When did sprinters ever get so modest?

I still remember the day Maurice Greene pulled up the sleeve of his t-shirt to reveal his new tattoo - a lion with the letters G.O.A.T etched into its mane. G.O.A.T. stood for 'greatest of all time'.

The lion? "Because the lion's the king of the jungle, and I'm the king of the track".

His self-penned nickname was PhenoMonal, his registration plate MO GOLD.

So when Tyson Gay, Greene's heir as US 100m record-holder, tells the world's media that he deals with his pre-race nerves by calling his mother, the initial reaction is one of shock.

Gay might just be the most self-effacing American sprinter of all time.

A self-confessed "country boy" from Kentucky, he is wandering around Beijing with the wide-eyed delight of a man bewitched by the Olympic atmosphere.

He's been updating his Facebook page every day, Twittering from his mobile and making friends with a random water polo player called Moses in the athletes' canteen - "a really cool guy".

The other day, he was surprised to bump into basketball star Kobe Bryant in a US team gym.

"I went up to him and asked if I could have my picture taken with him," he says.


"And he said to me, 'How's your injured leg doing?' I had to text my mum - 'Kobe asked about my leg!' She was shocked as well. It was just amazing."

For the record, Gay's leg - or more specifically the hamstring injury that threatened to rule him out of these Games - is "100%" healed.

It means that the most anticipated single race of these Olympics is on: Bolt, Powell and Gay, the three fastest men of all time, racing against each other over 100m for the first time.

As Gay says, in his slow-motion Kentucky drawl: "There's never been as much hype about a 100m dash as there is now.

"This is probably one of the hottest 100m in history. Asafa is looking good. Usain is running incredible times - he's lighting up the track.

"These two guys are doing things no-one has ever seen before, and I fall into the category of someone who can run 9.7 too.

"Having three guys who've run 9.7 seconds in the same race as well as two guys who've run 9.8 secs is amazing. As everyone knows, the world record used to be 9.9 and 9.8, but now we've got three men who can run 9.7, anything is possible.

"After four rounds you don't often see a world record time, but this time could be different."

With Gay in Beijing is Team Tyson - mother Daisy Gay Lowe, stepfather Tim and big sister Tiffany.

It's hard to overstate the influence of his family in Gay's rise from small-town southern kid to double world champion.

It was Tiffany, just 10 months older than him, who he used to race against as a child. She still claims that he's never beaten her.

Daisy, who worked at the Toyota factory in Lexington, used to make him run up hills after school to work on his speed and technique.

When he beat Powell to 100m gold at last summer's world championships in Osaka, mother and son sought each other out in the bowels of the stadium and cried in each others' arms.

When his hamstring went during the 200m at the US trials in May, Daisy and Tiffany were the first ones to his side, praying over his injured leg as he was stretchered off the track.

"I believe that I don't have to put on a self-image or a swagger just because I race the 100m dash," says Gay.

"It comes from the way I was raised. Sometimes when you're a child watching TV, you'll hear your mother say about someone, 'he's too cocky', and so then you know what not to be like."

The other big influence on Gay has been his coach, Lance Brauman, who he first worked with at Barton County Community College and then the University of Arkansas. Brauman, however, has had troubles of his own.

When Gay triumphed at the Worlds last summer, Brauman was locked up in Texarkana Federal Correction Institute after being convicted of embezzlement and mail fraud.

Gay was forced to train from notebooks that Brauman sent out from his prison cell.

This summer, Brauman is with his other star athlete - Jamaica's 200m gold medallist Veronica Campbell-Brown - meaning Gay is working with former 4x100m Olympic gold medallist Jon Drummond.

Drummond, ironically, was one of the US sprinters who posed like a bodybuilder and stripped down to the waist atop the podium at the Sydney Olympics. Greene was one of the others.

Even if Gay were to win Olympic gold on Saturday in a new world record time, it's not a celebration you can ever imagine him copying.

"This is the greatest experience of my life," he says. "When I first arrived here I walked around the village, and it was kind of amazing. Nothing compares to this.

"It was my 26th birthday on the 9 August, and at one minute past midnight they lit the Olympic flame. That was the best present I could ever hope for, right there."

Tom Fordyce is a BBC Sport journalist covering a wide range of events in Beijing. Our FAQs should answer any questions you have.


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  • 1. At 7:27pm on 11 Aug 2008, VAMOS wrote:

    i am fed up with just about everyone in team GB "just happy to be here", what kind of defeatist attitude is that? get some balls, you are here to win, not be part of the scenery

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  • 2. At 7:54pm on 11 Aug 2008, sculler2012 wrote:

    Of course when you say "fastest men the world" you mean second fastest men in the world. As Michael Johnson is still the fastest man in the world. 19.32.....
    I hope Michael corrects the other commentators if they make that same mistake.

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  • 3. At 8:16pm on 11 Aug 2008, DJHDJH wrote:

    Mido 9, are you really naive enough to believe that they mean that?

    They'll all have their own targets but they don't want to share them with the media, probably for fear that people like you will then label them 'arrogant' and revel if they don't achieve that target. Jackson and Aldington said pretty the happy to be here line before they went for their races and they didn't do badly, did they?

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  • 4. At 9:30pm on 11 Aug 2008, VAMOS wrote:

    how can you compare 200m race to a 100m race in terms of who is fastest?

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  • 5. At 9:57pm on 11 Aug 2008, VAMOS wrote:

    although no one want to see lewis hamilton " i am so brilliant" tactics, if you are good and have potential for gold, give your fans some optimism instead of always playing that plucky underdog card

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  • 6. At 9:59pm on 11 Aug 2008, VAMOS wrote:

    must be english mentality to be humble and reserved

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  • 7. At 10:06pm on 11 Aug 2008, princeSVBoy wrote:

    Re Mido_9 at 9.30pm. Michael Johnson did 200 metres in 19.32, so at least one of those '100 metre' times would be less than the 9.7 second 100 metre times.

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  • 8. At 10:12pm on 11 Aug 2008, VAMOS wrote:

    yes i understand that but how is it a fair comparison when you are comparing someone in full flight to a stationary start from the blocks

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  • 9. At 10:13pm on 11 Aug 2008, Betsenbell wrote:

    This i a really good article... i think its great that he is so laid back and not cocky at all. I personally hate the attitude of boasting athletes. From reading this i am now going to be rooting for Gay in the final simply because of his attitude towards the sport.

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  • 10. At 10:25pm on 11 Aug 2008, VAMOS wrote:

    if the final for this is half as good as the 4x100 relay this morning in the pool than noone will be disapointed, good luck to all of them

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  • 11. At 00:13am on 12 Aug 2008, Anderson__8 wrote:

    nice article, but to be honest... i miss the bravado in sprinting.

    its like if boxers went into the ring without claiming they were going to win. Like boxing, in sprinting the big talk and big-man act is all part of the sport, to build your own confidence and break the confidence of your opponents. certain sports just lend themselves to talking yourself up.

    for the final, i really cant pick between gay, bolt and powell... but ive just got a little feeling that powells become the forgotten man after bolts WR and gays 9.68 along with people dubbing him a 'choker' cos of the world championships... I think powell might do it.

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  • 12. At 00:33am on 12 Aug 2008, bartonhead wrote:

    I may stand to be corrected, but i don't recall Gay, Powell and Bolt ever racing together.

    With this in mind - obviously taking into account nothing goes wrong - I can't see the world record not being broken.
    The three fastest men ever all pushing each other, all giving 120%, i can see 9.7 being broken with ease.

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  • 13. At 00:37am on 12 Aug 2008, piechucker31 wrote:

    This 100m is a mouth watering prospect, to state the obvious.

    Good insightful article from "Gonzo" Fordyce, licence fee payers money well spent there ^^

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  • 14. At 00:46am on 12 Aug 2008, Vaughan_the_Prawn wrote:

    I agree with #9 - his attitude is a breath of fresh air and I'll certainly be supporting him, although the other two aren't bad either.

    Can't picture Carl Lewis or the late Flo Jo befriending a random waterpolo player!

    Enjoyed the article Tom. Reckon you're on safer ground here than daring to poke fun at the opening ceremony!

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  • 15. At 01:59am on 12 Aug 2008, U6850912 wrote:

    Surely you can compare 200 with 100. Its not a great comparison but it does have worth, both events feature enough time to get up to maximum speed (if 100m runners can't get up to top speed in 100m, they won't be world record holders), if you're looking for the world's fastest then surely its whoever reached the top speed.

    My GCSE science brain tells me thats distance/time taken. In which case I'm almost certain Johnson reached superior speeds.

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  • 16. At 02:34am on 12 Aug 2008, Dr_Grammar wrote:

    #15 - no, distance/time taken would give you the average speed over the whole distance. As the first 20m or so of each race will be the slowest, this is more of an impact on the 100m as it's 20% of the race rather than the 200m where it's 10%.

    I think they reach higher peak speeds in the 100m, but maintain high speed for longer in the 200m.

    If you didn't have a radar gun you could use your method over, say, the last 10m of each race (distance/time taken) and this would be a better proxy.

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  • 17. At 05:13am on 12 Aug 2008, levdavidovich wrote:

    Carl Lewis once said "show me second place and I'll show you the first of the losers" which I thought was a brilliant statment of intent by him. (Sadly, he later retracted or softened the intensity of that remark to fit in with the modern daft consciousness of "everyone's an achiever".)

    Why are celebrating the fact that a sports star is modest? Whether such a person is modest or arrogant is merely a reflection of their personality and not relevent to their ability to compete well.

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  • 18. At 05:55am on 12 Aug 2008, Tom Fordyce wrote:

    How do we see the 100m final going?

    My worry with Tyson is that he might be a touch undercooked after missing the last two months of racing, although the heats and semi could bring him to the boil.

    For me it's hard to look past Usain. As long as his start isn't a calamity, his last 50m is so strong that he can make up for that slightly ropey technique out of the blocks. I think he's barely started to show what he's really capable of doing over 100m.

    Powell? Someone convince me that he isn't going to be pysched out of it again. I'd love to believe it, but I can't forget the Worlds last summer...

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  • 19. At 08:54am on 12 Aug 2008, Ryushinku wrote:

    I just get the feeling that Powell will overcome those demons and get the gold. Bolt is so fast but this will be a new experience for him and I wonder if the pressure will tell even more. While, despite what he says, I still have doubts over Gay being 100% for this.

    I'll be an absorbing final, that's for certain. Though knowing the luck one of them will probably get DQd in a semi or, don't want to jinx it! Hope all goes well and we get the final we're all hoping for.

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  • 20. At 09:36am on 12 Aug 2008, kerlmann wrote:

    It's often a lot harder to beat someone who is self-effacing and humble - sportsmen who massively big themselves up and have an "I'm the greatest" mentality can often bring out the best from their rivals. It never seemed to do Muhammad Ali any harm, mind...

    Whether intentional or not, Tyson Gay is almost pitching himself as the underdog of the three (notice how he talks about himself in the 3rd person rather than "me, me, me - look what I can do"). All this takes some of the spotlight and pressure off him. Clever.

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  • 21. At 09:37am on 12 Aug 2008, RubberNutz wrote:

    For me it's

    1. Bolt
    2. Gay
    3. Powell

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  • 22. At 10:16am on 12 Aug 2008, A Hyena Joins wrote:

    All those tipping Bolt, hows this for a prediction:

    Bolt to finish outside the top 3.

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  • 23. At 10:46am on 12 Aug 2008, NIreland1-0England wrote:

    #22 Bolt outside the top 3?

    I don't think you comprehend the speed of this guy in the last 50.

    He could almost start lying down and finish top 3!

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  • 24. At 11:13am on 12 Aug 2008, Biscuiteater wrote:

    re PrinceSVboy I suppose on a 100M race it depends on how long it takes for the sprinters to reach their top speed. I would be grateful if anybody has any information on that. Given tha maths of the situation it does not suprise me that the 200M runners' speeds are very close to the 100M runners.

    To me anyway the 200M race is the one that determines the fastest person in the world

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  • 25. At 11:20am on 12 Aug 2008, losthacker999 wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 26. At 11:29am on 12 Aug 2008, ogo1492 wrote:

    in theroy michael johnso is actually the fastest man of all time, because when he ran 19.32 he did his first 100 in 10.12, meaning that he did his second 100 in

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  • 27. At 11:42am on 12 Aug 2008, axiom1 wrote:

    Trumpeting achievements is great; it does provide some excitement around you . . . but the quiet reserve is equally refreshing to me--low key but gets the job done.

    The 100 is not about speed, it is about velocity; that is, how quickly you can get your speed up.

    In this Olympics, there are three phenomenal forces all capable of setting a new record.

    I cheer on Tyson.

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  • 28. At 11:42am on 12 Aug 2008, mattface wrote:

    yes, but his second 100m didn't include a start. i'm not saying 9.20 isn't fast, cus it is. you just cant compare it with a normal 100m time.

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  • 29. At 11:43am on 12 Aug 2008, ogo1492 wrote:


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  • 30. At 11:44am on 12 Aug 2008, ogo1492 wrote:

    but at the same time it means that johnson has a far higher top speed than any other athlete

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  • 31. At 11:44am on 12 Aug 2008, ogo1492 wrote:

    or should i say had

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  • 32. At 11:47am on 12 Aug 2008, mattface wrote:

    @ #30 : as argued before, his average speed is faster than anyone ever...yes, but thats not top speed. chances are a 100m sprinter reaches a higher top speed, but for a lower %age of the race. you also have to take into account that the start of a 200m race is perhaps 10% of the race whereas in the 100m it is 20%.

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  • 33. At 11:48am on 12 Aug 2008, d4084558 wrote:

    If all goes to plan it should be one of the greatest 100m of all time...i can't wait!

    As for who's the fastest ever, in terms of actual speed reached i reckon it'll be Johnson all the way. He took his time getting there (not sure if he ever broke 10s for 100m) but once in full flight his speed was unbelievable. Having a 200m time half a second quicker than Bolt must mean his top speed is much quicker, also i'm sure when he broke the 300m WR (yes, i did mean 300 not 400) one of his splits was in the low 9 seconds.

    Did anyone see that race ages ago over 150m between Johnson and Donovan Bailey to see who was the fastest? Bailey looked to be winning but Johnson pulled up injured. Something like that again would be interesting to see.

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  • 34. At 11:48am on 12 Aug 2008, mattface wrote:

    it would be interesting to find out what michael johnsons fatsest 100m time was. i'm sure he tried it at least once

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  • 35. At 11:49am on 12 Aug 2008, ogo1492 wrote:

    johnson never broke 10, his best time was 10.09

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  • 36. At 11:50am on 12 Aug 2008, eye360 wrote:

    I'm sure there is data available somewhere for the 10m splits for the 100m of Bolt and 200m of Johnson to make a comparison of top speeds. Given that Bolt starts like a giraffe in treacle I guess his top speed would have been quite a lot more than any other 100m sprint before. Whether is compares to Johnson's top speed is difficult to say. It might be possible to look at the footage and work it out. Also the bend in the 200m can slow the first 100m of that race.

    As for the 100m at this Olympics, I really hope all three avoid getting injured in the heats, so we see all three at their peak. Gay's hamstring must be a worry, once pulled they can always be a weakness.

    He's one of the few American sprinters you can warm too due to his humble attitude and lack of ego. Bolt and Powell also come across without too much ego, though I would like to see them smile more!

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  • 37. At 11:50am on 12 Aug 2008, ogo1492 wrote:

    the problem was that he could never generate the power needed at the start from the blocks so he was always left trailing by like 30-50m

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  • 38. At 11:51am on 12 Aug 2008, Tom Fordyce wrote:

    Biscuiteater - sprinters tend to hit their top speed somewhere around the 65m mark, give or take a few metres. From then on it's a question of which man decellerates least, which I've always quite liked as a slightly weird sporting fact.

    In terms of whether 100m or 200m men are faster, the average speed is higher in the latter because of the rolling start to the second 100m - the top boys are already travelling at around 10 metres a second coming off the bend. But in terms of peak velocity, I'm almost certain it's the 100m boys.

    Mind you, I'm speaking as a 5 and 10km runner. Any sprinters out there want to chuck in some numbers?

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  • 39. At 11:55am on 12 Aug 2008, ogo1492 wrote:

    Re:38_ yeah its pretty much all true but at peak velocity 100m runners can run up to 40kph(25mph). I'm not sure what that translates into in terms of metres per second

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  • 40. At 12:01pm on 12 Aug 2008, axiom1 wrote:

    Peak velocity is usually achieved within 50 meters and can be held for as long as 80 meters.

    For 200 meter runners, they reach their peak slower . . . usually between 60 and 80 meters, but can hold the top velocity longer.

    These numbers, I had recalled from training long ago, so may not be valid with todays athletes.

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  • 41. At 12:07pm on 12 Aug 2008, cwj1976 wrote:

    Nice article. Good to see a sprinter being applauded for sportsmanship and for being good. I hope he does well. As for the 200m v 100m, I don't think there's any point arguing it. Johnson raced Bailey to prove all but had to pull up injured and it wouldn't have proven anything anyway. They're different disciplines so there's no point arguing it out. We'll never know (even if someone makes a computer model to prove one side or the other).

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  • 42. At 12:16pm on 12 Aug 2008, Biscuiteater wrote:

    Thanks for that guys

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  • 43. At 12:32pm on 12 Aug 2008, lilnasuk wrote:

    I believe the americans are the most arrogant athletes in the name of sports.

    Who agree?

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  • 44. At 12:54pm on 12 Aug 2008, axiom1 wrote:

    Sort of a blanket statement, lilnasuk. . . as there are a lot of athletes in america . . . seems the arrogant ones make a name for themselves that stick. This article highlights one of the quiet, reserved athletes; another name inserted may be Phelps (confident but not touting)

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  • 45. At 1:00pm on 12 Aug 2008, lee fett wrote:

    Enjoyable article Mr Fordyce, shame there was the usual dig at #13 about licence payers money being wasted. Sadly some people won't be happy until the bbc stops collecting the licence fee and we have to put up with drab coverage like itv give us. Coverage that's interspersed with adverts as soon as something exciting's about to happen! Keep up the good work.

    Anyway onto the matter at hand, the more I think about it the more I think Gay will win this one, Bolt 2nd and Powell 3rd or 4th. Powell has yet to prove himself at a major tournament, similar with Bolt although he hasn't choked at one like Powell has. But I think Bolt will be more focused on the 200 and that could give Gay the advantage. Gay's been there and done it with the World Championships so he knows exactly what he needs to do.

    Whatever happens it should be a fantastic race though. Hopefully we can get a Brit into the semis as well but realistically I don't think any of them have much chance of making the final.

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  • 46. At 1:01pm on 12 Aug 2008, kellster wrote:

    Some pretty poor analysis on the top speeds of 100m and 200m runner here. Even when someone has posted that the starting may be a factor they forget the acceleration phase.

    Both sets of sprinters would be looking to hit maximum speed somewhere around the 60m and then maintain velocity. The world record for 60 is about 6.4 seconds. In the 100m a sprinter like Bolt will be at that point in 6.7 seconds, Johnson in the 200m would be there in about 7.2 seconds. Both would then be looking to maintain whatever speed they have.

    Bolt would therefore be covering the last 100m in about 3 seconds, or 13.3 m/s. Johnson will do 140m in 12 seconds or 11.7 m/s. So as one can see the peak speed are not even close.

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  • 47. At 1:03pm on 12 Aug 2008, kellster wrote:

    Correction to post 46, Bolt would do the last 40m in 3 seconds and not the last 100m in 3 seconds.

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  • 48. At 1:11pm on 12 Aug 2008, Fraggle wrote:

    I read a great article, cant remember where now, with an in-depth analysis of who is the fastest man ever. It concluded that if you judge it by who reached the highest speed, the fastest was actually Donovan Bailey, who's top speed was actually way ahead of anyone else in his WR breaking run (9.83 was it?).

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  • 49. At 1:27pm on 12 Aug 2008, d4084558 wrote:

    Probably not the article that post 48 was talking about but a bit interesting nonetheless:

    Doesn't conclude anything really but does raise a few issues that haven't been mentioned here, e.g. reaction times and wind resistance.

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  • 50. At 2:04pm on 12 Aug 2008, piechucker31 wrote:

    sublimesuperspur #45

    Apologies, I was trying to be ironic and have a bit of a dig at the folk who do keep harping on about licence fee etc. Maybe I should have just left it. I do genuinely like this article and am generally a fan of Tom and his mate Ben Dirs, their pieces from "Le Bloggernaut" in the Rugby World Cup last year were excellent.

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  • 51. At 2:06pm on 12 Aug 2008, hallbal wrote:

    Re: comment 27. Velocity is speed. Acceleration is the rate at which your speed increases. I'm being pedantic. That's why I have no friends...

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  • 52. At 2:09pm on 12 Aug 2008, GBJuniorAthlete wrote:

    For people wondering what makes the fastest man in the world ever I'm not going to tell you what to think but gives you some facts so that you can make the decision based on them.

    The WR for 100m is 9.72, 200m is 19.32 so the 200m is fastest on average speed over each 100m however...

    In the 100m the start is what mostly effects the time, in the 200m you can ignore this for one of the 100's.

    Michael Johnson's time for the secons 100 was 9.2 which gives average splits for each 10m of 0.92s... in a 100m race the splits go as low as 0.82 for the fastest 10m (Greene at 50-60m).

    So the fastest 10m slit will be for a 100m runner. Depends if you are looking at average speed for a distance or on top speed reached which would be by a 100m runner.

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  • 53. At 2:11pm on 12 Aug 2008, ShamrockPoolFan wrote:

    i'm not a sprinter but the basic maths of the 100m V 200m don't stand up.

    Michael johnson the fastest 200m runner of all time has a personal best over 100m of 10.09. If setting his world record MJ ran his PB of 10.09 he followed it up with a rolling start for his second 100 by doing a 9.23. It seems unlikely that both those came to pass. As with most people who set out to breab records the chances are that MJ had specific targets within the different periods of the race.

    The 100m sprinter has to be quicker as his acceleration is higher. Its a little like comparing a ferrari and a BMW, both will get you to a 100mph just one does it quicker and thats the car people want.

    That being said MJ is a total LEGEND.

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  • 54. At 2:14pm on 12 Aug 2008, GBJuniorAthlete wrote:

    I also want to correct the point about the 60m world record and how fast a sprinter runs the first 60m of the 100m

    I know that when Asafa Powell ran the then WR of 9.74 in Rieti last year his first 60m was faster than the world record at 60m however there was a slight following wind. The 60m world record could probably be broken before too long if the top athletes contested it. Greene has it cos he is one of the few top athletes who contest it. You don't see Powell, Bolt or Gay do the indoors.

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  • 55. At 2:20pm on 12 Aug 2008, lee fett wrote:

    No worries piechucker for post #50, I probably should have kept quiet too instead of having a dig back - with some of the WUMs on these pages its hard to resist sometimes though!

    Agree with you though Fordyce and Dirs in particular keep things nicely light-hearted and entertaining, just a shame not everyone appreciates their humour and won't be happy until we're spoon-fed nothing but facts and statistics!

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  • 56. At 2:24pm on 12 Aug 2008, red-athlete wrote:

    Finally, some sensible comments. It is unarguable that the 100 and the 200, both with some incredible exponents who are awesome athletes, are completely different races. You could argue forever over who is the greater athlete - the WR holder in the 100m or the 200m.

    What is NOT in doubt is which group of athletes are actually faster. The fastest runners are the ones with the greatest peak speed. 100m runners are faster. For the ill-informed who argue that Michael Johnson's 9.2s 100 is faster than the 100m WR, well thanks for that, but please consider that Donovan Bailey and Carl Lewis both ran 100m relay legs, accurately timed for distance, and of course with flying starts, in the mid-8 seconds. End of discussion.

    Would you argue that 400mH hurdlers are "faster" than 110mH hurdlers? By the logic of people like Mido_9 you would, because the 400mH WR is a higher average speed than the 110mH WR (11.695s/100m : 11.700/100m).

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  • 57. At 2:37pm on 12 Aug 2008, rodders78 wrote:

    On top of all this 'I'm just happy to be here' I'm getting really annoyed by the GB athletes that say that this Olympics is great preparation for London 2012. I feel that this is a negative attitude to have as any Olympics should mean you put maximum effort into competing and be gutted if you don't achieve the best you possibly can for your sport and the UK as a whole. The mentality of some of our athletes is very poor. More athletes should behave like Chris Hoy who I can say now if he doesn't win will be absolutely gutted... however with his work ethic and positive mental attitude highlights the winner in him. I personally feel that if an athlete is simply there for the experience ahead of London 2012 then they should not be competeing at this time and maybe their funding should be taken away for those athletes and simply want to win at all costs. Enough of this 'oh it's just nice to be here' we want winners and true competitors.

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  • 58. At 2:40pm on 12 Aug 2008, pmatson wrote:

    At the speed these guys race at I believe that every single sprinter in the 100 meters final is on drugs therefore this race is a farce.

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  • 59. At 2:42pm on 12 Aug 2008, logicalopinion wrote:

    who is the fastest man on earth - Johnson or bolt?

    There are many variables that needed to be taken into consideration when deciding the winner of this equation.

    Speed is determined by the distance covered in the shortest amount of time. But where abouts in the race someone reaches maximum velocity varies from one individual to another.

    Factors such as drive phase, acceleration, maximum velocity and rate of deceleration all play their part.

    Therefore, rather than taking the overall time for the total distance covered as an indication of who is the fastest man on earth, it would be better to take the fastest 30m covered in each race to then determine the fastest average m/sec time. This, for the most part, would likely to occur between 60m and 90m.

    Obviously to do this we need to know the 10m breakdown times of each race, which should be available somewhere.

    This seems to me to be the fairest way to compare the two, as it is very true to say that the second part of the 200m cannot be taken to be a true indication of 100m sprint time, as it is quite obviously covered when a sprinter is already at near maximum velocity. It doesn't include start reaction time and acceleration from the blocks, which is considerably slower than a flying sprint for the same distance covered.

    Perhaps too, we should also factor in the body weight of each individual and the curvature of the first 100m in the 200m as additional variables.

    Perhaps there's a mathematician amongst us who could figure out an equation that takes into account these factors - or perhaps we should just recognise that one event is more a case of pure speed and the other a case of speed endurance and cannot be compared fairly.

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  • 60. At 2:44pm on 12 Aug 2008, rodders78 wrote:

    A rediculous thing to say. These athletes have been graced with the genes to sprint. I firmly believe that Gay, Powell and Bolt are all clean and are great for the sport of sprinting. To say they are on drugs is simply disgusting.

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  • 61. At 2:57pm on 12 Aug 2008, Sean1986 wrote:

    while most 100 metres athletes acheive max speed anywhere from 50 metre to 70 metres, they actually slow down as they finish.

    carl lewis was a freak in that his peak speed came at the very end of the race.

    due to this i would predict carl lewis to be the fastest man ever as he run the final leg on a world record 4x100, and with a rolling start he would have accellerated to top speed slightly earlier than in a 100 race, and he would have held it for longer

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  • 62. At 2:58pm on 12 Aug 2008, red-athlete wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 63. At 3:31pm on 12 Aug 2008, RebelRasta wrote:

    Big up Tyson Gay. You are great. The problem is that Bolt and Powell are greater. The mystery will be solved this weekend. Yup, lightening will strike. bet your bottom dollar or pound. Big up Jamaica. Straight. Bim!

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  • 64. At 3:36pm on 12 Aug 2008, logicalopinion wrote:

    Post 58 - It is unfair to say that all sprinters need to be on drugs to achieve the times they do. There needs to be evidential proof to make such a libellous statement.

    The times that are being achieved today are not beyond natural human ability.

    If we take into account the number of strides taken to cover 100m, we can determine stride length. If we take the number of strides taken divided by the time taken for the 100m, we can determine stride frequency/cadence. Include wind speed into the equation and it is entirely possible to see how someone can run so fast, and how they could improve.

    eg An athlete with a Pb for 100m has a time of 10.8sec. If the athlete takes atotal of 47 strides this gives an average stride length of 100m/47 = 2.12m per stride. Divide the number of strides 47/ 100m time(10.8) = 0.229s per stride.

    Now if the athlete could increase his stride length by 10cm but maintain the same stride frequency he could improve his time form 10.8 to 10.3. include another Change in a variable such as frequency from 0.229s per stride to say 0.22s per stride and his Pb would then be improved further to 9.9s for the 100m.

    This is merely a very simplified explanation designed to show you how the smallest of natural improvements can make a very big difference in reducing sprint times and its not necessarily all about drugs.

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  • 65. At 3:36pm on 12 Aug 2008, red-athlete wrote:

    Ah - the old spectre of drugs. To those instant doubters, have you considered that drugs allow people to train harder, recover quicker and get stronger and more powerful - hence lots of athletes who have been found guilty of drug abuse have enormous bulging muscles and incredible explosive starts. I believe that naming anyone in particular is against House Rules as it could be considered defamatory, but you can easily find pictures of banned athletes on the 'Net.

    Usain Bolt is still only about 20 or 21, lean, not particularly muscular, has a rubbish start which is indicative of a lack of explosive, weights-built power, but the reason he broke the WR is that he runs like a whippet with a massive stride and a high cadence - that's not drugs, that's genetics. There is enough cynicism in sport these days that it would be nice if you didn't accuse people, who have never had any suggestions of cheating levelled at them, just because they do things on the track that seem out of the reach of normal people.

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  • 66. At 3:52pm on 12 Aug 2008, andyroscoe77 wrote:

    I have no facts in front of me, and forgive me but I can't be bothered to look it up either, but with regard to the 100m v 200m pace discussion (which I also think is an impossible comparison as the 2nd 100m in a 200m race is with a "rolling" start) - didn't Carl Lewis record an 8.9sec 100m in a relay once?

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  • 67. At 3:55pm on 12 Aug 2008, FixedGuru wrote:

    In the 100m, elite sprinters reach a maximum velocity at about 60m, over the final 40m their velocity slowly decreases. Effectively when they cross the line they are actually slowing down.
    Generally the fastest elite sprinter is the one who reaches peak velocity in the shortest time and can then minimise the reduction in velocity in reaching the finish line.
    The peak velocity is limited by a combination of the the increasing aerodynamic drag, the availability of stored anaerobic energy in the muscles, the increasing concentration of lactic acid in the muscles/bloodstream and the mechanical power available from the runners gait (the running action). The energy used in the 100m can only come from that already stored in the body at the start of the event, energy from respiration cannot be generated quickly enough to help, so the sprinter does not actually need to breath during the race.

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  • 68. At 4:03pm on 12 Aug 2008, Hargo A Go Go wrote:

    Younahmean!!! 'Safa to tek it to dem brutally!!! haha. Just messing around guys; this is going to be a brilliant race and here in Jamaica everyone has there eyes on their Calenders and watches. Whoever wins will be a deserving champion. Mi still hope seh a 'Safa 'cause him a di BOSS!!!

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  • 69. At 4:04pm on 12 Aug 2008, FixedGuru wrote:

    In the 200m, the two 100m sections probably take similar times. The start on the bend will not allow the sprinter to cover the distance as quickly as in the straight start. However, this will generally result in the peak velocity occurring later and the instantaneous velocity at the 100m point in the race is probably faster than in the straight race. Again the sprinters will be slowing down slightly over the remaining distance.

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  • 70. At 5:27pm on 12 Aug 2008, BlackCat65 wrote:

    Surely the simple statement is that: "xxxx is the fastest man on the planet over a 100 metre race". All this physics and maths is beyond me on a slow Tuesday afternoon!!
    There are plenty of folk out there who are faster than all 3 sprinters over a longer distance.
    Personally I also like the fact that Gay let's other people praise him rather than do it himself. Quiet, unassuming self confidence speaks louder than brash boasts imho.

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  • 71. At 7:19pm on 12 Aug 2008, Elpenor wrote:

    There's not much physics and maths in it - just the fact that Michael Johnson achieved the highest average speed of any sprinter in any distance with his 19.32. If 100m runners achieved the same average speed they'd clock in at 9.66. Bolt, Gay and Powell have raised the bar so high that it's not inconceivable that they can achieve such a time.

    I have a feeling they won't however. The nerves of an Olympic final coupled with the fact that they'd have run three races prior to that tells me it's going to be slightly slower than the times optimists predict...

    By the way, I had a dream last night that Simeon Williamson finished 6th in the final with a time of 9.96. You saw it here first.

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  • 72. At 7:47pm on 12 Aug 2008, BenIsRight wrote:

    I am, post 57, post 1, kinda annoyed with some athletes for saying the whole 2012 thing. Not because of these olympics, but because of 2016. Who will bother then?

    They clearly say it due to losing, but they are desperate to win. Listen to team mates talk about an opponent and that is where it is clear, often a swimmer would say, "thrilled with my time, shame i didnt win but ill go on to 2012" they will then say, "oh he is absolutely kicking himself, she wanted the gold" (as an example with sportriff (sp?).

    The fact will always remain though, the team is young. That is why they are happy leaving after giving it all and losing. Because they know that they have it again in 4 years. The difference being blake aldridge in the diving, he isnt sure of a place in 2012 and he was furious.

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  • 73. At 8:05pm on 12 Aug 2008, ogo1492 wrote:

    with regards to this 100, i just feel that should powell perform at his absolute best he is head and ahoulders above the rest of the field and should win clearly, but then again we've all seen his championship temperament

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  • 74. At 8:31pm on 12 Aug 2008, ogo1492 wrote:


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  • 75. At 9:47pm on 12 Aug 2008, JPom wrote:

    Message no.46 by 'Kellster'

    How you have the cheek to question other people's analysis and then spout such utter drivel yourself is beyond me. If you genuinely believe any 100m sprinter is trying to get to 60m about 0.3 slower than they're capable of then you should really shut up. And as for the "7.2 for a 200m runner" bit, well words escape right now. Have you ANY idea how easy a 7.2 60m for Michael Johnson would look? He would barely be out of a jog. Just out of interest I think Bolt's 60m split in New York was 6.32. And no-one is ever (in my lifetime at least) going to be getting anywehere near running 13.3 metres/second.

    On the whole Michael Johnson/Usain Bolt ... who's faster thing, many people have pointed out that you can't just divide 19.32 by 2 and extrapolate some fictional 100m time. In his 19.32, his highest recorde speed was between 70m when he hit a speed of 11.58 metres/second ( What set him apart was his speed endurance.

    I don't know what the highest recorded speed is now, but I know Donovan Bailey was measured at over 12 m/s during those same '96 games. So, quite simply, in pure 'speed' terms, phenomenal athlete though he was, Michael Johnson is not the fastest ever.

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  • 76. At 10:44pm on 12 Aug 2008, Elpenor wrote:

    Yes, Johnson didn't achieve the highest top speed but he was able to maintain it for longer than anyone else in his 19.32 run.

    Bailey in the '96 games could've easily gone under 9.8 if his start was half-decent - he was way behind Boldon and Fredericks in the first half of the race and still managed a 9.84. It was a similar story in '97 only that time Greene was able to hold him off.

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  • 77. At 10:33am on 13 Aug 2008, pmatson wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 78. At 10:52am on 13 Aug 2008, Nestamania wrote:

    Enjoyable, convincing and attractive article. Thanks Tom.
    I can't wait till Saturday to see these guys competing either for the gold and world-record. I have a strong feeling that we will get a new world-record this time around. Every one of these three is candidate to be the winner, so it's very difficult to pick up a specific name. I'm supporting Powell and I thought he was going to be ready 100% until he complained after blood tests.

    I hope he will be OK on Saturday ....

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  • 79. At 8:58pm on 13 Aug 2008, Gensportfan wrote:

    Hey all!!!

    I admire Tyson, But all of the three are really humble Guys. Not the arrogant dudes we are used to in the 100m. Bolt have all the reason to be arrogant because of is aacheivement as a junior...."First and only Junior to run sub 20 for 200m as a junior," but as we all can see he's not.

    For all who say's Bolt is untested at major championships obviously don't know atheletics. If you are talking about major championships you have to talk about from a junior level, check bolt record as a junior, just sad he was plaque with injury before now. Untest at the 100m yes but still and exceptional atheletic whom i can tell you don't crack under pressure.

    I am really sorry Tyson Gay isn't running the 200m as i'm sure Bolt would have beaten him. After he beat Bolt in the worlds last year, Bolt whispered to him on the "I'm beating you at the Olympics.

    My prediction is a

    1. Powell
    2. Bolt
    3. Gay

    Reason been Powell looks more composed than i have seen him leading into a major championship and we all know he has a bullet start. While Bolt start is suspect, it's better the Gay.

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  • 80. At 10:48pm on 13 Aug 2008, bartonhead wrote:

    Hopefully no-one else has said this, but;

    #26, you said Johnson did his second 100m in 9.20, but - and don't quote me on this - my memory is telling me Powells split for the 4x100m at the World Championships last year was under 9 seconds, due to the fact he had a running start.

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  • 81. At 11:42pm on 13 Aug 2008, rufus2005 wrote:

    in response to 75, Michael Johnson may have only reached a top speed of 11.58 m/s but he was running over 200 metres, therefore at no point other than the start would he have been running using 100% effort. Michael has said recently himself regarding why he never run the 100m, that he hade the top speed but he couldnt start well enough.

    it is now impossible to tell who is the fastest unless someone has footage of Johnson over 100 or 150 metres that we can analyze to determine top speed reachednwhen he would have been at 100%

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  • 82. At 00:11am on 14 Aug 2008, greenbraveCowHead wrote:


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  • 83. At 8:13pm on 14 Aug 2008, Portugal OUT of the EU wrote:

    FRANCIS OBIKWELU from PORTUGAL will win gold in both 100m and 200m thus proving you pundits WRONG! You've read it here. Gay, Bolt, Powell, you ain't got a clue what's coming to you all!

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  • 84. At 10:26am on 16 Aug 2008, goldennino wrote:

    The vast majority of athletes Americans are bully and also have special rules. Anyone can you tell me why is the only country in the world that at the Olympic Games a body of your country is the which makes the control drugs? Why not an international body like everyone else? It seems incredible, i believe that if this doesn't happen computers as the basketball would have many problems.

    I'm sorry for my bad english


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  • 85. At 8:14pm on 18 Aug 2008, josefall wrote:

    Eat your hearts out, everyone who was ruling Bolt out... put that in your pipe and smoke it, that is how a race is run.

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