Asafa Powell or Bob Hayes – World’s Fastest 100 meters?

POP QUIZ: Who has the World Record for the 4x100m fastest 100 meter relay split ?

This is not an official event, as timing consistency varies, but we all love stats, right?

Ever since I started watching the Olympics in 1972, historians always referred to “Bullet” Bob Hayes 8.5 second 4×100 meter anchor relay leg at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. If you convert that split to a FAT, that translates to 8.74 seconds.

Of course, Bob Hayes won the open 100 meter earlier, and his come from behind victory in the 4x100m relay made him the fastest man alive under any conditions. Ask anyone who witnessed that relay leg.

Jocelyn Delecour, France’s anchor leg runner, famously said to Paul Drayton before the relay final, “You can’t win, all you have is Bob Hayes”.

Afterwards, Drayton replied, “All you need is Bob Hayes”.

So Who is the Fastest?

In the 4×100 meter relay at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Carl Lewis anchored the relay in a World Record of 37.40 seconds, which was recently beaten by Jamaica’s 37.10 at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Carl ran an “officially recorded” split of 8.85 seconds for the anchor leg.

Still not faster than Bob Hayes.

At the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, Asafa Powell recorded a 8.84 anchor split.

Still not faster than Bob Hayes.

Finally, at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Asafa Powell’s split time was recorded at 8.70 seconds by the USTAF High Performance Registered Split Analysis team.

So that gives Asafa the WR for the “fastest 100m split”. I’m sure he prefers the Gold medal instead.

One day, we will see Usain Bolt anchor the relay, and with his 200m speed endurance, don’t be surprised if he splits 8.60 seconds! If you look at his 10 meter splits, ignore the first 10 meters, and add 0.84 seconds to his last 10 meter segment, he can clearly go under 8.60 running 100 meters “on the fly”.

Or faster.

Jimson Lee

Jimson Lee

Coach & Founder at
I am a Masters Athlete and Coach currently based in London UK. My other projects include the Bud Winter Foundation, writer for the IAAF New Studies in Athletics Journal (NSA) and a member of the Track & Field Writers of America.
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
  • It simply gives you an idea of the fabulous speed of Bob Hayes. According to some estimates, the speed advantage of today’s Mondo synthetic tracks over yesterday’s cinder tracks may well be of at least 25/100th per 100m. Do the math. Even if you take most experts conservative estimates of Hayes’ electronic time (between 8″80 and 8”90), he still might (in absolute terms) be the fastest that ever lived. And this without taking into account the fact that he ran more than 40 years ago. Since then, there has been additional evolutions in training methods, shoes, etc.

  • to me and most of the jamaican population asafa powell is the faster of the two. don’t forget that he was once the fastest man in the world before bolt and is currently the second fastest human on the planet. he has represented jamaica well, making the country very proud of his achievements. i do not wish to hear of bob hayles because i do not know anything about him nor his achievements,all i know is that asafa is a great athlete and i will never forget what he has done for our little island. clearly, whether he wins or lose a race does not matter to me because he is my hero and will always remain my hero.

  • Bob Hayes is the fastest human ever,he was undefeated in 49 sprints between 1962-1964,60 yds.100 yds,100 meters,Bob ran as fast as he needed, to win.At the 1963 College AAU track&field championships,in the 100yd. dash finals,Bob slipped coming out of the blocks,but still clocked 9.1 seconds,equaling his world record,and won the race,this almost unbeliveable.This point is again proved,at the tokoyo 1964 Olympics,4by 100 meters,when Bob came from 4 meters behind,and won by 3 meters,timed at 8.6 seconds on a cinder track.In 1963 Bob was clocked at 26.9 miles per the 75 yd.mark in a 100yd.dash on a cinder track.Can one imagine what Bob would have done,on todays spring board tracks&better shoes.Usain Bolt is the only man to compare to Bob Hayes speed,but i beleive Bob Hayes,was faster.S.A.

    • Exactly right. In college Hayes had faster times denied in other races for spurious reasons, almost certainly due to racism. He won the 100m in Tokyo on a trashed inside lane (due to a walking race prior to the final) on borrowed shoes. He stopped running at 21, prior to his physical peak. He ran a 9.9 100m in the semis in Tokyo. Under today’s training and equipment he certainly would be as good or better than Bolt.

  • Yes,Bob Hayes anchor leg at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics,converted to a fat of 8.74,is a tad slower than Asafa Powells anchor of 8.70.But Hayes did that 47 years ago,on a cinder track,todays Mondo tracks are good for 2 tenths faster,todays shoes 1 tenth.That would drop Bob Hayes FAT.of 8.74 to 8.44 easyly giving him the fastest 100 meters of all time.Bob Hayes is the fastest human ever period.SA.

    • Exactly! Thanks for making that point. I always laugh when people think that other fast NFL players could hold a candle to Hayes. I saw him play and it was laughable how big a cushion the defenders gave Bullet Bob.

  • I couldn’t agree more with Vincent’s comment above. This man ran in adverse wind, track(Lane 1 damaged cinder after a 10K run the previous day, and still broke WR.)and without the nutrition and advanced exercise and training techniques of today. And actually one reporting source had him clocked at 8.1 on that 4 by 100m. The man altered the course forever on how defensive football would be played. The zone defense was created because of Bullet Bobs blazing speed. He’s still the only man in NFL history to own and Olympic 2 Olympic Gold Medals and a Superbowl ring. Human Preformamce has been enhanced dramatically in the past 40 yrs. The Bob Hayes of today would be running 9.7s without a doubt.

    • There was a study done by Dr Brian Maraj (from Edmonton) and created a virtual level playing field based on several factors (tracks, spikes, clothing, diet, etc) and had Bob Hayes at 9.71 FAT and Harry Jerome at 9.69. I’ll write a blog article on that in the future.

      • Jerome couldn’t hold a candle to Hayes. In the Tokyo final Hayes beat the two other world record holders, Figueirola and Jerome, by 2 metres, a feat only equalled by Bolt in Beijing 2008.

  • Many people are not aware,that Bob Hayes had a 9.91 clocking in the Tokyo Olympic prelims,it was not allowed as a world record because of a barely over the limit tail wind.Also people dont realize,Hayes was a 100yd.specialist,he really did not train that much for 100 meters,which is approx.10yds further.The experts calcuate Bob Hayes,on todays mondo tracks,better shoes,areodynamic running suits,could have run a 9.47 100 meters.Bob also had that internal push to run as fast as needbe to win.Proof,49 consecutive sprint wins between 1962-1964.Won all his prelims at 100 meters,at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics,won the gold metal in the 100 meter final,then his famous 4 by 100meter relay leg.Watch this relay leg on youtube and tell me you have ever seen a human being move faster.Bob Hayes could have run with todays elite sprinters and beat every one of them,including Usain Bolt.When one of todays sprinters wins 50 plus consecutive sprints as Hayes did,then they could be compared to the great Bob Hayes.S.A.

  • With all due respect,I dont know how Dr.Brain Maraj is comparing Harry Jeromes FAT. times against Bob Hayes FAT.times.All i do know is Bob Hayes,smoked Harry Jerome along with everyone else,in the 100 meter final at Tokyo.Also Bob Hayes defeated Jerome on several other occasions in heads up sprints.S.A.

  • Conversions (or estimates) of hand timed results of sprint races to FAT (fully automatic times), are only done when estimates are done of races where the athletes are reacting from the sound of a gun. In the days where hand times were the official times of the IAAF (until 1977), certain organizers also had automatic (electronic) times as back up. Based on these comparisons average differences between the two different methods (accurate and inaccurate) were made. The suggestions of the IAAF were 0.24 for the 100m, 110mh, and 200m, and 0.14 for the 400m/440y races. This difference was made because the timers are much closer to the gun at 400m races, and thus could react faster to the gun. However, there were big differences between timers around the world. In Britain, France and Scandinavia the timers were taught not to follow the athletes with their eyes towards the finish line, but look straight across the finish line and then react to the athlete when crossing the line. These times were, in the eyes of the athletes “bad times”, but in comparison with FAT almost “accurate” times. Examples of this can be the unofficial world FAT records of 10.31 by Peter Radford in 1958, and 10.31 by Armin Hary and Jocelyn Delecour in 1959. All runners were given an “official” 10.3 from the hand timed watches (and no record!). In 1960 Armin Hary made the “first official 10.0” for the 100m (Hand times 10.0-10.0-10.1). His FAT in this race was 10.25, which also was a (unofficial) world record. The “worst” recorded difference between FAT and hand times for were made in Eugene in 1975, when Steve Williams recorded hand time 9.8, which really was 10.19 FAT! For relays it is not possible to convert “hand times” to FAT, bacuse there is no gun to react to! If you are watching a relay leg from way up above you would react to both the “start” and the “finish” of the relay leg. Anyway, there are no “ratified” rules of any governing body of the sport in how to record relay split times. Is it when the baton passes the “start line” and finish line, or when the runner passes the start and finish line? In my opinion it should be the latter, with other words; the performance of one athlete over 100m. Only when the information on how the realy slit times have been recorded/estimated, can we start to compare them. Even in the later years championships where it have been presented relay splits down to the 1/100th of a second, there have not been given clear information on how these times have been calculated. Bob Hayes ran 9.91wind aided (+5.28), and 10.06 on uneven and wet cinder (!), but still the estimated times of 8.5-8.6 for the flying 100m sounds too good. After Tokyo 1964, as a 21 year old, Bob Hayes became a NFL proffesional fotball player. Ha also became a legend of this sport. If it had not been for the corruption of the elitist upper class (and very racist) leaders of the sport (IAAF, IOC), a person like Hayes might have had the option of choosing Track as a profession. Then he would have had the chance to run at a (high altitude 2248m) synthetic track in Mexico 1968. With competition like Jim Hines (9.95) and Charlie Greene (9.21-100y), this could have made a record with some longevity!:)

  • I do not know all the scientific facts concerning conversion speed from one era to another.However,as a boy I remember Bob Hayes returning a punt for a touch down on a Thanksgiving Day Game.Every other player on the field was moving at a markedly slower rate of speed! It has left an indelible impression in my memory that exists even today more than 40 years later.I do believe with the advancements in training methods:nutrition,shoes,track surfaces, Hayes would no doubt beat Usain Bolt or any runner of any generation including Jesse Owens!Advancements in technology are also the reason why I believe Jim Brown would dominate more today than during the 50’s and 60’s.I saw Jim Brown play as a boy and he was superman among men.I saw a game where he ran for more than 230 yards against a good New York Giants team in the early 1960’s!

    • You’re right. Hayes literally changed football…since no defensive back could cover him 1-on-1 defensive coordinators invented the zone defense. I always laugh when people claim that Deion Sanders, Bo Jackson or Darrell Green were the fastest NFL players in history. Darrell Green told Roger Staubach that he was the fastest player in NFL history…except for Bob Hayes!

      • Amen to that! Thank you for your ability to understand a concept that seems to escape or elude a lot of people. Everybody assumes the athletes are better today. The closest analogy I can think of is the difference between TNT and a Hydrogen Bomb! If Hayes played today with the advanced training methods and nutrition his impact on the NFL game would be incomprehensible in my opinion! What about Henry Carr, Homer Jones, and Paul Warfield. The latter along with Bob Hayes are the only two receivers in the annals of professional football to average at least twenty yards per reception for their entire careers. Paul Warfield played on three world championship teams and may have been the most effective blocker as a wide receiver as well as being a very graceful, speedy,fluid runner with great hands. Hayes and Warfield would be my receivers on an all-time NFL team, unquestionably, even ahead of Jerry Rice or Lance Allworth! And don’t get me started about Jim Brown and what his impact would be on today’s NFL. Everybody talks about the great season Adrian Peterson is having this year but Brown’s best season usurps Peterson’s 1812 yards rushing with 1863 and yards per carry average 6.26 to 6.4. The same parameters apply to Brown’s accomplishments as those I delineated about Hayes’ with respect to today’s NFL!

    • Yes,John i saw that punt return also.It was a90yd.punt return,when Hayes crossed the goal line for a TD.the closest player to him was 40yds.back,no doubt the fastest man ever to play in the NFL.Many people dont relize Bullit Bob was World record holder in the 60yd.dash at 5.9 seconds,as well as the 100yd.dash at 9.1 seconds.Hayes had an incredible 5,9.1 clockings in the 100yd.dash in 1963-64 college track season.SA.

      • Bullet Bob Hayes certainly achieved almost unapproachable records during his career. I believe with the rules in place today in the NFL he would certainly average thirty to forty yards per reception for a career. During the 1960’s and 70’s defensive players had very little restrictions on their tactics and with the offensive-minded rules in place today would be virtually unstoppable!

  • For many years Bob Hayes was listed in the Gunnies book of World Records as the fastest speed a human had ever been clocked.Which was 26.9 mph at the 75yd.mark,of a 100yd.dash,which Hayes won in 9.1 seconds.Usain Bolt now has the record at 27.6 mph.If Bob Hayes had the spring board surface,Bolt had,instead of a dirt track,i beleive Hayes would have been 28 mph.and some change.SA.

  • If you analyze step by step the original video record of the 4×100 relay in Tokyo 1964, where I had the good fortune to attend, you can see that Bob Hayes begins his leg to 30″4/30″5 and closes it at 39″06 (39 “10 rounded): therefore he runs his launched leg between 8″66 and 8″56. Here the FAT has nothing to do because the timing were electronic (there was full correlation between electrical/electronic timing and the time superimposed on the video; the timing in Tokyo Olimpic Games was electrical/electronic but not yet been made ??official by the IAAF: so the official times were rounded to the nearest tenth) and thus there is no reaction’s delay of the human eye. So Bob Hayes remains the fastest man of all time even though he ran on cinder track and with shoes much less efficient than today. Analyzing also the legs of Usain Bolt in the 4×100 relay in London 2012 and Moscow 2013 it is noted that the Jamaican does not drop below 9” to cover his leg.

  • The difference between cinder track vs.tartan is alone enough to give Hayes the advantage in a 100 meter dash against Bolt.Shoes in 1964 weighed 135 grams,today 93 grams.Bob all day long vs Bolt.Bolt would ease up,only because it would be bob,by 1-2 meters.