into the ‘set’ position, you draw your breath in and hold it so that you can blow out under pressure. You don’t want to be caught sucking in air when you’re trying to go. You wanna only think of what you’re gonna do after the gun’s been fired. So the first thing that moves in an athlete is his lead hand, and so you think only of lead hand. When the gun fires, you’re startled and you think ‘Oh, that’s the gun’. Now we’ll go. You can pick up a tenth by changing that from reaction to a reflex.
A.P: If you make those first couple of steps too fast, you won’t have any energy for the end, so the first part is getting some long powerful strides.
Justin G: If I work on 1 phase at a time, that’s when I know my race will be successful. If I work on getting out of the blocks, then get into the drive phase, then my acceleration phase and then the finish line, my race will be successful. If I think too far ahead into the race then I’ll forget something in the beginning.
A.P: My drive phase is to 55m. Normally people drive until 30m. After 60m there’s no way you can go any faster. At the end you have to make some quick touches. That’s when you’re relaxing. Sometimes it’s like you’re not touching the ground.
M.J: When you’re relaxed, your shoulders are relaxed but they’re still working. They’re just not pushing. They’re not reaching for more. You’re not tense anymore. It doesn’t mean you’re slowing down, you’re floating. There was no-one better than Jesse Owens. Upright body and short arm take back. This was my natural style. but most people told me I’d have to change to be successful. Luckily for me, I found the right coach. Clyde Hart recognised that I wasn’t doing anything that was limiting me. He recognised that it was different but also recognised that it was similar to J.O and he always thought that J.O was a very efficient runner. Efficiency is the key to any sprinter’s running style, the ability to move effortlessly across the ground. Today most sprinters, like Asafa Powell, are power sprinters using more strength and muscle. The only athlete today that has a similar style to Carl Lewis is Justin Gatlin.
Gordon Valiant (biomechanist): The key to running faster: there is a relationship between running speed and the length of time the foot is on the ground. As athletes increase speed, the length of time the foot is on the ground is shorter and shorter. So I would think that the shorter the period of time the athlete can get his foot on and off the ground i.e strike the ground and rebound off the ground with propulsive forces, the more conducive that would be to faster sprinting.
Tobie Hatfield (footwear designer): On shoes you now have synthetic leathers, lighter weight, they don’t stretch out, they’re very smooth. On the spike plate, with the tighter eurothenes and harder mondos, you have spikes that match the surface. You now have compression spikes that don’t penetrate the surface but make a depression in the surface so that it’s a much smoother release.
M.J: What about the sprinter’s clothing? What if a material is designed that is faster than the human skin? Tests have proved that there are fabrics that have less drag than flesh and bone. Some are sceptical but the designers are adamant that it works. Asafa broke the W.R wearing this technology.
Clothing developer: We have proven in the wind tunnel through scientific modelling that this is faster. All else being equal, wearing this suit is gonna make you faster and will get the 10.10 guy to 9.9 or 9.78 to 9.77.
Stephen Francis: The reason why Asafa is gonna be very difficult to beat once he matures is that he is almost like a perfect machine. He is the person with a big man’s closing speed and a short man’s start. Once you have that combination, it’s very difficult to overcome. Once he gets a couple of years of strength and power under his belt, we’ll see the record being taken to a new level.
M.J: We’re getting closer to the limit. Just how fast will man go? Some say 9.5 is the ultimate limit but judging from the past, that won’t happen for another 100 years.