Usain Bolt and his coach Glen Mills are planning extensive work to fix a problem that you would never expect from the world's fastest man.
Bolt is becoming increasingly "slow."
Slow out of the blocks that is, with the European track season seeing the Jamaican superstar becoming ever more sluggish at the start of races, especially in the 100 meters.
Such is Bolt's brilliance that it hasn't mattered too much, with a pattern emerging where he is typically left near the tail of the field in the early stages before storming past the pack to clinch victory. The most recent example came in Zurich on Thursday, where the six-time Olympic champion's takeoff was almost comically pedestrian – he challenged for dead last through 20 meters in the nine-runner field – although he still managed to cruise to victory in a time of 9.90 seconds.
"The more I run the worse my reaction time gets," Bolt told reporters. "My coach knows that when it comes to the end of the season, I am not the perfect athlete."
It should be noted that Bolt has never been the quickest of starters and his ability is so superior to most of his opponents that the issue need not to be of great concern to his supporters.
However, it is a flaw that he and Mills have resolved to work out, after he has had some time to recuperate back home in Jamaica.
On that sun-baked island where Bolt is the ultimate national icon, the wonderfully chilled pace of life means the locals tend not to worry about too much, even when it comes to their favorite sporting son. However, Bolt's starting difficulties have not escaped the attention of the local media, with the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper describing his Zurich performance as "ugly."
Bolt freely admitted he was not at his best this week, having to wait until the 85-meter mark to overhaul fellow Jamaican Nickel Ashmeade, with American Justin Gatlin in third.
Losing to Gatlin in Rome back in June was Bolt's only defeat of the summer, though he insisted this performance was even worse.
"That was the worst race of the season," Bolt said. "The longer the season goes, the worse my style gets. This race, it was really hard. I was a little sore; it is time to get home now."
For coach Mills, the job is part technical and part mental. Bolt has admitted he has lazy tendencies and finds it hard to dedicate himself at times.
"He is always motivated going into the [major championships]," Mills said recently. "He takes competition and the big occasions very seriously. He is highly motivated for [events] such as the worlds and Olympics." However, getting Bolt fired up for smaller events is a more tricky task.
Now the challenge will be to see how strong Bolt's motivation is to correct his recent slowness at the start, perhaps the only weakness that can give his rivals any glimmer of hope.
"It gets harder every year as I get older," Bolt, 26, admitted after the world championships earlier this month. "But I'm proud of myself and my teammates and I'll continue to work hard and dominate as long as possible."
Recent tweets seemed to indicate Bolt was looking forward to getting home to enjoy time riding his new quad bike and enjoy some relaxation time. However, it is likely that Mills, who has always managed to find a way to pump up his athlete when it really matters, has some slightly tougher exertions planned.
- Athletics, Track & Field
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- Usain Bolt