One of the most viewed posts on this blog, especially over the past few days – no doubt due to the Olympics, is White Men Can’t Run. Anyone hoping for a white man to reach the Olympic final, let alone to run under 10s or even grab a medal, was sorely disappointed.
Marian Woronin’s 1984 ‘record’ remains unmatched, let alone beaten, but I thought I would take a look and see just how far the fastest white man got in the 100m and what the fastest time was.
The only non black athlete (or athlete not of African descent) who reached the semi finals was Naoki Tsukahara of Japan who ran 10.16s (he has a PB of 10.15s). No white athlete made it past the second round and the fastest in that round was Craig Pickering of Britain at 10.18s (he has a PB of 10.14s).
Pickering is Britain’s No.2 sprinter (3 if you count Dwain Chambers, but no one does), but is only ranked 13th on Britain’s all time list. The top British white sprinter is Allan ‘Wipper’ Wells, ranked tenth with 10.11s, which he ran 28 years ago.
This makes me wonder all the more about Woronin, he only ever ran that fast once, he never ran under 10.20s again, rarely under 10.30s, yet in nearly 25 years, only one man has really even come close.
The ‘official’ list of top white sprint times is:
- 10.00 (+2.0) Marian Woronin (POL) 09.06.1984
- 10.01A (0.0) Pietro Mennea (ITA) 04.09.1979
- 10.03A (0.0) Nicolas Macrozonaris (CAN) 03.05.2003
- 10.03 (-0.1) Matthew Shirvington (AUS) 17.09.1998
- 10.06A (+2.0) Johan Rossouw (RSA) 23.04.1988
Nicolas Macrozonaris of Canada ran 10.03s in 2003, but that was at altitude. If you’re wondering what difference that would have made, it was the same place that Pietro Mennea ran his 10.01s at the 100m and his amazing 19.72s at 200m. Macrozonaris next best after that was 10.19s ran in 2000.
Matt Shirvington ran his way back in 1998, it wasn’t at altitude, there was no wind (in fact there was a slight headwind) and more importantly for me, it wasn’t a one off. In 1999 he ran 10.07s, he has also run 10.09s. He is still running today aged 29, his best this year is 10.35s.
Next is Johan Rossouw of South Africa, his time is also impressive, but when you consider that it was run at altitude with the maximum allowed headwind, and it was a feat that he never repeated, it isn’t so impressive.
In fact if it wasn’t for Matt Shirvington’s time, I wouldn’t believe Woronin’s mark at all unless he ran it at altitude with +4.5ms wind at his back, but he ran it in Warsaw, with the maximun +2.0 wind.
A white man running under 10.00s seems to be a physical impossibility, even today with the advances in training and legal supplements and so on it is proving to be an unattainable goal for white sprinters.
Shirvington is something of an enigma, other than Woronin’s dubious time, no one else has got that close to the magic ten second barrier other than at altitude. Linford Christie ran his best time aged 33, so at 29 Shirvington isn’t quite over the hill yet. That said he hasn’t run under 10.20s for five years, so the magic 10s barrier is likely to elude him.
But what about those who aren’t white, but aren’t of African descent? Surprisingly, the elusive ten second barrier has been reached by an athlete of non African origin (I believe the correct term is non sub-Saharan African origin).
Koji Ito of Japan ran 10.00 dead in Bangok in 1998, there was a +1.9 m/s wind but still an acheivement. The Japanese have some good sprinter, with Naoki Tsukahara reaching the semi finals of the 100m in Beijing and Japan claiming a bronze in the 4x100m relays, but they still have never had an athlete under 10s.
In fact only one athlete not of sub-Saharan African descent has ever broken the 10s barrier – Patrick Johnson. The Australian record holder has an aborginal mother and an Irish father and in Mito Japan in 2003 he clocked an amazing time of 9.93s in the 100m, aged 30 years old. Sadly that was his best time by quite some way, his second best being 10.10s, set in 2000.
Whilst this does show that it is possible for non black athlete’s to break the 10s barrier, I still think it is an impossibility for white athletes. In 1984 when Woronin ran his time the world record time was 9.93s, (the ten second barrier having been broken in 1968 by Jim Hines), so he really wasn’t far away from it. 24 years on it has been broken ten times and is currently 9.69s set by Usain Bolt, whilst Woronin’s time still stands and is now 0.31s away from the world record.
Surely if it were possible a white man would have made a sub 10s 100m by now? Personallly I think that in 100 years people will still be waiting for a white man to break the ten second barrier.