Unless you were living in Southern California during the late 60’s or early 70’s, you’ve probably never heard of the name Chi Cheng until last month.
The Women’s 100 yard WR is currently 10.0 or (10.10 FAT) held by Chi Cheng of Chinese Taipei back in 1970. Chinese Taipei is also commonly known as Taiwan.
Shelly Ann Fraser came up short with her 10.15 (+1.5) in Ostrava.
Who the heck is Chi Cheng?
She was so dominant that in a two year period, she only lost one race out of 154 events. It puts Edwin Moses to shame. (Well, not really, as I am a Moses fan, but we have to give women their fair share. Moses consecutive win streak is impressive, but he made sure the European circuit race directors did not allow “fresh athletes” into his race when he was tired. And why was Harald Schmit always in Lane 7?)
At the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, representing China, she won the bronze medal in the women’s 80-meter hurdles.
In 1970, in an era of hand times where world records were harder to break, she tied 3 world records in a span of 6 days. She ran the 200m (22.4 seconds) and the 100 meter Hurdles (12.8) on the same day followed by 100m (11.0 seconds +1.9 or 11.22 FAT) 6 days later.
Even today, 40 years later, 11.22 and 22.64 would still be a contender in major championships.
Chi Cheng had a very short lived career. Her career was cut short by an injury and thus did not compete at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Like Jim Ryun and Sebastian Coe, she turned her efforts into politics after her track career.
The only other female “Asian” sprinter to come close to Chi Cheng would be Wang Huei-Chen (also from Chinese Taipei), who set a personal best of 22.56 in 1992. You can argue Susanthika Jayasinghe’s 22.28 of Sri Lanka is part of Asia.
You can also argue countries of the former USSR such as Ukraine, Georgia or Uzbekistan belong in the Asian category (Zhanna Pintusevich-Block 22.17, Maya Azarashvili 22.27, and Elvira Barbashina 22.27 respectively).