So that’s the question of the Olympic season: If Usain Bolt lined up in a normal lane under normal circumstances, and Marian Gaborik lined up beside him in skates (we’ll assume in gear) on ice, who wins the 100 meter dash?

It first came to me in tweet form, and I apologize dearly to whomever sent it my way, because I’ve forgotten who it was. I didn’t respond at the time, because, duh, there’s an obvious answer…I just wasn’t sure which one it was.

I wanted to respond with something like “Seriously? A guy on skates kills anyone on shoes.” But then I pictured them getting out of the blocks and thought “Bolt would smoke him off the line, it might be too much to make up.”

And then I thought…that’s a great goddamn question.

So, the facts:

* 100 meters equals 328.084 feet.

* An NHL sized hockey rink is 200 feet. So, you’re looking at a little over 1.5 lengths of a rink, which is more than enough time to get up to speed and cruise while maxed out for a bit.

* Bolt set an Olympic record this year when he ran the 100 meter dash in 9.64 seconds, and he’s generally not much slower than that.

Now, in my head, I remember some conditioning drills we used to do when I played, and I’m pretty sure I used to be able to get from glass to glass in something like seven-ish seconds, so maybe Gaborik could get there in six. And by then he’d have momentum, which is huge on skates, so…who knows? It’s not impossible to think he could cross the line first.

(By the way, this isn’t actually about Marian Gaborik, that was just the example given – it could be Michael Grabner for all intents and purposes, the question is just “could the fastest guy in the League beat Bolt straight-away while skating,” so don’t intentionally misunderstand the point.)

I asked the question on Twitter yesterday, and got a lot of definitive answers from people (these kill me: “Dumb question, Gaborik by a mile.” “Dumb question, Bolt by light years.”), but it was Tyler Dellow (@mc79hockey) who I really got into discussing it with.

His first point: at the NHL Skills Competition guys are skating a little more than 100 meters (roughly) in about 13 seconds…but they also have to make with two big turns.

Interesting. Straightening that out would make a huge difference to their times.

But then he brought up what was the real definitive point for me: he sent the following video, which shows the all-time fastest opening 100 meter split time in speed skating:

9.37 seconds, faster than Bolt’s best, but….wearing speed skates, a slick suit and no gear.

Someone suggested that you’d be able to get a better start out of the gate with the shorter blades on hockey skates (which would come in handy in a short race), but I’m just not so sure that’s true.

That video was enough for me to come to a conclusion.


No human in the world could beat Usain Bolt in a straight-away 100 meter race in hockey skates. I think someone could tease a 10 second time without gear, at best.

Usain would Bolt off the starting line, and the hockey player would fall behind, then start to work up some momentum. By about the 75 foot point, the hockey player would start making up ground (which would be a thrill to watch), but with Bolt’s final kick, he’d never quite make it.

Someone with a great first three strides (a huge advantage) would be better than someone like Evgeni Malkin who has great top speed, but needs some room to wind it up.

So what say you? Did I go astray somewhere in my assessment?