Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bolt in Perspective

The first week of the Olympics is over and there was a clear Champion Olympian in Michael Phelps. It was to be his Olympics, an achievement the likes of which we might not see in many years. Then week 2 began and mon, did it begin with a Bolt! The Lightning Bolt came out of nowhere to eclipse Phelps' thunder. Two different sports and there should not be any comparison or debate. They are both great but since has NBC and the American magazines and journalists dissect his every race I decided to play the part for Usain.

It's difficult to fathom what running a few tenths or hundreds really mean but when I looked at raw data, the numbers behind Bolt's achievement gets clearer. Let's start with the 100m...

Beijing finals.
Rank Athlete Time
1 BOLT Usain 9.69 0.165 WR
2 THOMPSON Richard 9.89 0.133 PB
3 DIX Walter 9.91 0.133 PB
4 MARTINA Churandy 9.93 0.169 NR
5 POWELL Asafa 9.95 0.134
6 FRATER Michael 9.97 0.147 PB
7 BURNS Marc 10.01 0.145
8 PATTON Darvis 10.03 0.142

Bolt ran 9.69 comfortably. We all saw that. His reaction off the blocks was 0.032 seconds slower than the fastest reaction and yet he was two-tenths of a second faster than the world's second best. Everyone else ran the race of their lives with Personal Best times (PB) and National Record (NR) times and yet they weren't anywhere near Bolt at the finish line.

Here are the fastest 100m runners ever.
It has been shown that tail wind and head wind play a role in the final times. Research has shown that a tail wind of 1m/s improves the overall time by 0.05 seconds and that a head wind of 1m/s slows you by 0.07 seconds. So I've listed the wind speed and calculated a probable time if it were not for the wind.

Actual Time Wind(m/s) Zero Wind Time Athlete
9.69 0 9.69 Usain Bolt
9.74 1.7 9.83 Asafa Powell
9.77 1.6 9.85 Tyson Gay
9.79 0.1 9.80 Maurice Greene
9.84 0.7 9.88 Donovan Bailey
9.84 0.2 9.85 Bruny Surin
9.85 1.2 9.91 Leroy Burrell
9.85 0.6 9.88 Justin Gatlin
9.85 1.7 9.94 Olusoji Fasuba
9.86 1.2 9.92 Carl Lewis
9.86 -0.4 9.83 Frankie Fredericks
9.86 1.8 9.95 Ato Boldon
9.86 0.6 9.89 Francis Obikwelu

Only 4 runners ever in history have run less than 9.7 seconds. However if consider the wind, no one other than Bolt has run less than 9.8 seconds. Bolt with zero wind ran 9.69. More than a tenth of a second faster than any sprinter ever. In 1968 the WR was 9.95. In nearly 40 years the record had been chopped by 0.21 seconds a feat achieved in steps by many athletes chipping away bit by bit. Usain won the Beijing finals by 0.2 seconds with his shoe laces untied by the way. Can he really be that much better than anyone else ever?

The 200m
Usain's favorite event. The results are even more startling. When Michael Johnson set the 19.32 no one thought it could be matched. It was a freakish record with no man ever running less than 19.6 seconds ever. But then there is always a freak of nature.

Beijing finals
Rank Name Time React.
1 BOLT Usain (JAM) 19.3 0.182 WR
2 CRAWFORD Shawn (USA) 19.96 0.21
3 DIX Walter (USA) 19.98 0.151
4 DZINGAI Brian (ZIM) 20.22 0.185
5 MALCOLM Christian (GBR) 20.4 0.212
6 COLLINS Kim (SKN) 20.59 0.165
7 MARTINA Churandy DQ 0.144
8 SPEARMON Wallace DQ 0.167

The win by 0.66 seconds is the greatest in history. Gone are those days of a photo finish. was no one except him in the photo of his finish. He ran 19.3 seconds. Johnson didn't think he could do it this race but he was there in the BBC box to watch his record being broken. Was that fast? Yes. But could it have been faster? Definitely. Bolt ran the race against a head wind of 0.9 m/s.

Here are the fastest 200m runners ever.
Rank Time Wind(m/s) Zero Wind Time Athlete
1 19.3 -0.9 19.17 Usain Bolt
2 19.32 0.4 19.36 Michael Johnson
3 19.62 -0.3 19.58 Tyson Gay
4 19.63 0.4 19.67 Xavier Carter
5 19.65 0 19.65 Wallace Spearmon
6 19.68 0.4 19.72 Frank Fredericks
7 19.69 0.9 19.78 Walter Dix
8 19.72 1.8 19.90 Pietro Mennea
9 19.73 -0.2 19.70 Michael Marsh
10 19.75 1.5 19.90 Carl Lewis

19.75 1.8 19.93 Joe DeLoach

Bolt ran 19.3 with a 0.9 head wind. Johnson ran his 19.32 with a tail wind of 0.4 m/s. In my opinion the real difference almost 2/10 of a second. Everyone knows that the average 100m speed of a 200m is faster than the 100m as you can run the second 100 in the 200 much faster than an off the block start. But look at the average times from the fastest 200m runners. Apart from Bolt and Johnson the others all have a 100m average spped of greater than 9.8 seconds. In essence Bolt's 100m 9.69 from a dead start is faster than the other fastest sprinters' 100m times of a running start. Incredible!

100m average for 200m
1 9.65 Usain Bolt
2 9.66 Michael Johnson
3 9.81 Tyson Gay
4 9.82 Xavier Carter
5 9.83 Wallace Spearmon
6 9.84 Frank Fredericks
7 9.85 Walter Dix
8 9.86 Pietro Mennea
9 9.87 Michael Marsh
10 9.88 Carl Lewis

9.88 Joe DeLoach

I don't need all these numbers to conclude that Bolt's race times are out of this world. You just have to watch the race, and see him finish meters ahead of the world's best athletes and know that if all the others are fastest humans in the world then he surely must be Superman! I would call him that, but I hear he prefers Lightning Bolt.

Shine on Bolt. Shine on!

Sunday, July 06, 2008


Last night, through all my jet lag, I stayed up till 2am India time watching what I now in all my awakeness believe was the greatest moment in sport. After the three set thrashing in the clay of Roland Garros everyone knew the winds of change were blowing. Indeed it was. The whistling wind was there playing its part in this carefully choreographed moment in history. I called a three set Nadal victory, my brother Gautam had said Nadal in four, Borg said Nadal and then changed his prediction to Federer. No one expected it to be what it turned out to be.

Someone said, during the match, that the center court at Wimbledon can not be owned. It can only be leased. For great champions may come and go, but the court stays on forever. I know I am in a poetic frame of mind but who can blame me for I now know what they meant by poetry in motion. The torch must be passed on from generation to generation and in sport's shrinking age gap, the difference between generations is now down to four years. Five years ago a young boy took over a crown and safeguarded it and now at age 26 he has very reluctantly handed it over to his 22 year old successor while a 52 year old watched. This dance must go on.

An era has passed and the gods must have been watching as their sad and joyous tears fell to the earth and blessed those who deserved it most. Above the players' entrance to Wimbledon hangs a board that everyone well versed in high school trivia will tell you is a copy of my favorite poem/piece of writing "If" by Rudyard Kipling. How unbelivably fitting!

If - Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Is Federer his own biggest challenge? Conspiracy theory

10 Grand Slam finals in a row. 5 Wimbledons in a row, 4 US Opens in a row and 3 Australian Opens. Even 2 French Open finals. 189 consecutive weeks as World No.1. Mark Philippoussis, Marat Safin, Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt, Andre Agassi, Marcos Baghdatis, Rafael Nadal, Fernando González, and Novak Đoković. 12 finals, one five setter. Only 26 and already 35 million dollars in earnings. A couple of records left. Pete Sampras is in his sights. Paris and Beijing await.

He's human, he's even lost a few matches. In 2003 he won 78 matches and lost 17, since then he's won 299 and lost 21. This year he's lost more matches than the previous 3 years but he still won his 3 grand slams. So are others catching up or is he letting them catch up? Is he losing his grip or is he letting them win a few, in turn challenging himself?

Take the final of the US Open against the young Serb Novak Đoković. First set races to 5-5, neither player offering a single break point to the other. Federer surprisingly tightens up and loses his service game to go down 5-6. Novak continues his impressive serve and goes up 40 love. 3 set points on his serve. Federer had won only 5 points of Novak's serve in the entire set. As everyone prepares for a four setter or maybe even a five, Federer wins three points in a row. He fight off two more set points and takes the advantage away from Novak and clinches the game. He wins the tie-breaker. Yes, the commentators said it was nerves. yes, they said Federer kept his cool and came back. But what are the odds of all these independent things happening and falling just in place for Federer? Could he have orchestrated this drama himself?

Now turn the clock back a tournament to Montreal. Federer in the finals again with Novak. This time first set Federer is up 6-5, 40-love. Novak wins three points and then wins the game and then the tie-breaker and then goes on to win the match.

See anything similar? Could it really be a case of "If you can do it, so can I!"? Could he have purposely gone down 6-5, 40-0, so that he can challenge himself to come back and beat Novak the way he had beaten him? It would take a man of supreme confidence, a man of unnatural genius to take that chance. Isn't that Roger Federer? It's living on the edge but who is more balanced than the world's number one?

While everyone in the world, players old and new, commentators, journalists, statisticians, conspire to find that Achilles heel, he Roger Federer conspires against them all, using them in his grand plan, leading him from tennis player, to world number one, to icon, to legend.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Nagging thoughts

This is my take on life... A never-ending self improvement process.

Because we must! Everyone of us wants to be better. Wants something better. Either do what we do today better or do something else which is better. - So is this the most important question and is this assumption true? Do we need to believe first before anything else?

The future state is where we want to get. A better place, a different place.

Set a timeline? There might be a Where that is short term, and there might be a long term where, but plan.

What is it we are doing? Aspire, Dream, Hope, call it what you will but this is what we are doing and we need to.

How do we get what we want, be where we want, by when we want? BY being competitive, by being hard working, by being rich, by being lucky, by praying, by simply having the desire. There are many ways to but do we need them all? Do we need one more than the other? Is any one enough to make it happen? Is not having any one enough to NOT make it happen? So is this the most important question?

Five questions that if you can answer holds the key to life.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Sivaji - First Review

I live in Chicago and yet I saw one of the first shows worldwide of the Tamil movie Sivaji. It was a 10 pm show and the time now is 1:45 am. If I am up writing this review it is because I am now a Rajnikanth fan as much as I am a Kamal fan.

Like a true critic let me start with what I didn't like. This is one of Shankar's weakest movies in terms of plot and storyline. That's pretty much what I didn't like. But hey, this is a Rajni movie, the facts were missing but the figures were defintely there.

Even before the movie started we got free "prasadam". A cup of "chakara pongal". Imagine 250Indians waiting outside a Chicago theater eating pongal! Ha ha! The movie started with the usual Rajni stepping out of a car and slowly revealing his face to cheers, whistles and claps. I am not going to give anything away, no story here, but the movie did have all the Rajni bells and whistles. There were unique moves which will now become fashion in Tamil Nadu, there were dialogues which will now become regular rajnisms, there was his style which will never get old, and there was his attempt to preach to the nation though this time the message was blurred and weak. Vivek, played his part as well as he always does and everyone else was just accessories in the movie including the surprisingly un-southie looking Shriya. She has it all and she flaunted it well but she was nothing more than eye-candy.

I've never seen a Rajni film, first day, first show, and there was an excitement that I became a part of. I always wondered why people are so crazy about him, and today I realized that he has maintained through his many years, not only his perfectly fit body, but also his responsibility to the people. To show us all a good time. 3.5 hours and not a minute was I turning my face away.

It's late and I am sure there are more reviews being written now. I can tell you that this movie is worth watching. Watch it in a cinema and be part of the crowd. It helps. I will go sleep but not before trying to toss gum into my mouth by bouncing it off my hand or trying to toss a coin into my pocket or even just to wear my sun glasses behind my head. What a superstar!

Written by,
from now on I shall be called
Minsara Nayagan

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Last week, I visited the Art Institute of Chicago with a friend of mine. Between 5pm and 8 pm, the entry is free though us turning up at that time was more coincidental than penury. Also, our visit to the art museum itself was due in part due to our lack of decision making skills and in part to it being closest to the train station. Everyone knows that art is like beauty. It is all in the eyes of the beholder. Here too, there were some pieces that I could stare at for a long time, one in particular, a painting of a rainy English day. There is also the Modern Art section which leaves me wondering why I didn't preserve all my drawings and scribbles from my childhood. One modern installation did leave me impressed though. On the floor were drawn 4 squares, with pennies strewn randomly into them. Depending on where the pennies lay, the boxes were labelled, 'All are in', 'All are not in', 'Some are out' and 'Some are not out'. Simple yet profound!

But despite all the interesting paintings, sculptures, and modern art, the ones that really leave me tickled are the pieces that are "Untitled". In my opinion these should never find their into any museum. I mean, if the artist himelf/herself did not know what it is he/she was making, then believe it was never meant to be displayed in the first place. It was probably one of the hundreds of rough works the artist did, and while I have no objection in these being used for scientific study of the artisits' style, it certainly should never be displayed publicly. Ofcourse, I ended the day with a good slice of pizza at Giordanos.

Click here... to see my pictures of Chicago.

Saturday, August 12, 2006


Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna (KANK) - Review

This is possibly the most advertised and well promoted movie in a long time. It has more stars than can be seen on most nights from Gurgaon. It is supposedly the most expensive Indian film made with a budget of over 70 Crore (~ USD 15 million) most of which might have gone towards paying the stars. The songs have been repeated tiresomely on the TV music channels and the radio channels. It has been one of the most awaited for movies in a long time, with advance bookings opening on Wednesday for the Friday show. We were among those who managed to get tickets for this weekend. So how was it?


The story.
Dev Saran, a football champion, breaks his leg in an accident and becomes a good-for-nothing, while his wife Rhea is a successful magazine editor. Insecurities abound and he is always in a bad mood. Rishi Talwar is a suave party planner, while his wife Maya is a teacher who can't have kids. More insecurity abounds, and she is always sad.

The movie was supposed to be about relationships. It was supposed to offer insights into dealing with the situation of finding your soul mate after you are married. If it had stuck to this plot it would have been a good movie. I am no expert at relationships, but in this case I can confidently say I have more insight than Karan Johar or any of the cast and crew of this movie. Karan's first mistake was to showcase the two couples as struggling in marriage. Why should this be so? A couple can be perfectly happy in marriage and yet find someone else to be their soul mates. This would have been a much more difficult situation. His second mistake was to give both protagonists Dev, and Maya a weakness, or insecurity. This is the basis of their relationship and is totally flawed to begin with. Why could they have not been normal people who find interesting things in each other rather than comfort for their insecurities? Karan's third mistake was one that all Indian directors seem to make and I am beginning to believe is probably part of Indian upbringing now. People only listen to their elders on their death bed. On Samarjit's (Rishi's dad) last wish, Maya and Dev confront their partners and tell them the truth. But after being kicked out, they lie to each other, hoping to gain some sympathy with the audience for being nice. Unfortunately letting 3 years pass till you are accidentally reunited is not true love, or soul mate material, so oops, missed again.

There were other characters and plot lines, something about a child kidnapping Black Beast, a friendly tie-up between the Hugh Hefner with Indian morals Samarjit (Sam) and Kamaljit (Dev's mom) and a really weak link between Rhea and her boss at the magazine, but none of them developed into much. Apparently resolving the marital issue is more important than catching a child kidnapper.

The acting.

Shah Rukh (Dev) is the worst. His list of expressions is reducing from movie to movie and he is better off playing roles with very little facial expression needed like Swades. Preity Zinta (Rhea) had no role so no scope for acting. She looked good yes, but if that’s all that was required of the role, then someone like Malika would have been enough. Rani Mukherjee (Maya) was all gloss and at a loss for any kind of emotion. Maybe the make up was too constricting and all too obvious with the fake tears literally rolling effortlessly down her cheeks. A below par performance for a critically acclaimed actress. Abhishek (Rishi) was the saving grace. He is maturing into a fine actor. Granted his character was also the most real of the entire cast, but he managed to use that to his advantage and got the audience, me, to feel sorry for him. Amitabh, the playboy, should retire, his wrinkles just too scary for big screen. Kiron Kher was ok. Arjun Rampal, Kajol, John Abraham and Saira Mohan were wasted. So a big plus for Bachchan Junior and huge negative for everyone else.

The Cinematography and music

Too repetitive. I got bored of seeing the NY skyline, something I never thought was possible. Columbia University and the station were overused. If this was really a story about relationships it might as well have been shot in Fursatganj. Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy under deliver. Gone are the days of Dil Chahta Hai or even Bunty Aur Babli.

In General

The first half deserves a 1 star rating while the second probably a 2. One other thing, I was uncomfortable with is the film rating. It was a U/A. I saw lots of kids in the theatre and am not sure how this movie got a U rating. Is it okay for kids to know about kinky sex these days? Omkara got an A rating and I would rather kids see that than this. Maybe that was his biggest mistake – making this movie suitable for everyone and not concentrating on the adult audience.

Definitely not worth spending money on this one.