Can Adrian Peterson Qualify For The 2016 Olympics?
Adrian Peterson is no Chris Johnson.
Peterson may be the better running back, but as far as sprinter speed goes, Johnson rules with a 4.24, 40-yard dash. Months ago, Peterson would have been happy with the skill set he's got. But now that he's been indefinitely suspended by the NFL for beating his child with a switch, and his appeal was denied, he is considering NFL retirement, so he can take up another sporting pursuit: the Olympics.
“I’ve seriously thought about this real hard. I continue to pray about it, but it’s been something that has been heavy, heavy on my heart,” Peterson said.
He has stated interest in qualifying for the 200 meter and 400 meter dash. Is that a within the realm of realism?
No, probably not.
Let's focus on the 200 meter dash for our "case study" to give a sense of how unrealistic his Olympic goals are.
In a (overly) simplistic sense, you can take his 40-yard dash time (4.4 seconds) and use that as a bearing for his potential 200 meter dash. The result would be approximately 24.06 seconds, which would not be enough to qualify for the 2016 Olympics, as the 2012 qualifying time was 20.55 seconds. That 24-second estimation is high, and we'll explain why in a moment. But the last time he ran track was in high school, when he ran a 21.23 second 200 meter dash. If he can regain that speed and endurance, that time puts him within striking distance of qualification -- .68 seconds away.
But both times are relevant, because Peterson ran that 200 meter time when he was 18 years old. He's now 29, and while his height and weight are pretty much the same -- he's supposedly lost an inch between high school when he was 6-foot-2 and the NFL when he stands at 6-foot-1 (it's common for recruits to fudge their listed size and height) -- his muscle mass has formed differently.
Peterson (6-foot-1 and 220 pounds) has been tailored to play running back for the last decade, so he faces severe challenges adjusting his body and form to sprinting. For a point of comparison, Usain Bolt is a wiry, 6-foot-5 and 207 pounds.
But back to the 40-yard dash. It's a faulty measurement, because it includes the time it takes Peterson to accelerate to full speed. Of course, in a 200 meter dash, he will hit his maximum velocity and maintain it, so his time spent accelerating becomes an issue for the approximation, and thus he will probably be able to shave our estimated time. His time was also measured on turf in cleats, which is slower than on a track in spikes.
So right now, his 200 meter time probably falls somewhere between 24 and 21 seconds, which admittedly is as vast as the Atlantic ocean in the world of sprinting. However, if an elite athlete like Peterson is given the next 19 months to train (qualifiers are in July 2016), there is reason to believe that he could regain his high school sprinter speed.
But could he bridge the .68-second gap to qualify for the olympics? Again, the answer is probably no. Sprinters spend the duration of their athletic peak trying to shave tenths of a second, and AP is on the tail end of his athletic peak. If he somehow qualifies, he won't make it out of his first heat -- the Final Heat is out of the question.
It appears the AP's snipe was probably driven to make the NFL jealous. It was a I'm-taking-my-talents-elsewhere snub. And frankly, the NFL probably wouldn't mind dumping the child-abusing running back on USA Track & Field.
[Update: In a wild twist of fate, he's also considering a career in Real Estate... very nice.]
For more context, here's the Final Heat from the 2012 Summer Olympics 200 meter sprint, via Wikipedia:
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