Olympics-Athletics-The 100m has always been the main event

Sports Tokyo 2020

TOKYO (Reuters) - If athletics is the number one sport at the Olympics, then the 100 metres - and with it the title of “world’s fastest man” - is the jewel in the crown.

There have been 28 100m Olympic finals since the modern Games began in 1896 and the United States have won more than half of them (16).

A distant second are Jamaica, with their three straight victories starting in 2008 courtesy of Usain Bolt, tied with Britain. Canada have won it twice - the third via Ben Johnson being annulled for doping - while Germany, the Soviet Union, South Africa and Trinidad and Tobago have each won once.


* Harrison Dillard, US

1948 in London, 10.3 seconds

* Lindy Remigino, US

1952 in Helsinki, 10.4s

* Bobby Morrow, US

1956 in Melbourne, 10.5s

* Armin Hary, WEST GERMANY

1960 in Rome, 10.2s

* Bob Hayes, US

1964 in Tokyo, 10.06s

* Jim Hines, US

1968 in Mexico City, 9.95s

* Valeriy Borzov, SOVIET UNION

1972 in Munich, 10.14s

* Hasely Crawford, TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

1976 in Montreal, 10.06s

* Allan Wells, BRITAIN

1980 in Moscow, 10.25s

* Carl Lewis, US

1984 in Los Angeles, 9.99s

* Carl Lewis, US

1988 in Seoul, 9.92s

* Linford Christie, BRITAIN

1992 in Barcelona, 9.96s

* Donovan Bailey, CANADA

1996 in Atlanta, 9.84s

* Maurice Greene, US

2000 in Sydney, 9.87s

* Justin Gatlin, US

2004 in Athens, 9.85s

* Usain Bolt, JAMAICA

2008 in Beijing, 9.69s

* Usain Bolt, JAMAICA

2012 in London, 9.63s

* Usain Bolt, JAMAICA

2016 in Rio de Janeiro, 9.81s


In 2021, the only non-American to make the top eight fastest times of the year is the South African Akani Simbine.

Trayvon Bromell’s 9.77 seconds performance is the fastest, with Simbine’s 9.84s the next-best.

Americans Marvin Bracy, Ronnie Baker and Fred Kerley all clocked 9.85 but Bracy failed to make the Olympic team.


As the 100m sprint has grown in popularity, it has also been shaped by innovations, technological or stylistic, that have made the competition what it is today.

In 1896 the first champion Tom Burke and his fellow Americans introduced the “crouching start” that is the standard approach now, but which raised eyebrows among competitors and spectators in Athens.

When Americans Eddie Tolan and Ralph Metcalfe both went 10.30 in the 1932 final in Los Angeles, a “TV replay” was employed for the first time. Tolan was eventually deemed the victor two hours after the end of the race after a film review of the tight finish.

In 1948 Olympics in London, starting blocks were introduced, removing the need of athletes to dig holes on the ground to set-themselves up.

The race had been largely run on cinder tracks until the introduction of a synthetic, rubberised surface for the 1968 Games in Mexico City.

That helped Jim Hines become the first man to run under 10s, helped by another innovation - automatic electronic timing.


The 100m has not escaped the controversy that has at times plagued athletics.

The most infamous example came in 1988 when Canadian Ben Johnson dethroned Carl Lewis for the 100m title only for his victory to be erased after he tested positive for steroids days after the race.

Prior to the 2008 competition, five of the previous six Olympic 100 metres champions had their reputation clouded over allegations of doping or had been caught using or linked to performance enhancing drugs.


When Bolt completed his unprecedented hat-trick in Rio in 2016, 35 million viewers watched the Jamaican make history on the American broadcaster NBC.

In London in 2012, Bolt’s repeat of his gold-winning performance drew in a BBC audience of more than 20 million, a sports figure topped in the UK only by a handful of England international soccer matches.

The eyes of the world will again be focused on a small strip of track, for less than 10 seconds, on Sunday Aug. 2.

(Reporting by Omar Mohammed; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

Tokyo 2020 Reuters Athletics