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Greene is not fastest man alive

Figure freaks are quick to note that speeds are higher at 200 metres.

James Christie,Sports Reporter, Friday, June 18, 1999

The honour of being the fastest man in the world doesn't belong to Maurice Greene. It goes to the legions of statistical freaks who, like old-time gunslingers, whipped out their calculators as the U.S. sprinter flashed over the finish line in Athens.

It took Greene 9.79 seconds to dash Donovan Bailey's old mark of 9.84 from the record books in Wednesday's sprint. But the figure-Filberts were faster to compute that Greene's speed wasn't the fastest example of bipedal locomotion in human history.

In re-igniting the debate over who is the world's fastest human, mathematicians insist track fans throw away traditional notions about the 100 metres. Broken down in rates of metres-per-second or kilometres-per-hour, runners of the 200-metre race win hands down over the 100. They spend a greater proportion of their running time at top speed.

"Since 1968, the 200-metre world record man is the fastest man in the world, not the 100-metre world record man," says former Canadian decathlete and fitness guru Bill Gairdner.

"Both runners have to overcome inertia coming out of the blocks, but the 100-metre man has less distance over which to average the slowness. At longer distances, the fatigue factor sets in. The 200 is thus the only [competitively run] distance for which the velocity can be greater than the 100. It would be even more pronounced if the 200 were run on a straightaway."

Inevitably, a world-class 200-metre man covers the second 100 metres of a race faster than the 100-metre world record because he's already flying when he's 100 metres from the finish line. Michael Johnson, who blasted the 200-metre world record at the Atlanta Olympics, ran 19.32 seconds: the first half in 10.12, the last half in 9.20.

Johnson's velocity worked out to 10.351 metres per second for the race, or an average speed of 37.267 kilometres an hour. To beat those standards in a 100-metre, a sprinter would need to run in 9.67 seconds.

Relay runners can also make an argument for being the fleetest afoot. Bailey covered the last leg of the 4 x 100 relay at the Atlanta Olympics in a stunning 8.95 seconds after Bruny Surin handed him the baton in full stride. And the amazing Bullet Bob Hayes of the United States ran a 100-metre leg of the U.S. relay in a hand-timed 8.6 seconds at the Tokyo Olympics.

Maurice Greene might have the 100-metre world record, but there is an argument to be made that 200-metre specialist Michael Johnson has run faster. A comparison of four notable performances:
Michael Johnson, 1996 Olympics200 metres in 19.32 seconds or 10.352 metres per second.
Maurice Greene, 1999 Athens Grand Prix100 metres in 9.79 seconds or 10.215 metres per second.
Johnson, 1996 Olympic trials200 metres in 19.66 seconds or 10.173 metres per second.
Donovan Bailey, 1996 Olympics100 metres in 9.84 seconds or 10.163 metres per second.

June 1997 Comments

The "race" has come and gone and if anything embarrassed the sport of Track and Field. It proved nothing other than 2 people made a lot of money for what was no better than a workout. Hopefully the IAAF will dissociate itself from this type of nonsense. If the sport needs this type of "Entertainment Tonight/Don King Boxing" event to survive in North America, it is not worth saving.

April 1997 Comment

The title, "world's fastest man", originated in a time where the winner of the 100M ran at a faster average speed then did the winner of the 200M. This has not been the case for some time. In the Olympics in 1952, Andrew Stanfield ran the 200M in 20.7 while the winner of the 100M, Lindy Remingo, ran 10.4.

The concept that the "fastest" runner is the one that hits the top speed during his race requires that either a radar gun be used or the race be analyzed to determine the top speed of each runner during the race. Some questions need to be answered before the title can be conferred and accepted by the world at large. Does the "fastest" runner have to win the race? Does he have to finish the race? Can this title be gained from any running event or just the 100M? Can football players be timed during a game to see if they qualify?

Is "Bullet" Bob Hayes still the world's fastest man based on the top speed measurement? He ran a 100M relay leg of   8.6 seconds at the Tokyo Olympics.

Perhaps a new event should be created in which the runners could run as far as they wished, their top speed measured, and the winner be declared based on this measurement. The "race" could then be shown on Entertainment Tonight and there would be no need for a nationalistic debate which overshadows the true achievements of athletes and the sport of Track and Field itself. Perhaps the "Dash for Cash" in Toronto should have been organized in this way.

August 1996 Overview

The following JavaScripts calculate the speed in metres per second and kilometres per hour of the world records from 50 metres to 400 metres for both men and women.

It also allows you to enter one additional performance. It then will tell you who really are the world's FASTEST runners.

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