Athletics: The race that never was: How the world's fastest 100-metre runs of all time compare

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The Independent Online
IN WINNING the world 100 metres title in Stuttgart last Sunday, Linford Christie missed Carl Lewis's world record, set at the 1991 world championships in Tokyo, by the smallest possible margin: one hundredth of a second. It is now clear that Christie and Lewis have never met over 100m while both were simultaneously at the height of their form and fitness. Christie's prime came later than Lewis's, coinciding with the American's decline. So a parallel breakdown of the 1991 Tokyo race with the 1993 Stuttgart final may be the closest we will ever get to a true comparison of the two great rivals. Even that is far from definitive, thanks to the special super-fast nature of the controversial track on which Lewis set his time in Tokyo. Nevertheless, a direct comparison of the two men's times, taken at 10m intervals, does indicate the differences in the way the marks were set. Christie started fast (although not as fast as Dennis Mitchell, who led last Sunday's race after 10m), fell briefly into what his coach, Ron Roddan, described as a 'slack' period around the midpoint, and reached peak velocity between 60m and 90m, when he was travelling at 12m per second - 43.2 kph, or 27.0 mph. (This was the phase in which Christie disposed of the vigorous challenge of Andre Cason, who had started badly but took advantage of Christie's 'slackness' to draw level just after halfway.) Lewis's speed fluctuated more during the second half of the Tokyo race, but both he and the Stuttgart Christie reached the 90m point in 9.00sec dead. Over the last 10m Christie lost pace, while Lewis accelerated again to achieve the vital hundredth that now stands between the world and European records. Lewis also finished last Sunday's race in Stuttgart faster than Christie, closing the gap on the winner from just under two metres at the 80m mark to 1.5m at the line, yet still finishing only fourth.

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