In each sport, there are competitions that have a particular charm. In team sports, comparisons between clubs will never be able to match in emotions and expectations those between national teams (although often the technical contents are better in the first case), just as in individual sports it is difficult to find competitions that have the same appeal as 100 meters. or the 50m freestyle.
In fact, speed has always been considered the queen discipline among all the Olympic ones, the one on which the greatest attention of enthusiasts is concentrated.
Because being able to boast the reputation of the fastest man in the world is a goal that brings visibility, money, sponsorships; all the more so since the title, now firmly in the hands of Jamaican Usain Bolt, has seen in the past triumphs of the caliber of Jesse Owens and Carl Lewis, capable of making history not only in sport.
But who are, to date, the fastest men in the world of each era? Those who, beyond Bolt, recorded the best time on 100 meters? Here is the ranking.
1. Usain Bolt
9 “58 registered in Berlin in 2009
The fastest man ever is, needless to say, Usain Bolt known as the lightning bolt or Lightning Bolt in English (and, on the other hand, when you are lucky enough to have such a surname there is very little you can do in life if you don’t run).
Born in 1986 in Trelawny, in the north of Jamaica, he showed a certain athletic talent since he was a child, at first directed towards cricket; it wasn’t until he entered high school that his coach discovered his sprinter skills, leading him to athletics.
Within a couple of years, he began to win the first international races and set the first youth records, especially in the 200 meters. He turned pro in 2004, participating that same year in his first Olympics, those in Athens, where he was eliminated in the qualifying heat in the 200 meters.
Precisely those not yet exciting results convinced his new coach, Glen Mills, to proceed with a more professional approach, which in the space of some time paid off: the first medals arrived between 2006 and 2007, the year in which he began to shift his attention from 200 to 100 meters.
The Beijing Olympics
In 2008, in his fifth absolute test on 100 flat meters among seniors, he then set a new world record with 9 “72, then lowered that same year to 9” 69.
At the Beijing Olympics, therefore, he seemed ready to become a world phenomenon, and in fact, he became: he won gold in the 100 flat meters, the 200 flat meters, and the 4 × 100 relays, also setting new world records in each. of specialties.
The rest is history: the current world record – 9 “58 – was set at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, while on the medal side another three gold medals arrived at the London Games, even if it went a little slower than in the past, at the 2015 Beijing World Cup.
Finally, in 2016, at the Rio Olympics, he also statistically becomes the greatest sprinter of all time, winning three more golds, two of which are individual (in the 100 and 200 flat meters).
2. Tyson Gay
9 “69 recorded in Shanghai in 2009
The problem of those who are behind a phenomenon like Bolt is that you run the risk of being overshadowed, of not being remembered, despite the fact that they report impressive times, which in any other historical era would have made you a champion recognized by all. and revered by all.
This is the fate that unites the other athletes in our ranking and in particular Tyson Gay, an American sprinter born in 1982 who with 9 “69 recorded the third-best time of each era on the 100 meters, but found himself facing two exceptional achievements by Bolt, one of which was reported before his.
Gay appeared on the world stage for the first time in 2005, improving his performance from race to race during that year and the following, but always being preceded by other riders on a day of grace.
The Osaka World Cup
His moment of glory came with the 2007 Osaka World Championships, where he managed to establish himself in the 100 meters – preceding the favorite, and record holder, Asafa Powell – but also in the 200 meters and in the 4 × 100 relays, becoming the protagonist of the manifestation.
Unfortunately, 2008 was less rosy: on the one hand, a series of injuries prevented him from competing in the Olympics with Bolt’s emerging talent; on the other hand, once back in shape he dominated the North American scene – even with new records and important times – but he was still stopped by Jamaica’s talent in world races.
Unfortunately, however, his very important career got dirty in the final: in 2013 he was found positive together with other athletes (including Powell himself, of whom we will talk about) to a doping substance and was consequently disqualified, also losing the silver. conquered in the 4 × 100 relays in London.
He managed, on his return, to take gold in 4 × 100 at the World Relay Championships in Nassau, before retiring.
3. Yohan Blake
9 “69 registered in Lausanne in 2012
Tyson Gay’s time of 9 “69, which makes him the second-fastest athlete ever, was equaled in August 2012 by another Jamaican athlete, who thus shares with the American the qualification of” fastest than his name is Bolt ”.
We are talking about Yohan Blake, an athlete of great physical strength, who gave good tests on the 200 flat meters and above all in the Jamaican 4 × 100, but who, beyond the record in Lausanne, struggled to establish himself at a very high levels on the distance shorter.
Blake begins to get talked about between 2008 and 2009 when the good results obtained among the juniors seem to open a downhill path for the competitions among adults, even if a brief disqualification for doping slows down the progression.
In 2011 he unexpectedly became world champion in the 100 meters due to the simultaneous absence due to injuries of Powell and Gay and the disqualification of Usain Bolt for a false start.
The challenge with Bolt
The year of grace continues with the conquest of gold in 4 × 100 and, a few weeks later, with the new personal best on 100 meters; also establishes for the second time of all time on 200 meters (behind the usual Bolt).
At the London Olympics he seems able to worry his compatriot – also thanks to excellent results in the Jamaican trials – but ends up in second place both on the 100 and the 200 meters.
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After these exploits, however, he faces two years of serious injuries that keep him away from the athletics tracks for a long time.
He managed to return to his levels only in 2014, especially with the 4 × 200 relays, setting a new world record with his team and winning gold at the Nassau World Championships also with the 4 × 100. Finally, he gets gold in Rio again in 4 × 100.
4. Asafa Powell
9 “72 made in Lausanne in 2008
We conclude the trio of great Jamaican runners with Asafa Powell, an athlete born in 1982 who was the record holder who preceded Bolt at the top of the ranking of the fastest riders of all time and who still boasts the distinction of being the only man to have fallen 93 times under 10 seconds on 100 meters flat.
His first level results came in 2004 when quite unexpectedly he managed to go below 10 seconds 9 times, presenting himself as a favorite at the Athens Olympics; in Greece, however, probably due to an indisposition he was unable to go beyond fifth place in the 100 meters, not even qualifying for the final of the 200 meters.
The Athens record
A year later, however, he could do it again, again in Athens, breaking the 100-meter record previously set by Tim Montgomery and bringing it to 9 ”77. Unfortunately, the series of great results was interrupted, in 2007, by the defeat in the World Cup by Tyson Gay, with Powell achieving a time well below his means.
Between 2007 and 2008, however, he managed to further lower his personal best, setting it at 9 ”72, even if he had to suffer the emergence of Bolt’s star, which quickly took him to the background. Powell has thus removed, in proportion, little satisfaction compared to what he would have deserved.
At the Olympic level, he took home only two medals, albeit gold, won in Beijing and Rio with the 4 × 100 and therefore always together with Bolt. At the World Championships, he won two golds in Berlin and Beijing, but once again in 4 × 100, while on an individual level he obtained only two bronzes in the 100 meters, the first, already mentioned, in Osaka in 2007 and the second in Berlin in 2009.
Between 2013 and 2014 he was disqualified from anti-doping, although his return to the scene, in 2015, recorded important performances.
5. Justin Gatlin
9 ”74 recorded in Doha, Qatar, in 2015
We conclude with Justin Gatlin, a New York sprinter born in 1982 who, after an incredible youth and a long suspension for doping, has recently returned to the top of the discipline.
He comes out of anonymity in 2003, just twenty-one years old, giving an excellent impression at the Indoor World Championships in Birmingham, but it is above all at the Athens Olympics that he prevails, surprisingly winning gold in the 100 flat meters, winning silver in the relay race 4 × 100 and also getting the bronze in the 200 meters flat.
An extraordinary success that was repeated the following year, at the World Championships in Helsinki, where he won gold in both the 100 and 200 flat meters, then set his personal best at 9 “77 the following year.
The anti-doping positivity
In July 2006, however, he was found positive for testosterone and, since he had already been convicted sometime before for amphetamines, he received a very heavy ban of eight years, then reduced to four. He returns to racing in 2010, managing to return to his level in 2012, in time to participate in the London Olympics and take the bronze behind Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake.
He shows an excellent state of form also in the following years, so much so that he then managed to set his personal best (and fifth ever for an athlete) at 9 ”74; both at the 2013 Moscow World Championships and at the 2015 Beijing World Championships, finally, he obtained two silver medals (in the first case in the 100 and 4 × 100, in the second in the 100 and 200 flat meters).