Human Limits

Exploring performance and health with Michael J. Joyner, M.D.

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Usain Bolt vs. Bob Hayes?

In anticipation of the 100m this weekend there will be a lot of talk about Usain Bolt.  Bolt is the world record holder in both the 100 and 200 meters.  On a time basis he is clearly the fastest man ever.

However, I want you to watch Bob Hayes who ran 10.06 on a dirt track in 1964 at the Tokyo Olympics.  The clip below shows him dominating from the inside lane.  It was featured in the documentary film “Tokyo Olympiad” by the legendary Japanese director Kon Ichikawa.

 

 

Even more amazing is his anchor leg in the 4×100 relay.   After the Olympics, Hayes played professional football with the Dallas Cowboys.

Modern tracks are probably 2-3% faster than the dirt and cinder tracks Hayes ran on.  It is also tempting to think about what might have happened if Hayes had focused on track full time instead of playing football.  He never ran a race after his early 20s.

So maybe “Bullet” Bob is still the world’s fastest human.

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3 Responses to “Usain Bolt vs. Bob Hayes?”

  1. August 2nd, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Wes Emmert says:

    Mike,
    Great commentary. My thoughts on Bob Hayes; it would be interesting to discuss who is actually faster, Hayes or Bolt? Much like ALL sports arguments/discussions, no one ever wins, i.e. the current debate Dream Team vs 2012 Oly bb team. Not even a case in that discussion. I did notice Hayes run technique. I am by no means a sprint coach, but I did notice a bit of a “hitch” in his body. It was not the most fluid of motion that I see in modern day sprinters. His head does remain level and shoulders seem to be relaxed. It ends there. Looks like he has a series of trunk lunges during this race. It also opens the discussion on body type as the most successful sprinters. Correct me if I’m wrong but the elite sprinters come in all shapes and sizes, i.e. the stout compact Hayes vs the elongated Bolt. The closest we could come to an actual comparison is to get Bolt to run on a dirt surface like Hayes did and compare that time to Hayes. Love this stuff, keep it coming. Hope to see you soon.

  2. August 4th, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    miguel says:

    I’m a former track and field athlete, in the 70s. I still regard Hayes as the greatest sprinter of all time. What he did in Tokyo on a (badly cut-up) cinder track in poor weather conditions was absolutely staggering. Besides, he appeared and disappeared in his early twenties and never had the chance to hone out his sprinting technique. In terms of pure raw speed I don’t think anyone can compare. In those days, too, top athletes only had 4 or 5 competitions a year. In this day and age, on the international circuit, they have up to some 20 available. And it is in competition, and top competition at that, week in, week out, that you improve your marks. I can only imagine, or dream, Hayes transported to the modern era with the new training methods, physical recovery, food supplements, equipment, number of competitions and, most of all, the supersonic synthetic tracks on which athletes run nowadays. When Hayes retired he was still very much an uncut diamond, a work still very much in progress. We never saw his best which is more than can be said of the likes of Bolton.

  3. December 24th, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    Scot Armour says:

    Exactly Miguel,Bob Hayes was undefeated in 49 consecutive sprints 60yds.100yds.100meters,he ran as fast as needbe to win.NO sprinter today,has even come close to 49 wins in a row.When someone does they could be considered equal with the great Bob Hayes.Hayes Tokyo Olympic 4by100 meter relay performance is considered by most experts as the fastest 100 meters of all time,clocked at 8.5-8.6 seconds,for his anchor leg on a dirt track,with inferior shoes.Some believe he may have run close to 30mph.on that relay leg,comeing back from 4meters at the start&winning by 3meters at the finish,against the fastest men in the world at that time.I rest my case,fastest to ever live.SA.

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