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Friday, August 10, 2012
Does Bolt slow down to make more money?

By Darren Rovell

Usain Bolt
It has become a trademark of the world's fastest man -- slowing down to gloat before the finish line is crossed.

But is Usain Bolt's style done for financial reasons?

People familiar with the track business are aware that event organizers and sponsors give runners bonuses for setting world records. These bonuses are usually in the $25,000-$50,000 range but can scale dramatically depending on how big the star is. You can see how an outsider would be skeptical that once Bolt feels like he has enough breathing room to win, he doesn't necessarily have enough incentive to completely shatter his records. Slowly beating his records over time makes him more bonus money.

By putting forth a little more effort, Bolt could have easily topped his Olympic record in the 200 meters. He missed it this time by 0.02 seconds.

After failing to reach Bolt's agent, Ricky Simms, we contacted a few other track and field agents to ask if they thought Bolt's slowing down was a slick money move.

"I believe that Usain ran with good intentions," agent Karen Locke said. "Most important is winning. He has done that. Conditions were good, and 19.32 [seconds] is more than respectable."

Although it looks like Bolt is slowing significantly, agent Jeff Hartwig said it's deceptive.

"I'm not sure I would qualify running the second-fastest time the sport has ever seen as slowing things down," Hartwig said.

After the race, Bolt admitted that he was going for a record but slowed down when he felt some pain in his back.

Hartwig said injury is always on the mind of a pro track star.

"I do think that to push the body to that extreme at that speed significantly raises the risk of injury," he said. "There have been reports of both injury [albeit small] and lack of fitness [reduced training due to injury]. I believe that any effort to conserve or preserve may be more in an effort to ensure longevity. All it could take is one very significant injury to seriously jeopardize his entire career."

Two other factors that have to be considered as well, Hartwig said.

In showboating, Bolt is merely giving the crowd and sponsors what they want. Second, the financial incentives to break his own records likely aren't as good.

"A meet director may be more inclined to actually offer a bigger bonus for another athlete to break Usain's record versus him breaking his own," Hartwig said.