August 28, 2011, Daegu, South Korea-IAAF World Track and Field Championships (photo from The Guardian.uk)
The men's 100 meter dash was set up to be Usain Bolt's (aka the world's fastest man) to lose. His two main rivals, fellow countryman Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay were unable to perform due to injury. Unfortunately even with Gay and Powell's absence, a likely lapse in focus and reaction time cost Bolt his World Title. The world's fastest man made a mistake and at this competition, ended up losing to himself.
There were other factors at play, according to "The Science of Sport" a favorite blog of mine maintained by Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas, first IAAF rulings of automatic elimination after one (vs. previous rulings of two) false start; then the possibility of Bolt sesning Jamaican teammate Yohan Blake flinch in anticipation the next lane over. After watching the televised race yesterday afternoon and reading various press releases, I feel this race raises a number of questions and points of interest.
One thing that I must mention first is that ALL athletes make costly errors at some point in their careers, often more than once. Usain Bolt is no exception. If I were working with Bolt, I would likely first give him time to process the event, it is often necessary to deal with post-competition emotion naturally versus immediately "shaking it off". Once the most intense parts of the experience pass, proceeding with resillience-building is a plausible next step; shifting focus from the rare mistakes versus the whole body of positive work the athlete has accumulated.
Some possible questions and implications from the event:
Was the IAAF wise in implementing the one-false start rule? What does it do for fans and competitors experiences?
Was Bolt in his best focus as Blake's flinch may have triggered the false start?
With his main rivals out, could this have played a factor in Bolt's intensity and preparation?
What can be learned from this negative experience, for both the athlete and those witnessing the start?
Bolt's reaction was intense and immediate. What does this mean as far as how he copes with the error and moves forward?
We may never have definite answers to most of these, but it will be interesting to see how Usain Bolt responds psychologically. What is to be noted from this post is that no athlete is immune from mistakes or bad performances. It is an athlete's resilience after the negative experience that plays a role in determining future successes or disappointments.
Men's 200 m heats begin on September 1st.
For more info. see