100 metres

100 metres
Torri Edwards leads her 100 metres heat at the 2007 World Championships

The 100 metres, or 100-metre dash, is a sprint race in track and field competitions. The shortest common outdoor running distance, it is one of the most popular and prestigious events in the sport of athletics. It has been contested at the Summer Olympics since 1896 (1928 for women). The reigning 100 m Olympic champion is often named "the fastest man/woman in the world".

On an outdoor 400 metres running track, the 100 m is run on the home straight, with the start sometimes being set on an extension to make it a straight-line race. Runners begin in the starting blocks and the race begins when an official fires the starter's pistol. Sprinters typically reach top speed after somewhere between 50–60 m. Their speed then slows progressively towards the finish line.

The 10-second barrier has historically been a barometer of fast men's performances, while the best female sprinters take eleven seconds or less to complete the race. The current men's world record is 9.58 seconds, set by Jamaica's Usain Bolt, while American Florence Griffith-Joyner holds the women's world record of 10.49 seconds.

The 100 m emerged from the metrication of the 100 yards (91.4 m), a now defunct distance originally contested in English-speaking countries. The event is largely held outdoors as few indoor facilities have a 100 m straight.


Race dynamics

Runners lining up to start the race in Osaka


At the start, some athletes play psychological games such as trying to be last to the starting blocks, although direct intimidation would be considered unsportsmanlike.

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 0.1 s 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 to react to it.

Male sprinters await the starter's instructions

For many years a sprinter was disqualified if responsible for two false starts individually. However, this rule allowed some major races to be restarted so many times that the sprinters started to lose focus. The next iteration of the rule, introduced in February 2003, meant that one false start was allowed between the field, but anyone responsible for a subsequent false start was disqualified.

This rule 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. To avoid such abuse and to improve spectator enjoyment, the IAAF implemented a further change in the 2010 season – a false starting athlete now receives immediate disqualification.[1] This proposal was met with objections when first raised in 2005, on the grounds that it would not leave any room for innocent mistakes. Justin Gatlin commented, "Just a flinch or a leg cramp could cost you a year's worth of work.".[2] The rule had a dramatic impact at the 2011 world championships, when current world record holder Usain Bolt was disqualified.[3][4]


Runners typically reach their top speed just past the halfway point of the race and they progressively decelerate in the latter stages of the race. Maintaining that top speed for as long as possible is a primary focus of training for the 100 m.[5] Pacing and running tactics do not play a significant role in the 100 m, as success in the event depends more on pure athletic qualities and technique.


The winner, by IAAF Competition Rules, is determined by the first athlete with his or her torso (not including limbs, head, or neck) over the nearer edge of the finish line.[6] When the placing of the athletes is not obvious, a photo finish is used to distinguish which runner was first to cross the line.

Climatic conditions

Previous world record holder Asafa Powell leading a race.

Climatic conditions, in particular air resistance, can affect performances in the 100 m. 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 2.0 m/s is allowed for a 100 m 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. In theory, the thinner air would also make breathing slightly more difficult (due to the partial pressure of oxygen being lower), but this difference is negligible for sprint distances where all the oxygen needed for the short dash is already in the muscles and bloodstream when the race starts. While there are no limitations on altitude, performances made at altitudes greater than 1000 m above sea level are marked with an "A".[7]

Record performances

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

Usain Bolt breaking the world and Olympic records at the 2008 Beijing Olympics

The men's world record has been improved upon twelve times since the introduction of electronic timing in 1968.[8] The current men's world record of 9.58 s is held by Usain Bolt of Jamaica, set at the 2009 World Athletics Championships final on 16 August 2009, breaking his own previous world record by 0.11 s.[9] The current women's world record of 10.49 s was set by Florence Griffith-Joyner of the USA, in Indianapolis, Indiana, on 16 July 1988.[10]

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.

Jim Hines was the first man to break the 10-second barrier in the 100 m, recording the first sub-10 second, electronically timed run to win the 100 metres at the 1968 Olympics.

Fastest 100 metres runners


Updated 8 September 2011[11]

Rank Fastest time Wind (m/s) Athlete Country Date Location
1 9.58 +0.9 Usain Bolt  Jamaica 16 August 2009 Berlin
2 9.69 +2.0 Tyson Gay  United States 20 September 2009 Shanghai
3 9.72 +0.2 Asafa Powell  Jamaica 2 September 2008 Lausanne
4 9.78 +0.9 Nesta Carter  Jamaica 29 August 2010 Rieti
5 9.79 +0.1 Maurice Greene  United States 16 June 1999 Athens
6 9.80 +1.3 Steve Mullings  Jamaica 4 June 2011 Eugene
7 9.82 +0.0 Yohan Blake  Jamaica 8 September 2011 Zurich
8 9.84 +0.7 Donovan Bailey  Canada 27 July 1996 Atlanta
+0.2 Bruny Surin  Canada 22 August 1999 Seville
10 9.85 +1.2 Leroy Burrell  United States 6 July 1994 Lausanne
+0.6 Justin Gatlin  United States 22 August 2004 Athens
+1.7 Olusoji Fasuba  Nigeria 12 May 2006 Doha
+1.3 Mike Rodgers  United States 4 June 2011 Eugene
+1.0 Richard Thompson  Trinidad and Tobago 13 August 2011 Port of Spain


  • Tyson Gay also has a time of 9.68 s set on 29 June 2008 during the 2008 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon; the tail wind speed was 4.1 m/s, more than double the IAAF legal limit.[12]
  • Obadele Thompson ran a wind-aided 9.69 in El Paso, Texas in April 1996 which stood as the fastest ever 100m time for 12 years until Tyson Gay's June 2008 performance; the tail wind speed was 5.7 m/s.
  • 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 rescinded in 2007 after he failed a doping test in April 2006.
  • Carl Lewis ran a time of 9.78 seconds at the 1988 US Olympic trials in Indianapolis, but it was wind aided (the tail wind speed was 5.2 m/s).
  • Tim Montgomery's time of 9.78 at Paris on 14 September 2002 was rescinded 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.
  • 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 rescinded. 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.


Christine Arron (left) wins the 100 m at the Weltklasse meeting.

Updated 31 May 2011

Rank Fastest time Wind (m/s) Athlete Nation Date Location
1 10.49 0.0 Florence Griffith-Joyner  United States 16 July 1988 Indianapolis
2 10.64 +1.2 Carmelita Jeter  United States 20 September 2009 Shanghai
3 10.65 [A] +1.1 Marion Jones  United States 12 September 1998 Johannesburg
4 10.73 +0.1 Shelly-Ann Fraser  Jamaica 17 August 2009 Berlin
+2.0 Christine Arron  France 19 August 1998 Budapest
6 10.74 +1.3 Merlene Ottey  Jamaica 7 September 1996 Milan
7 10.75 +0.4 Kerron Stewart  Jamaica 10 July 2009 Rome
8 10.76 +1.7 Evelyn Ashford  United States 22 August 1984 Zürich
+1.1 Veronica Campbell-Brown  Jamaica 31 May 2011 Ostrava
10 10.77 +0.9 Irina Privalova  Russia 6 July 1994 Lausanne
+0.7 Ivet Lalova  Bulgaria 19 June 2004 Plovdiv


  • Florence Griffith-Joyner's World Record has been the subject of a controversy due to strong suspicion of a defective anemometer measuring a tailwind lower than actually present; since 1997 the International Athletics Annual of the Association of Track and Field Statisticians has listed this performance as "probably strongly wind assisted, but recognized as a world record".[13]

Area records

Updated 6 September 2011.[14]

Area Men's Women's
Time Athlete Nation Time Athlete Nation
Africa (records) 9.85 Olusoji Fasuba  Nigeria 10.90 Glory Alozie  Nigeria
Asia (records) 9.99 Samuel Francis  Qatar 10.79 Li Xuemei  China
Europe (records) 9.86 Francis Obikwelu  Portugal 10.73 Christine Arron  France
North, Central America
and Caribbean
9.58 WR Usain Bolt  Jamaica 10.49 WR Florence Griffith-Joyner  United States
Oceania (records) 9.93 Patrick Johnson  Australia 11.12[A] Melinda Gainsford-Taylor  Australia
South America (records) 10.00[A] Robson da Silva  Brazil 11.15 Ana Cláudia Silva  Brazil


World Championship medalists


Championships Gold Silver Bronze
1983 Helsinki  Carl Lewis (USA)  Calvin Smith (USA)  Emmit King (USA)
1987 Rome  Carl Lewis (USA)  Raymond Stewart (JAM)  Linford Christie (GBR)
1991 Tokyo  Carl Lewis (USA)  Leroy Burrell (USA)  Dennis Mitchell (USA)
1993 Stuttgart  Linford Christie (GBR)  Andre Cason (USA)  Dennis Mitchell (USA)
1995 Gothenburg  Donovan Bailey (CAN)  Bruny Surin (CAN)  Ato Boldon (TRI)
1997 Athens  Maurice Greene (USA)  Donovan Bailey (CAN)  Tim Montgomery (USA)
1999 Seville  Maurice Greene (USA)  Bruny Surin (CAN)  Dwain Chambers  (GBR)
2001 Edmonton  Maurice Greene (USA)  Bernard Williams (USA)  Ato Boldon (TRI)
2003 Paris  Kim Collins (SKN)   Darrel Brown (TRI)  Darren Campbell (GBR)
2005 Helsinki  Justin Gatlin (USA)  Michael Frater (JAM)  Kim Collins (SKN)
2007 Osaka  Tyson Gay (USA)  Derrick Atkins (BAH)  Asafa Powell (JAM)
2009 Berlin  Usain Bolt (JAM)  Tyson Gay (USA)  Asafa Powell (JAM)
2011 Daegu  Yohan Blake (JAM)  Walter Dix (USA)  Kim Collins (SKN)


Championships Gold Silver Bronze
1983 Helsinki  Marlies Oelsner-Göhr (GDR)  Marita Koch (GDR)  Diane Williams (USA)
1987 Rome   Silke Gladisch-Möller  (GDR)   Heike Daute-Drechsler (GDR)  Merlene Ottey (JAM)
1991 Tokyo  Katrin Krabbe (GER)  Gwen Torrence (USA)  Merlene Ottey (JAM)
1993 Stuttgart  Gail Devers (USA)  Merlene Ottey (JAM)  Gwen Torrence (USA)
1995 Gothenburg  Gwen Torrence (USA)  Merlene Ottey (JAM)  Irina Privalova (RUS)
1997 Athens  Marion Jones (USA)  Zhanna Pintusevich (UKR)  Savatheda Fynes (BAH)
1999 Seville  Marion Jones (USA)  Inger Miller (USA)  Ekaterini Thanou (GRE)
2001 Edmonton  Zhanna Pintusevich-Block (UKR)  Ekaterini Thanou (GRE)  Chandra Sturrup (BAH)
2003 Paris  Torri Edwards (USA)  Zhanna Block (UKR)   Chandra Sturrup (BAH)
2005 Helsinki  Lauryn Williams (USA)  Veronica Campbell (JAM)  Christine Arron (FRA)
2007 Osaka  Veronica Campbell-Brown (JAM)  Lauryn Williams (USA)  Carmelita Jeter (USA)
2009 Berlin  Shelly-Ann Fraser (JAM)  Kerron Stewart (JAM)  Carmelita Jeter (USA)
2011 Daegu  Carmelita Jeter (USA)  Veronica Campbell-Brown (JAM)  Kelly-Ann Baptiste (TRI)

See also


  1. ^ "IAAF keeps one false-start rule". BBC. 3 August 2005. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/athletics/4433815.stm. Retrieved 15 August 2008. 
  2. ^ "Gatlin queries false start change". BBC News. 6 May 2005. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/athletics/4521963.stm. Retrieved 15 August 2008. 
  3. ^ Christopher Clarey (28 August 2011). "Who Can Beat Bolt in the 100? Himself". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/29/sports/bolt-is-disqualified-in-100-at-worlds-blake-wins.html. Retrieved 28 August 2011. 
  4. ^ "The disqualification of Usain Bolt". IAAF. 28 August 2011. http://daegu2011.iaaf.org//newslistdetail.aspx?id=61468. Retrieved 28 August 2011. 
  5. ^ http://speedendurance.com/2008/08/22/usain-bolt-100m-10-meter-splits-and-speed-endurance/
  6. ^ Sandre-Tom. "IAAF Competition Rules 2009, Rule 164". IAAF. Archived from the original on 3 September 2009. http://www.goldenleague.net/mm/Document/Competitions/TechnicalArea/04/95/59/20090303014358_httppostedfile_CompetitionRules2009_printed_8986.pdf. Retrieved 23 August 2009. 
  7. ^ 100 metres IAAF
  8. ^ Press, Associated. "Progression of 100 meters world record". ESPN. http://sports.espn.go.com/oly/news/story?id=2442751. Retrieved 28 June 2011. 
  9. ^ "100 Metres Results". IAAF. 16 August 2009. http://berlin.iaaf.org/documents/pdf/3658/AT-100-M-f--1--.RS1.pdf. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  10. ^ 100 Metres All Time. IAAF (9 March 2009). Retrieved on 6 May 2009. Archived 2009-05-08.
  11. ^ "Top List – 100m". IAAF. http://www.iaaf.org/statistics/toplists/inout=o/age=n/season=0/sex=M/all=y/legal=A/disc=100/detail.html. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  12. ^ Zinser, Lynn (30 June 2008), "Shattering Limits on the Track, and in the Pool" The New York Times
  13. ^ Linthorne, Nick (March 2003). "Wind Assistance". Brunel University. Archived from the original on 3 September 2009. http://people.brunel.ac.uk/~spstnpl/BiomechanicsAthletics/WindAssistance.htm. Retrieved 25 August 2008. 
  14. ^ 100 metres records. IAAF (6 September 2011). Retrieved on 2011-06-09. Archived 6 September 2011.
  15. ^ 60 Metres Records. IAAF (4 April 2009). Retrieved on 2009-04-04.

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