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100 m (one hundred metres) is the shortest outdoor sprint race distance in athletics. The reigning 100m Olympic champion is often named "the fastest man/woman in the world".

On an outdoor 400m running track, the 100m is run on the home straight, the start being set on an extension to make it a straight-line race. Illegal drug use has been seen by some people as a means to gain a competitive edge; in particular, the scandal at the 1988 Summer Olympics when the winner, Ben Johnson, was stripped of his medal.

Record performances

Major 100m races, such as at the Olympic Games, attract much attention, particularly when the world record is thought to be within reach.

The men's world record has been improved upon eleven times since the introduction of electronic timing in 1968, never being surpassed by more than 0.05s at a time. The current men's world record of 9.58s is held by Usain Bolt of Jamaica, set in Berlin on 16 August 2009. The current women's world record of 10.49s belongs to Florence Griffith-Joyner, set in Indianapolis, Indiana, on 16 July 1988.

Due to the progression of record times compared to longer distances, the downward march of the 100m record has been criticized as more a measure of technological advances than athletic greatness.[1]


At the start, some athletes play psychological games such as trying to be last to the starting blocks, although direct intimidation would be considered unsporting. The starter will keep the sprinters in the set position for an unpredictable time of around two seconds and then fire the starting gun.

The time between the gun and first kick against the starting block is measured electronically, via sensors built in the gun and the blocks. A reaction time less than 0.1s is considered a false start. The 0.1-second interval accounts for the sum of the time it takes for the sound of the starter's pistol to reach the runners' ears, and the time it takes for a human to react to it.

For many years a sprinter was disqualified if responsible for two false starts individually. However, this rule was allowing some major races to be restarted so many times that the sprinters started to lose focus. The new rule is that, after one false start, anyone responsible for a subsequent false start is disqualified immediately. This rule has led to some sprinters deliberately false-starting to gain a psychological advantage: an individual with a slower reaction time might false-start, forcing the faster starters to wait and be sure of hearing the gun for the subsequent start, thereby losing some of their advantage.

Climatic conditions

Climatic conditions are a crucial factor for good performances in the 100 m. Air resistance is the primary climatic factor in sprint performances. A strong head wind is very detrimental to performance, while a tail wind can improve performances significantly. For this reason, a maximum tail wind of 2.0m/s is allowed for a 100m performance to be considered eligible for records, or "wind legal". Furthermore, sprint athletes perform better at high altitudes because of the thinner air, which provides less air resistance. While there are no limitations on altitude, performances made at altitudes greater than 1000 m above sea level are marked with an "A".[2]

For example, on 13 April 1996, Obadele Thompson of Barbados ran the fastest 100m race ever in El Paso, Texas. He was clocked at 9.69s. However, it was achieved with a tail wind in excess of 5m/s, well over the IAAF legal limit of 2.0m/s, and the mark was not officially recognized.

Fastest 100 metres runners

Top 12 all-time athletes — men

Updated 16 August 2009

Rank Time Wind (m/s) Athlete Nation Date Location
1 9.58 +0.9 Usain Bolt JAM 16 August 2009 Berlin
2 9.71 +0.9 Tyson Gay USA 16 August 2009 Berlin
3 9.74 +1.7 Asafa Powell JAM 9 September 2007 Rieti
4 9.79 +0.1 Maurice Greene USA 16 June 1999 Athens
5 9.84 +0.7 Donovan Bailey CAN 27 July 1996 Atlanta
+0.2 Bruny Surin CAN 22 August 1999 Seville
7 9.85 +1.2 Leroy Burrell USA 6 July 1994 Lausanne
+0.6 Justin Gatlin USA 22 August 2004 Athens
+1.7 Olusoji Fasuba NGA 12 May 2006 Doha
10 9.86 +1.2 Carl Lewis USA 25 August 1991 Tokyo
−0.4 Frankie Fredericks NAM 3 July 1996 Lausanne
+1.8 Ato Boldon TTO 19 April 1998 Walnut
+0.6 Francis Obikwelu PRT 22 August 2004 Athens


  • Donovan Bailey's 9.84 at Atlanta on 27 July 1996 is currently the Olympic record.
  • Justin Gatlin ran 9.77 in Doha on 12 May 2006, which was at the time ratified as a world record. However, the performance was annulled in 2007 after he failed a doping test in April 2006.
  • Ben Johnson ran 9.79 at Seoul on 24 September 1988, but he was disqualified after he tested positive for stanozolol after the race. He subsequently admitted to drug use between 1981 and 1988, and his time of 9.83 at Rome on 30 August 1987 was invalidated. Carl Lewis's 9.92 in the Seoul race was therefore recognized as the world record, and his two prior runs of 9.93 were seen as having equalled the previous world record.
  • Tim Montgomery's time (9.78 at Paris on 14 September 2002) was invalidated following his indictment in the BALCO scandal on drug use and drug trafficking charges. The time had stood as the world record until Asafa Powell first ran 9.77.

Top ten all-time athletes — women

Updated 27 July 2005

Rank Time Wind (m/s) Athlete Nation Date Location
1 10.49 0.0 Florence Griffith Joyner USA 16 July 1988 Indianapolis
2 10.65A +1.1 Marion Jones USA 12 September 1998 Johannesburg
3 10.73 +2.0 Christine Arron FRA 19 August 1998 Budapest
4 10.74 +1.3 Merlene Ottey JAM 7 September 1996 Milan
5 10.76 +1.7 Evelyn Ashford USA 22 August 1984 Zürich
6 10.77 +0.9 Irina Privalova RUS 6 July 1994 Lausanne
+0.7 Ivet Lalova BUL 19 June 2004 Plovdiv
8 10.78A +1.0 Dawn Sowell USA 3 June 1989 Provo
9 10.79 0.0 Li Xuemei CHN 18 October 1997 Shanghai
−0.1 Inger Miller USA 22 August 1999 Seville

The 100m in Greece

The Greek record in the 100 metres currently stands at 10.11, set on August 2, 1997 by Angelos Pavlakakis. The women's record stands at 10.83, achieved by Katerina Thanou on August 22, 1999 in Sevilla, Spain.

Male Athletes

Female Athletes


  1. [http://www.slate.com/id/2174851 McClelland, Ted World's Fastest Sham Sports Nut column, Slate, 2007-09-27]
  2. 100 metres IAAF


External links

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