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Arsenal players challenged to race, for some reason

I guess this is what happens when you're still a year out from the Olympics.

you have a gold medal you are better than this
you have a gold medal you are better than this
Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Professional athletes are competitive people. You don't get to the big leagues if you aren't. The training, the physical and mental strain, these just aren't things you're willing to go through if you're not fully committed to the cause.

Which, I guess, explains why a British sprinter named Richard Kilty is challenging Hector Bellerin and Theo Walcott to a race. He evidently thinks the 40m times reported by the media for the pair are impossible and is willing to put £30,000 on the line (hopefully to charity, because otherwise this would be totally ludicrous instead of just pretty weird). The whole thing stems from the report that Bellerin ran a 4.42 40m to set the Arsenal record, which is evidently faster than Usain Bolt's first 40m when he set the 100m dash record. We'll come back to that part.

Former sprinter Craig Pickering wrote a blog about it, which is what piqued Kilty's interest:

Let’s examine the logical fallacy of this headline/story. Is it likely that a young footballer, who has to practise a wide range of skills, including actually kicking a football, as well as tactical and other fitness demands, could be faster than someone whose job it is to just focus on covering distances of 200m or less in as short a time as possible?

That someone with almost perfect genetics, who spends 6 days per week honing his unbelievable talent, would be beaten over 40m by someone who does a bit of sprint training? That the fastest person by almost a country mile to ever walk this planet is not as good at HIS job as a Spanish under-21 international footballer?

Clearly, it’s stupid.

Well, not necessarily. Here's Bolt at 4.4 seconds in his record-setting run (he's in lane 4). As you can see, he's not out to a massive lead or anything. He's winning by a thin margin. That's because Bolt isn't a sprint god because he gets out the gate better than anyone else -- it's because he has the finishing kick and stamina to blow everyone out of the water for the last 50-60m of a race. That's part of the reason he also holds the 200m world record. These guys watch more track than me (and I'd wager I watch more track than 95% of humans), they should know this.

It's not out of the question that Bellerin or Walcott could run 40m faster than Bolt can if Bolt is running 60 meters more after that. I wasn't there, so I don't know whether the widely-reported time is accurate or total bullshit. I do know that if, as I suspect, the 40m dashes are hand-timed by coaches, the times wouldn't count for much because hand-timing is pretty unreliable. But it could be slow rather than fast, so I'm not really sure that's the problem here. It's entirely possible that the 4.42 time is totally accurate. It's also possible that he ran a 4.40, or a 4.46.

If you lined up Bellerin, Walcott, Bolt, and Kilty to run a 40m race, I'd bet that Bolt will win and Kilty will come in second place. They're professional sprinters, it's their job. But that doesn't mean that the complaints from Kilty and Pickering make much sense, and it definitely doesn't mean this challenge should be accepted. That would be stupid.