05 February, 2014

Where is Bob Hayes?

Bob Hayes is one of the greatest sprinters ever, perhaps the greatest of all or, at worse, second only to Usain Bolt. 

I am currently re-reading the superb “La fabuleuse histoire d’Athlétisme” by R. Parienté (the second edition where, regrettably, they have omitted all photos, including the fantastic photo of the 1500 m finish at the 1974 Commonwealth Games between F. Bayi, J. Walker and B. Jipcho on the cover) and I started reminiscing the 60s. 

Bob Hayes triumphed in the 1960, Tokyo, Olympics dominating the 100 m in a world record electronic time of 10.06 s. 

Due to the illogical way IAAF has been managing the records this time was rounded to 10.0 s and considered as equal to the manual 10.0 s of A. Hary. (Since manual records were still being homologated Hayes' record should have been a manual 9.8 s).
I tried to find the official record timeline on the site of IAAF but without success. If it exists it must be very well hidden. Only the current world records are easily accessible. Wikipedia, on the contrary, does give the record progression, based on a compilation by Track and Field News which is complete and accurate. While browsing the Web I was shocked when I stumbled upon a compilation of the evolution of the 100 m men’s world record where Hayes’ name was absent. The same ridiculous list 

100 Meter Record Progression

9.58 seconds, Usain Bolt, (JAM), Aug. 16, 2009 
9.69, Bolt, Aug. 16, 2008
9.72, Bolt, May 31, 2008
9.74, Asafa Powell, (JAM), Sept. 9, 2007
9.77, Powell, Aug. 18, 2006
9.77, Powell, June 11, 2006
9.77, Justin Gatlin, (USA), May 12, 2006
9.77, Asafa Powell, (JAM), June 14, 2005
9.79, Maurice Greene, (USA), June 16, 1999
9.84, Donovan Bailey, (CAN), July 27, 1996
9.85, Leroy Burrell, (USA), July 6, 1994
9.86, Carl Lewis, (USA), August 25, 1991
9.90, Burrell, June 14, 1991
9.92, Lewis, Sept. 24, 1988
9.93, Calvin Smith, (USA), July 3, 1983
9.95 (electronic), Jim Hines, (USA), Oct. 14, 1968 
9.99, Hines, June 20, 1968
10.0, Armin Hary, West (GER), June 21, 1960 
10.1, Willie Williams, (USA), Aug. 3, 1956
10.2, Jesse Owens, (USA), June 20, 1936
10.3, Percy Williams, (CAN), Aug. 9, 1930
10.4, Charles Paddock, (USA), April 23, 1921 
10.6, Donald Lippincott, (USA), July 6, 1912

is repeated over and over. What is the point of all those 9.77 (including the annulled 9.77 of Gatlin) when all the equal performances at 10.0, 10.1, etc. are not given?

Bob Hayes run a 10.06 s 100 m on a crushed brick track on lane 1 on a track that had been devastated the previous day by the 20 km walk. A synthetic track offers a 0.1 s advantage over 100 m, but in the case of Hayes, considering the state of the track, the disadvantage would be more like 0.2 s. Subtract 0.2 s from his time and one finds 9.86 s, a time which would have been a world record for more than 25 years. 

But wait, there is more. There is this incredible 4x100 m. Before the race the french sprinter J. Delecourt told a coach of the US team “you only have Hayes” meaning by this that they could not hope to win the race with just one good sprinter. (The french team was considered a serious contender for the gold medal, also because of their perfectly executed relay passes). The answer of the coach was “Hayes is enough”. It turned out that the latter was right. Hayes took the relay for the final leg some 5 m behind Delecourt. Less than 10 s later he was crossing the line with 3 m advance of the teams of Poland and France with a new world record of 39.0 s. 

The time of Bob Hayes was an incredible 8.5 s (with rolling start). Since in this case he was not running on lane 1 I will allow only for a 0.1 s correction in order to calculate the equivalent synthetic track time. However the time was manually registered and so the standard correction of 0.2-0.25 s is necessary in order to obtain an equivalent electronic time. We end up thus with a worse case scenario of 8.65 s. Now, Bolt’s split in the 2012 Olympics 4x100 m relay was 8.70 s. As I was hinting at the beginning of this post, it is not clear who is the greatest sprinter: Hayes or Bolt. Both are fantastic athletes who have marked their discipline in a permanent way. In the case of Hayes we can only regret that he opted for (american) football just after the Games and so we’ll never know what was his true potential.

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