Is this why Usain Bolt slowed down?
If Bolt has more in his locker, he could get rich by keeping it there, says Jonathan Harwood
As a chest-beating Usain Bolt jogged over the finishing line and broke the world record in the 100m final in Beijing, the gawping spectators were left asking one question: what record might he have set had he not slowed at the end?
It's a question event organisers around the world will be asking themselves too. And Bolt could make a fortune from it.
The Jamaican isn't going to be short of money after his dramatic triumph; sponsors and brands will be queuing up to get a piece of the fastest man on earth. But if he has it in him to run 100m even faster, perhaps below 9.6 seconds, it certainly was not in his interests to do so at the Olympics.
It seems churlish to suggest Bolt deliberately held himself back on the promise of some future pay-out, but there’s no doubt prize money is a very potent performance enhancer. Athletes are not paid to compete in the Olympics, but promoters of international athletics meetings offer huge bonuses to athletes who break records. Obliterating records in one fell swoop does not make financial sense.
During the 1980s and 90s, the Ukrainian Sergey Bubka broke the world pole vault record 35 times, literally raising the bar a centimetre at a time - and receiving a pay-out almost every time he managed it.
These days he coaches Yelena Isinbayeva, who has 23 pole vault world records under her belt operating in the same way. Bubka denies that her incremental advances are financially motivated, but there's no denying she has made a nice income from the $50,000 she gets for each new record.
It's not easy to regulate your performance in an event like the 100m sprint - and there's not a lot of time for thinking in 9.69 seconds - but the fractions of a second he let slip by easing up in the final 10m could end up being very profitable for Usain Bolt. ·