From Jesse Owens to Usain Bolt: The evolution of the men&x27s 100m world record

    For a long time, the 100m has been seen as the litmus test for the world’s best sprinters and the men’s world record holder is often referred to as the “fastest man in the world”.

    the first iaaf ratified 100m world record was set 110 years ago in 1912, when donald lippincott of the united states timed 10.6 seconds in the stockholm 1912 qualifying round olympic games.

    For the next half century, records were timed by hand before automatic timing for a world record became a requirement in 1977. This is also when records began to be timed in hundredths instead of tenths of a second .

    since 1987, the men’s 100m world record has never been held for more than three years and three months. until, that is, Jamaican legend usain bolt set the current world record in August 2009, almost 13 years ago.

    Bolt’s time of 9.58 seconds saw him reach a staggering speed of 44.72 km/h when he reached top speed in the 100m final at the 2009 world championships in athletics in berlin.


    no other sprinter has broken the 9.60 second barrier, with bolt clocking 9.63 seconds at london 2012 and tyson gay and yohan blake both hitting 9. .69 seconds in 2009 and 2012 respectively.

    Now that the 100m sprint world championships in athletics are scheduled to start on July 15, looks back at the evolution of the 100m world record.

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    world record progression

    after lipincott’s first official world record in 1912, it took a full nine years to break the mark when charley paddock from usa. uu. he shaved two-tenths of a second off the world’s best time with a run of 10.4 seconds in 1921. It was nine more years before percy williams of Canada set a new record in 1930.

    but given the nature of hand-timed records, each timed to only one tenth of a second, six more men would equal that record of 10.3 seconds before 1936, when the great jesse owens downgraded to 10.2.

    Only a year earlier, Owens had achieved what has been called “the best 45 minutes in sport” when he set world records of 9.4 in the 100 meter dash, 8.13 m in the long jump, 20 .3 in the 200-meter dash and 22.6 in the 200-yard low hurdles at the Big Ten Championships in Michigan, USA. uu.

    read more: the best 45 minutes of sport

    then, just two months before the 1936 olympics in berlin, owens broke the official 100m world record with an impressive run of 10.2 at the ncaa track and field championships.

    Four gold medals followed in berlin 1936 and he gave a legendary performance in the germany capital. however, although his 100 m record was equaled 10 times, it took a full 20 years for someone to be faster.

    When the record fell, it was another American, willie williams who took the title of ‘fastest man in the world’ by setting a time of 10.01 seconds in 1956.

    After West Germany’s armin hary ran a 10 second flat in 1960, attention turned to the first man to break the 10 second mark.

    the switch to automatic timing

    the world would have to wait eight years for jim hines of the united states to set a time of 9.9 seconds in June 1968, which he followed up with an automatic time of 9.95 seconds at the olympic games in Mexico City 1968. The record was held for 14 years, eight months and 19 days.

    It took until 1991 for someone to officially break 9.9 seconds when nine-time united states olympic gold medalist carl lewis posted a time of 9.86 in tokyo. Eight years later, Maurice Green from the United States posted a time of 9.78 to finally drop under 9.8 seconds in Athens, Greece.

    Jamaican domain

    Since 2005, Jamaican athletes have dominated the 100m world record list, with asafa powell setting four world records with a minimum of 9,735 before the rise of the great usain bolt olympic. >.

    bolt first broke the world record when he set a time of 9.72 in May 2008, before breaking his own mark two months later when he won olympic gold in beijing 2008 with a time of 9. 69.

    but the best was yet to come. In a thrilling sprint that has never been matched to this day, Bolt crossed the finish line at the 2009 Berlin World Championships in Athletics in 9.58 to set a world record that is now entering his adolescence.

    Will anyone get close to the big man when the world’s best sprinters go toe-to-toe for the title of “world’s fastest man”?

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