Before getting into position in the starting blocks, Usain Bolt lowers to his knees, makes the sign of the cross and points to the sky.
Bolt's pre-race routine pays his respects to the Man above and helps the sprinter stay calm and focus in on the race.
The rest of the field at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin—which includes fellow world champion sprinters Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell—can only pray for a miracle in the 100-meter finals event.
That's because Bolt is in a class by himself. There is no better finisher in the world of track and field—or arguably the entire sporting world—than the 6'5" Jamaican.
Only this time Bolt—a self-proclaimed "bad starter"—needn't rely solely on his world-class closing capabilities. He takes control from the start and never relents, cruising through the finish line on his way to a world-record time of 9.58 seconds in the 100-meter dash.
What It Took
Bolt possesses a win from within mindset every time he steps into the starting blocks. He may seem human when he struggles out of the start, but his extraordinary performances down the stretch are almost supernatural.
He says, "Sixty meters, that's when I become a beast, that's when I start to dominate the race. In the last 10 meters, you're not going to catch me. No matter who you are, no matter what you're doing, no matter how focused you are, no matter how ready you think you are, you're not going to catch me, because that last 10 meters is going to take me three and a half strides to cross the finish line."
It's that simple for Bolt. And the reason the world-record holder makes it look so easy is because he doesn't tinker with his race strategy from one event to the next.
He says, "When you do the training, it should all be OK. I just get into the blocks, take a deep breath, and just remind myself to get a good start, hold the drive phase, and just execute."
Strike fast like Bolt as he shares the details of his race strategy below:
Starting Blocks - Focus
"I try to focus on driving forward instead of up. Try to keep a straight back, drive from the hips, get full extension and put some arms into it. Make sure you don't focus on the guy next to you, because that can really throw you off sometimes. Another guy can be very quick out of the blocks, and that can make you lose focus. You have to stay focused on what you are going to do and run your race at all times."
Drive Phase - Hold and Transition
"Make sure you hold your drive phase to about 30 to 35 meters. Then you have to get the transition right so that you don't come up too quickly. Gradually come up from the drive phase instead of popping up. That transition is so important, because it helps you get from your drive phase to full speed much easier. If you pop up and try to start running too soon, you really have to work to get up to top speed. The transition takes about 15 meters, from 35 meters to about 50 meters.
"Just like with the start, you have to stay focused and not think about the guy next to you. He may have gotten a fast start and might be out in front of you, but you can't panic and pop out of your drive phase. If you do, you'll lose your whole race plan and the race is pretty much over."
Running Fast - Relax and Execute
"When you start tensing up, your muscles get tight. They start getting heavy and you begin losing speed. The more relaxed you are, the smoother and faster you'll run. Just focus on turnover and using your strides."
Bolt is the by far the best sprinter in history in the second half of the 100-meter dash. His unconventional weight room workouts—which include lightweight exercises as opposed to heavy Olympic lifting—have taken his strength endurance to new heights.
He says, "It really helps when you see your muscles develop, and it's good to have that strength, because you can run fast for longer periods."
- Assume an athletic position under the pad with your feet set just wider than shoulder-width apart and your toes pointed out slightly
- Keeping your weight on your heels and your knees behind your toes, slowly lower into a squat until the tops of your thighs are parallel to the ground
- Drive up into start position
Sets/Reps: 1x10, 1x8
Coaching Points: Keep your chest and head up // Keep your core engaged and back flat // Don't let your knees extend past your toes.
Bolt: "This is for power in my quads and back. You have to make sure you are doing it right."
Seated Chest Press
- Sit at a seated chest press machine and grip the handles at chest level
- Without changing your upper-body position, drive the handles away from your chest until your arms are fully extended
- Allow the handles to return to your chest with control
Sets/Reps: 1x10, 1x8
Coaching Points: Keep your low back pressed against the pad // Maintain a tight core.
Bolt: "This is good for all athletes, even though you might not think it's important for a sprinter. You should do core work and chest work to get everything strong. You need all of your body to be strong and work well. It's very important."
- Sit on a leg extension machine and lock your shins behind the pads
- Fully extend your legs and hold the contraction at the top of the movement
- Lower weight with control until your legs are bent at 90 degrees
Sets/Reps: 1x10, 1x8
Coaching Points: Get full range of motion, from 90 degrees to straight legs // Do not use momentum to move weight
Bolt: "This is also for your quads and helps with the strength endurance needed to run faster, longer."
What 9.58 Meant
Bolt's world-record time of 9.58 seconds in the 100-meter dash confirmed his standing as the world's most captivating athlete. Want proof? Years later, an estimated television audience of 20 million watched Bolt's 100-meter gold medal victory at the 2012 Olympic Games, making it the most watched sporting event in London.
Even Mother Nature seems to think Bolt is electrifying. On August 11, lightning struck when he crossed the finish line to win gold in the 100-meter sprint at the World Championships in Moscow.
Who said lightning never strikes twice?
Every minute is a minute to #WINFROMWITHIN. Whether it's arriving at practice early, running further or faster than you did yesterday, or waking up at 4:30 a.m. to out-work your opponents, show Gatorade how you #WINFROMWITHIN by creating your own digital Gatorade bottle.
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