Historical & Predictive Analysis for the 100m Sprint Race

The 100 metres or 100m dash is a sprint race in track and field competitions. It is the shortest common outdoor running distance and is considered one of the most prestigious events in the sports of athletics.

Abstract

This research focuses on records and athletes’ performances at the most glorious sport of athletics, the 100m sprint race. The current world record holder with 9.58 seconds, the great Usain Bolt and the rising American star, Christian Coleman are only two of the top sprinters whose achievements will be examined on this research, which will further focus on a thorough analysis of historical data concerning athletes’ records as well as a descriptive analysis of countries’ performances (on the 100m race) at the Olympic Games. The last part is an investigation of the wind factor’s (tailwind or headwind) effect on the records and times of sprinters. Finally, the researcher will make a prediction for the upcoming Olympic Games of 2020 at Tokyo, on whether or not Bolt’s world record will be broken, using the statistical method “forecast”.

Introduction

The 100m sprint race has been included at the Summer Olympic Games since the first Games in 1896 for men and since 1928 for women. The Olympics 100m finals are among the most popular sports events in athletics, with more than 35 million people worldwide having watched Usain Bolt winning the 100m final at the 2016 Olympics.

The 100m world record holders, as well as the respective Olympic champions, are often known as “The world’s fastest man/woman.” The 100m competitions are carried out under specific standard international rules, which are set by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

Methodology and Data Collection

For the purpose of the research, data (concerning the 100m) from the first Olympic Games (1896 ) to the latest Games at Rio 2016 were collected and analyzed. Additionally, the researcher presented a short performance analysis for Usain Bolt and Christian Coleman and their best times until 2017.

The last part of the research is about predictions for the 100m. Therefore, the mathematical model “forecast” was used for the predictive analysis regarding the next Olympic Games of 2020 at Tokyo.

History of the 100m race

The 100m race is one of the most historical races along with the marathon. Introduced to the Olympic Games in 1896 for the first modern Olympiad (held in Athens, Greece), it is believed to be the modern equivalent of the ancient sprint race, named “stadion”. “Stadion”, was a common race in ancient Greece and a part of the Ancient Olympic Games. Moreover, it was one of the five major sports of the ancient Pentathlon and the most prestigious event of the Ancient Games. Adapted in Latin and later in English as “stadium”, the name derives from the fact that an athlete had to run the perimeter of the ancient stadium, which was approximately 180m.

In the first modern Olympic Games, the 100m winner was the American runner Thomas Burke who finished his sprint with a time of 12 seconds. At those Games the lanes were separated by ropes and each runner had his own unique style of starting and running. That changed a few years later, in 1920, as athletes shared for the first time a similar style of running by using the starting blocks.

Training Techniques for 100m sprinters

The 100m race requires explosive speed and perfect technique. Though significant developments have also been made to athletes’ apparel (including the shoes which are now very lightweight and flexible in order to accelerate easier), to be able to compete, professional sprinters follow specific and demanding training programs.

Interval Training

In order to build the required explosive running speed and strength, many sprinters choose to do interval training. In this training, athletes typically start by running a 400m sprint closely followed by a 200m sprint. After that, they run a 100m sprint and they end the cycle with a 50m run; then they usually take a two-minute break and continue to repeat the four sprints. The abovementioned routine helps sprinters gain endurance and improve their technique by learning how to continuously build bursts of speed.

Parachute Training

Another common style of training among the 100m sprinters is the parachute training; arguably one of the best ways for sprinters to build strength as well as speed. A running parachute, which is worn like a back pack, acts as resistance to runners, forcing them to work harder in order to run faster; thus helping them in building acceleration.

Other techniques

Other types of training, like the ten-start drill, help sprinters improve their starting technique; as a sprinter’s ability to get out of the starting block and reach his top speed quickly is very important. Usually, sprinters reach their peak speed between the first 50 to 60m and then “slow down” towards the finish line.

Analysis of the Olympic Games 100m races

As mentioned above, the 100m finals are among the most popular sports events in athletics. The following analysis concerns the records (best time) in the 100m for both men and women in the history of the Olympic Games.

The first Olympic champions in the 100m were both Americans: Thomas Burke (12.0 seconds) for men and 32 years later, Betty Robinson (12.2 seconds) for women.

The Olympic records for the 100m are 9.63 seconds for men, set by the famous Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt in 2012, and 10.54 seconds for women, set by the American Florence Griffith-Joyner in 1988.

Countries with the most victories

Among the competing nations, the United States has had the most success in the 100m race. USA has won sixteen gold medals in men’s races and nine in women’s. During the last three Olympic years though, Jamaican athletes have dominated in the 100m race, the most successful of them being Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell, Yohan Blake, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Elaine Thompson. Of them, Usain Bolt has won three consecutive titles during the last three Olympic Games (2008–16). Only four other athletes have ever won back-to-back titles: Wyomia Tyus (1964–68), Carl Lewis (1984–88) and Gail Devers (1992–96) from the USA, and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (2008–12) from Jamaica. On the other hand, as a general remark from the pie chart analysis below, European sprinters have won the gold Olympic medal only five times for men (a percentage of 17.9%) and six times for women (percentage of 30%).

  

Records and Champions

According to the IAAF, the men’s world record has been improved 12 times since 1968, when electronic timing was first introduced to the Olympics. In August 2009, Usain Bolt achieved an unbelievable record when he finished his race at 9.58 seconds at the World Championships in Berlin, Germany. Bolt beat his own previous record of 9.69 seconds.

Women’s world record is 10.49 seconds, set by the American sprinter Florence Griffith-Joyner in July of 1988 and remains unbroken to date. The IAAF recognized its first 100m world record holder in 1912 (American Donald Lippincott – 10.6 seconds) at the Stockholm Olympics.

A few words for the 100m legend, Usain Bolt

Men’s 100m sprint race times have progressed rapidly over the last few years, mainly thanks to the achievements of Usain Bolt. Due to his overall achievements in sprinting competitions, he is widely considered to be the greatest sprinter of all time. At the race that Bolt set the world record, his average ground speed measured to 37.58 km/h (23.35 mph). Furthermore, Bolt is the only sprinter that has won the 100m and 200m Olympic titles at three consecutive Olympic Games (2008, 2012 and 2016).

The “Lightning Bolt”, as he’s nicknamed, has won many awards including the IAAF World Athlete of the Year (2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2016) and Track & Field Athlete of the Year (2008, 2009). Usain Bolt retired after the 2017 World Championships, when he finished third in his last solo 100m race. He won the bronze medal in 9.95 seconds, 0.01 seconds behind the silver medalist and rising star sprinter Christian Coleman and 0.03 seconds behind the world champion Justin Gatlin. That was the first time that Bolt was beaten at a major championship since the 4x100m relay of the 2007 World Athletics Championships.
The area graph below depicts Usain Bolt’s best times in the 100m through years.

The rising star, Christian Coleman

Christian Coleman (born March 6, 1996) is a professional American sprinter competing at the 100m and 200m races. He is the world record holder for the indoors 60 meter dash and also a double silver medalist at the World Championships in Athletics in 2017. Moreover, Christian Coleman was the fastest man in the world for 2017, at only 21 years old.
He is currently the ninth fastest man (with a personal record of 9.82 seconds) of all times (Bolt is the first). The only other Americans to run faster than Coleman are either Olympic or world 100m champions (Tyson Gay, Justin Gatlin and Maurice Greene). His feats have already earned him a call to the USA Olympics team.

Coleman is Among the Four Fastest Americans Ever

USA has always excelled in the 100m with famous athletes such as Jesse Owens, Carl Lewis, Maurice Greene, Tyson Gay, Justin Gatlin and many others. Christian Coleman is ready to carry that torch forward for his country in the coming years as the rising star of the USA athletics team. In order to understand the tremendous potential Coleman holds on the track, one needs to take a closer look at his recent records.

At the young age of 21, Coleman has already left a number of famous athletes behind him. Maurice Greene, Justin Gatlin, and Tyson Gay are the only three other athletes in the history of American 100m sprinting who have finished a race faster than him. But, considering how many years he has ahead of him, it wouldn’t be surprising if he surpasses all of them and positions himself as the number one sprinter in the USA, and perhaps even in the world.

Coleman’s brief history & achievements

Coleman has broken the 10 seconds mark on no fewer than six races during the last year alone. He became the second only person in history, after Justin Gatlin, to complete the double-double of indoor 60m and 200m, and outdoor 100m and 200m NCAA titles (the prestigious US national collegiate competition) in one year (2017).

His story began in Atlanta, Georgia, where he started sprinting at an age of five. From a very young age he stood out with his talent and distinctions. When he finished school Coleman chose to continue his studies at the University of Tennessee, becoming a part of their exceptional athletics team. An interesting fact here is that another famous American sprinter, Justin Gatlin, has also studied at the same university. Gatlin is Coleman’s mentor as they are training together and they share many traits (i.e. Gatlin is the only other sprinter to win all of the four national championships in a single academic year). So, Coleman’s target is to become even better than his mentor by conquering the 100m world and to be the first American after the last three Olympiads that will beat the Jamaicans.

Below is a graph depicting Coleman’s best times in the 100m from 2014 until now.

Comparison with Usain Bolt

Coleman’s record of 9.82 seconds (NCAA Outdoor Championships 2017) is actually faster than that of Usain Bolt’s when he was at the same age. Though Usain Bolt completed his first run under 10 seconds at a faster time of 9.76 seconds, he was at that point quite a few months older than the American athlete.

Furthermore, Coleman isn’t nearly as tall as Usain Bolt (1.95m); but standing at 1.74m tall and weighting almost 73kg, he has an advantage of better aerodynamics. Even though Bolt’s 9.58 seconds record doesn’t seem like something that Coleman can touch for the moment, many experts of the sport are speculating that he could be getting pretty close to that in a year or two. Overall, Christian Coleman has already been making waves on the track at the tender age of 21 and could be the heir to Usain Bolt. The future belongs to him, but nothing is set at this time beyond the obvious goals of the 2019 World Championships and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Factors That influence 100m athlete’s performance & time

This last part of the research, concentrates on the analysis of some important key factors that influence sprinters’ performance. In general, the main factors that determine the performance of an athlete at the 100m race are the following:

  • Wind
  • Altitude
  • Reaction Time
  • Temperature and Humidity
  • Lane draw from wind
  • Lane draw for Reaction time (IAAF Silent Gun)
  • Track Surface
  • Spikes
  • Clothing
  • Training, Recovery & Peaking

From the abovementioned factors only the first three are recorded for record purposes.

There is a general remark that the better the tailwind, the faster the record’s fall. Bolt’s world record at 9.58sec, set in Berlin in 2009, was assisted by a 0.9m/s tailwind. The maximum valid permissible tailwind for a world record has been set to +2.0m/s from IAAF.

Wind Factor & Analysis

IAAF acknowledges the effect of a tailwind by setting strict criteria; a time run in a tailwind greater than 2.0 m/s cannot count for record purposes. It has been proved that the effects of a tailwind equal to 2.0m/s improves the time of an athlete by about 0.1 second. The effect of various wind speeds on a 100m time of 10.00 seconds is shown in the table below:

wind (m/s)-5-4-3-2-1012345
effect+0.35+0.27+0.19+0.12+0.060.00-0.05-0.10-0.14-0.18-0.21

Negative values are headwinds, while positive values are tailwinds. The abovementioned table shows that the increase in time due to a headwind is more than the equivalent decrease in time due to a corresponding tailwind.

Analysis in times of the best 8 athletes of the last decade

The second table below shows the (legal) best times of the top 8 athletes of the last decade. Apart from their best time (personal record) the table depicts the wind as it was measured during their race.

AthleteUsain BoltTyson GayYohan BlakeAsafa PowellJustin GatlinNesta CarterMaurice GreeneChristian Coleman
Personal Record (Time in seconds)9.589.699.699.729.749.789.799.82
Wind+0.9+2.0-0.1+0.2+0.9+0.9+0.1+1.3
Calculated with 0m/s wind9.629.789.689.739.789.829.799.88

As shown in the second table above, the majority of the athletes achieved their records with a tailwind with the sole exception of Yohan Blake.

An interesting fact regarding Bolt’s world record, (9.58sec set with a +0.9 m/s tailwind), is that if the conditions were better (a tailwind close to +2.0m/s), he could have achieved an even more remarkable time, close to 9.53sec.

Analysis with assumption of 0m/s of wind

The following bar graph analysis depicts the best times of the abovementioned athletes best times if they had competed with a wind speed of 0m/s. The interpretation of the results based on the initial assumption of a 0m/s wind speed shows that Bolt’s world record would be close to 9.62sec and that Yohan Blake with 9.68sec would be the second fastest athlete in the world. Asafa Powell would be the third fastest athlete in the world. Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin would be in the fourth position with a time of 9.78sec.

A forecasted prediction for the next Olympic Games

Based on the historical data of the world records for the 100m and the corresponding records for the Olympic Games throughout the years, a prediction for the upcoming Olympics is followed below on the graphs. In order to determine that, the statistical method called “forecast” was used, as is usual for predictions, with a confidence level of 95%.

 


So, a final conclusion is that in the 2020 Olympics women’s race the best time will be very close the Olympic Record, while in the men’s race the best time might touch the world record. So, the answer to the question if Bolt’s and  Griffith-Joyner’s world or Olympic record will be broken (by the rising star Christian Coleman or even the young Italian Filippo Tortu for men and the gold medalist favorite Elaine Thompson for women), is that it might happen depending on the wind factor during the race.

Results and Discussion

The general result of the abovementioned historical and predictive analysis is that the 100m sprint race will always be the most spectacular sport in athletics. Although that the legend Usain Bolt retired from the races, rising stars such as the American Christian Coleman or the Italian freshman Filippo Tortu putting their-selves candidates for breaking Bolt’s world record of 9.58sec. Another, interesting result of  the research is the prediction for the next Olympic Games, were the records for both men and women will approach the world records.

Conclusion

Summarizing the research, the forecasted prediction for 100m sprint race for the upcoming Games will be a time close to 9.59sec (very close to the world record of Usain Bolt with 9.58sec) for men and 10.59 for women. The wind will be a crucial factor on time as it is factor that determines the performance: 2.0m/s tailwind improves the time of an athlete by about 0.1 second. The two main questions for the upcoming Olympics are whether or not the record can be broken (either for men or women) and whether or not the American sprinters (with their young talent Christian Coleman) will break the Jamaican domination of the last 3 Olympiads.


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I believe in the proverb of Plutarch: "exercise without physical qualifications and knowledge is incomplete". As an ambitious data scientist, I'm always aiming to broaden my knowledge by interpreting & managing data in order to solve complex problems. In Statathlon, I'm combining my main passions: sports & data science

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