Who Are the Top Five Fastest Runners in the World?

Updated on March 4, 2020
skinnaz profile image

I love examining sports records and seeing which athletes stand at the top.

The 100-meter dash is beautiful in its simplicity. As a short-distance sprint, it is actually the shortest event in major competitions. World-class sprinters can usually run 100 meters in under 10 seconds, and the world record holder in this race can officially call themselves the fastest human on the planet.

In this article, we are going to examine the top five fastest 100-meter runners of all time. I will conclude by showing you the so-called fastest man on the planet—although I'm sure you already have a vague idea of who that might be.

Justin Gatlin won gold in the 100 meters in the 2004 Olympics.
Justin Gatlin won gold in the 100 meters in the 2004 Olympics. | Source

5. Justin Gatlin

  • 100 meters record: 9.74 (May 15, 2015)
  • Country: United States
  • Accolades: Five-time Olympic medalist, 10-time World Athletics Championship medalist

Justin Gatlin won the gold medal in the 100 meters at the 2004 Olympics; his time was 9.84. He also won a silver medal in the 4x100-meter relay and a bronze medal in the 200 meters. Gatlin would win gold medals at the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki in the 100 meters and 200 meters; he was the second athlete in history to win gold in both events during a single World Championship.

In 2006, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) found that Gatlin had tested positive on a doping test. He received a four-year ban from competing in track and field.

Gatlin returned to competition in 2010. He won the bronze medal in the 100 meters at the 2012 Olympics. He has also won many gold and silver medals at multiple World Championship events. At the Qatar Athletic Super Grand Prix in 2015, Gatlin ran his personal best in the 100 meters at 9.74 seconds. This time puts him at fifth place for the fastest 100-meter of all time.

Asafa Powell managed to win his first Olympic medal in 2016.
Asafa Powell managed to win his first Olympic medal in 2016. | Source

4. Asafa Powell

  • 100 meters record: 9.72 (September 2, 2008)
  • Country: Jamaica
  • Accolades: Olympic medalist, five-time World Athletics Championship medalist

Asafa Powell has been successful in 4x100-meter relays. He won a gold medal in this event at the 2016 Olympics as well as at the 2009 and 2015 World Championships. He also won a silver medal in this event at the 2007 World Championships. In terms of the individual 100-meter dash, he has two bronze medals from the 2007 and 2009 World Championships.

Between June 2005 and May 2008, Powell held the 100-meter world record with a time of 9.77 seconds. While he may have lost the record, his personal best time of 9.72 seconds was set on September 2, 2008, in Lausanne, Switzerland. It was not enough to bring him back the title of being the fastest 100-meter runner of all time. However, it does give him the fourth fastest 100-meter time ever.

Tyson Gay holds the American record for the 100 meters.
Tyson Gay holds the American record for the 100 meters. | Source

2. (Tie) Tyson Gay

  • 100 meters record: 9.69 (September 20, 2009)
  • Country: United States
  • Accolades: Four-time World Athletics Championship medalist

Tyson Gay won his first major championship at the 2005 IAAF World Athletics Final when he won the gold medal in the 200 meters. He followed this up by winning another gold medal in the same event the following year as well as winning gold medals in the 100 meters and the 4x100-meter relay at the 2006 IAAF Continental Cup. Gay's biggest success came at the 2007 World Athletics Championship where he won three gold medals in the 100 meters, 200 meters, and 4x100-meter relay.

Gay made his Olympic debut in 2008 where he failed to reach the finals for the 100 meters and 4x100-meter relay. At the 2009 Shanghai Golden Grand Prix, he ran the 100 meters in 9.69 seconds. This put him at second place for the all-time 100 meters record. In the 2012 Olympics, he competed in the 100 meters finals. However, he missed out on winning a medal as he came in fourth place. Gay would go on to win the silver medal in the 4x100-meter relay.

In 2013, Gay failed a drug test for a banned substance. This led to all of his results—from July 15, 2012 to the end of his suspension on June 23, 2014—being stricken from the records. This meant that Gay and his teammates would also lose their silver medals from the 2012 Olympics. Gay would return to the 2016 Olympics where his team came in third in the 4x100-meter relay final. Unfortunately, his teammate Justin Gatlin committed a violation where his hand touched the baton before the exchange zone. This led to the team being disqualified.

Yohan Blake is youngest person to win a gold medal in the 100 meters at the World Championships.
Yohan Blake is youngest person to win a gold medal in the 100 meters at the World Championships. | Source

2. (Tie) Yohan Blake

  • 100 meters record: 9.69 (August 23, 2012)
  • Country: Jamaica
  • Accolades: Four-time Olympic medalist, two-time World Athletic Championship medalist

Yohan Blake came to prominence during the 2011 World Championships when he won gold medals in the 100 meters and 4x100-meter relay. At age 21, he was the youngest world champion in the 100 meters. At the 2012 Olympics, Blake won the gold medal in the 4x100-meter relay. His team had a time of 36.84 seconds, which is still the world record. Blake would also win silver medals in the 100 meters and 200 meters. At the 2012 Athletissima Diamond League meet, Blake ran the 100 meters in 9.69 seconds. This tied him with the second place record of Tyson Gay.

Blake returned to the 2016 Olympics where he came in fourth place in the 100 meters final; he failed to make it to the finals in the 200 meters. However, he did win another gold medal in the 4x100-meter relay.

Usain Bolt is considered to be the greatest sprinter of all time.
Usain Bolt is considered to be the greatest sprinter of all time. | Source

1. Usain Bolt

  • 100 meters record: 9.58 (August 16, 2009)
  • Country: Jamaica
  • Accolades: Eight-time Olympic medalist, 14-time World Athletics Championship medalist

Usain Bolt is probably the first name that comes to mind when discussing the 100-meter dash. He is probably the first athlete you think of when discussing sprinting. He has broken the world record for the 100 meters on three occasions. He recorded a time of 9.72 seconds in May of 2008. He broke that record only a few months later in the 2008 Olympics with a time of 9.69 seconds. He would improve his time by over a tenth of a second at the 2009 World Championships with a time of 9.58 seconds. This was the largest improvement of the world record since the introduction of electronic timing. In addition, Bolt is also the record holder for the 200 meters and the 4x100-meter relay.

Bolt retired after competing in the 2017 World Championships. All in all, he has eight gold medals across three Olympic games and a staggering 11 gold medals (as well as two silvers and one bronze) across four World Championships. He has notably won three gold medals within a single Olympics, similar to Wilma Rudolph. There have been some rumors of Bolt coming out of retirement. However, he has shot those rumors down in interviews.

Runner-Up Sprinters

Runner
100 meters record
Country
6. Christian Coleman
9.76 (September 28, 2019)
United States
7. Nesta Carter
9.78 (August 29, 2010)
Jamaica
8. Maurice Green
9.79 (June 16, 1999)
United States
9. Steve Mullings
9.80 (June 4, 2011)
Jamaica
10. Richard Thompson
9.82 (June 21, 2014)
Trinidad and Tobago

Who Are the Fastest Women in the World?

Runner
100 meters record
Country
1. Florence Griffith-Joyner
10.49 (July 16, 1988)
United States
2. Carmelita Jeter
10.64 (September 20, 2009)
United States
3. Marion Jones
10.65 (September 12, 1998)
United States
4. (Tied) Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce
10.70 (June 29, 2012)
Jamaica
4. (Tied) Elaine Thompson
10.70 (July 1, 2016)
Jamaica

Which Country Has the Fastest Runners?

Out of the top 25 men in the 100-meter dash, 10 of them come from the United States. Jamaica comes in second place with five runners in the top 25.

Out of the top 25 women in the 100-meter dash, 13 come from the United States. Jamaica is in second place again with six women ranking in.

Why Do These Countries Have the Fastest Runners?

The US having so many of the fastest runners isn't too surprising. The US has historically done very well in track and field competition as the country can offer the best training and resources in the world. However, the success of Jamaica, an island nation with a population that is under three million, has been a bit perplexing. There are quite a few theories out there that try to explain why Jamaica has been so dominant.

It has long been theorized that black athletes, who make up most of the successful sprinters in international competitions, have advantageous genetics. (This has been a theory since the days of Jesse Owens.) A study at Howard University suggests that individuals with West African ancestry typically have a higher center of gravity. This has an effect on how fast your feet can move when they hit the ground. However, genetics may not be the answer. It should be noted that countries like Brazil and Nigeria, which have populations ethnically similar to Jamaica, have not had much success in track and field. Jamaica has also not had much success in team sports like soccer.

According to an interview with Usain Bolt, Jamaica's success can be attributed to the sporting culture of the country. Track and field is the most popular sport and sprinters are the superstars. Annual school competitions help develop sprinters as these events are the most popular sporting events on the island.

What Is the Fastest Recorded Speed of a Runner?

Usain Bolt holds the record for the fastest sprint speed at 27.78 mph. He ran this speed during a 100-meter dash at the 2009 World Championships.

Questions & Answers

    Comments

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      • profile image

        deena 

        4 months ago

        supper great run..................

      • profile image

        NATHANIEL E. KWESI 

        5 months ago

        I NATHANIEL RUN DONE USIAN BOLT

      • skinnaz profile imageAUTHOR

        skinnaz 

        6 years ago from United Kingdom

        Granted, Michael Johnson was faster over 200 meters than everyone accept Bolt and Blake. But his 100m times were never below 10 seconds.

        Personally, I think Bolt does have the capability over running under 9.5 . But we shall have to see. Yohan Blake could be a good contender for a new world record as he is still only 23. But he just doesn't have the height of Bolt. It will be interesting to see how they both run next season.

      • CyclingFitness profile image

        Liam Hallam 

        6 years ago from Nottingham UK

        Based on metres per second doesn't Michael Johnson beat a number of these athletes?

        It's true that athletics' showpiece event is pushing the boundaries of human performance. A question would be is 9.5 seconds within human potential? Yes we've seen Bolt run fast and supposedly ease up but does he have the physical capability to achieve it?

      • Alphadogg16 profile image

        Kevin W 

        6 years ago from Texas

        Very Interesting hub skinnaz. Its hard to see a list of the fastest runners with out Carl Lewis on it. It shows how we evolve and keep getting bigger, stronger and faster. Thumbs up on your hub.

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