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Fast Food for Fast Olympic Athletes


Olympic athletes traditionally have been known for their years of discipline in training for one moment of international sports glory. Sometimes, the preparation involves precise and scientific regimens, including strict diets to build muscles and enhance endurance. But as VOA's Jim Stevenson reports from the games in Beijing, some top athletes have proven to be just like the average person when it comes to food.

Usain Bolt of Jamaica is the world's fastest man. On Saturday, at the Olympics in China, he shattered the world record in the men's 100-meter sprint with a time of 9.69 seconds.

That is fast. And, after the race, Bolt admitted that some of his fuel for the race was also fast - fast food that is.

"I woke up around 11-o'clock. And sat around and watched some TV. Then I had lunch. I had some [McDonald's chicken] nuggets. And then I pretty much went back to my room, slept again for like two more hours, and went back and got some nuggets," he said. "Then I came to the track."

Bolt is referring to chicken nuggets from McDonalds, small, deep-fried, bite-sized chicken pieces. It may just be a coincidence, but with much fanfare, the mega-fast food chain opened its largest restaurant in the world in the northern end of the Olympic Green, the main venue complex, as the Games began.

And it has attracted at least one other world class athlete, double gold medalist American swimmer Ryan Lochte.

"Nutrition is probably the last thing I worry about," said Lochte. "Um, it is probably my downfall. But I mean, I have been doing it so long, eating like whatever tastes good. So, yeah, I have been eating McDonald's almost every meal here. I think it has helped out."

His diet certainly did not slow him down on the way to a pair of world records (in the 4x100 meter freestyle relay and 200-meter backstroke). Britta Steffen of Germany also decided to stray from her diet before winning the women's 50-meter swimming event in Olympic record time (24.06 seconds).

"I was keeping the pizza for this afternoon. But, yesterday, I was so happy that I had a piece after all," said Steffen. "And it does not seem to have damaged my performance."

We will never know if all that fast food was the secret to success. But, at the very least, it seemed to raise spirits before the athletes lowered record times.

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