The LA Times ran a piece about ESPN’s latest gizmo: an radar-similar, optical tracking device to measure the speed of the punt receivers duing the New Orleans x Minnesota game. In that game, Saints’ Reggie Bush reached a top speed of 22 mph on one of his two punt returns for touchdowns.

“If you don’t think 22 mph sounds that fast, consider this: Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt averaged 23.07 mph over 100 meters when he took the gold medal with his blistering 9.69-second performance in the Olympics.That’s according to EliteFeet.com, which also translated the times of star runners Maurice Greene (21.0 mph in the indoor 60 meters), Michael Johnson (20.71 in the 400) and Florence Griffith Joyner (21.32 in the 100), among others.”

The article correctly points out that “those speeds are averages over the distance, as opposed to Bush’s top speed”, and also showed the handicap that Reggie had to deal with: “those runners also weren’t carrying a football and saddled with a helmet and pads”. Fair enough.

Problem is, the article compared a top speed against an average. This comparison is even more distorted given that the average includes the acceleration from 0 at the the starting block. A follow-up article gave away the key elements later:

“In his world-record 100 m of 9.69, Bolt reached a top speed of 27.3 mph and AVERAGED 26.6 for his last 50 meters, including his slowdown at the end. That’s 25-30% faster than Bush.”

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Still on the “fastest” topic: the IOC released the final, official times for the 4x100m relays. The Jamaican team finished with Asafa Powerll breaking the a long-lasting record for the anchor leg:

“Powell ran a scorching 8.70 seconds on the anchor leg of the victorious Jamaican Olympic 4×100-metre relay team in Beijing that ran 37.10 seconds to break the USA’s long standing previous mark of 37.40 seconds.

Collecting the baton about five-six metres in front, Powell powered down the track and opened the gap even further on his way to improving the previous fastest leg, registered by American legend Bob Hayes at the 1964 Tokyo Games. Hayes’ time, initially clocked at 8.50, converted to an official electronic time of 8.74 seconds.”

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