Lightning Bolt

A phenomenal graphic courtesy of the New York Times’ Freakonomics blog showing the 252 fastest 200m sprints of all time.


Here is the fully interactive version.

Bolt and Johnson are outliers to a ludicrous degree. There are three whole tenths of a second devoid of any times—from 19.32s to 19.62s. If you except Johnson’s previous world record time, Bolt is 1.63% quicker than the next best time ever (Tyson Gay’s last year). Over such a short distance, that’s remarkable.

When extrapolated to the marathon, it equates to a margin of 2m 4s compared to Haile Gebrselassie’s time of 2h 4m 26s in Berlin in 2007. Three athletes have managed that feat, Khalid Khannouchi doing so twice. On the women’s side, Paula Radcliffe’s 2003 London marathon (2h 15m 25s) was 2.43% quicker than the next fastest, Catherine Ndereba’s 2001 Chicago effort. Again, a ludicrous margin and a record that will surely be tough to beat.

Interestingly, the late Florence Griffith-Joyner’s 200m time of 21.34 during 1988’s Seoul Olympics is 1.39% quicker than her fastest rival, Marion Jones’ 21.62 recorded in 1998 allegedly before her drug phase. Whether indeed either of these times were drug-assisted will never be known.


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