Thursday, September 5, 2013

Speed is not Ageless

Usain Bolt announces his coming retirement, NPR told me this morning. 

If there is one athlete who is not named Michael Phelps but who could be said to be presumed to win every time he started, it is Usain Bolt.  His level of dominance is mind blowing.

Or, at least, his level of dominance in this decade.  Is he more dominant than was Carl Lewis, with 10 Olympic medals -- 9 of them gold?  Carl Lewis's medals, Wikipedia reports, were won in four Olympic games, including a gold in the long jump at the age of 35 years.  Perhaps Jesse Owens, an early example of a multi-gold-medalist in track-and-field events?

Of course, for everybody but Carl Lewis, the end comes by necessity more than by choice.  One doesn't run world record 100m dashes after age 30.  Even Usain Bolt, who will be 29-going-on-30 at the Rio Olympics.

All this said, we at runningprofs know that endurance is not ageless.  Carl Lewis famously has discussed running a marathon, but Google headlines and a search of the Houston Marathon 2012 results suggest that this never got beyond discussions.  Haile Gebraselassie ran his first marathon at age 29 and did not set a world record until age 34.  I'd give most of my extensive running shoe collection for the fun of lining up at a start line near Bolt after his retirement from running on cinders.

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