Fastest 4x100m Relay Split of All Time? Bob Hayes, Asafa Powell… Step Aside

It was reported Usain Bolt’s Anchor Leg at the 2010 Penn Relays was 8.71 seconds.  With a 9.58 second personal best, Bolt surely has the POTENTIAL to run 8.58 with a running start.

Was Usain Bolt the Fastest 100 meter split ever recorded in the 4×100 meter relay?

Sorry, no.

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.  Remember, this is different than the IAAF Biomechanical Splits research teams (their list is shown below at the end of this article)

At the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, Asafa Powell’s anchor split was 8.84 seconds.

Carl Lewis’ anchor leg at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics was 8.85 en route to a World Record of 37.40 seconds.  Bernard Williams also equaled this time with a 2nd leg backstretch run at the Edmonton 2001 World Championships.

“Bullet” Bob Hayes recorded a 8.5 second (hand time) 4×100 meter anchor relay leg at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Converted to FAT, that “translates” to 8.74 seconds.

But Wait.. What about Jim Hines in Mexico City 1968?

Jim Hines was coached by Ray Norton, a former Bud Winter student.

Lost in all the hoopla, was his anchor leg reported at 8.2 seconds in altitude.  (The team went en route to a 38.24A performance)  We are not sure if that time was recorded when he got the baton, or when he crossed the 10m mark of the 20 meter exchange zone.

From an interview on

On the 4 x 100 relay race in 1968:

“We were in sixth place when I got the baton and Jim McKay of ABC said there was no way in the world that we could win. … And I ran the greatest leg of my life, the fastest I ever ran in my life and my leg was clocked at 8.2 seconds, and that’s the fastest clocking of any anchor leg in history. And right now I’m trying to get to see that relay race because, you know, I have never seen that relay, (after) 40 years, yet. It needs to be shown. I want to see it myself, to see my own anchor leg and what I did.”

His thoughts when he took the baton, knowing the U.S. was in sixth place:

“It put a lot of pressure on me. I knew we were in trouble and I knew those other anchor men, they were all just as fast as I was. And I knew I had to get a great baton exchange (from Ronnie Ray Smith), and I did, and I just ran the fastest I ever ran in my life. I had to do it. I had to really do it.”

Note that Ronnie Ray Smith was also coached by Bud Winter.

Only source to view this video is possible here:

If anyone has access to this video, please let me know, and we’ll have our Video Analysis lab take a look.

IAAF Biomechanical Splits research team

Fastest 100m relay legs of a Men’s 4x100m relay are listed below by the IAAF Biomechanical Splits research team.

8.85s- Carl Lewis (USA)- 1992 Barcelona OG, Anchor leg (37.40s WR)
8.85s- Bernard Williams (USA)- 2001 Edmonton WCH, 2nd leg. (37.96s)
8.86s- Carl Lewis (USA)- 1987 Roma WCH, Anchor leg (37.90s WL)
8.86s- Andre Cason (USA)- 1993 Stuttgart WCH, 2nd leg (37.48s)
8.90s- Daniel Sangouma (FRA)- 1990 Split EurCh, 2nd leg (37.79s WR)
8.91s- Leroy Burrell (USA)- 1991 Tokyo WCH, 2nd leg (37.50s WR)
8.92s- Leroy Burrell (USA)- 1993 Stuttagrt WCH, Anchor leg (37.40s WR)
8.94s- Carl Lewis (USA)- 1984 Los Angeles OG, Anchor leg (37.86s WR)
8.94s- Donovan Bailey (CAN)- 1997 Athens WCH, Anchor leg (37.86s)
8.95s- Donovan Bailey (CAN)- 1996 Atlanta OG, Anchor leg (37.69s NR)
8.98s- Carl Lewis (USA)- 1983 Helsinki WCH, Anchor leg (37.86s WR)
8.98s- Dennis Mitchell (USA)- 1996 Atlanta OG, Anchor leg (37.96s)

Jimson Lee

Jimson Lee

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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
  • I’ve read Bolt’s Penn anchor this year as 8.79

    Asafa also had 8.73 in Berlin. I’ve seen Maurice Greene given 8.82 or 8.94 for Sevilla depending on the source, and 8.87 in Sydney

    Hayes was given several times from 8.5 to 8.9. As great as the anchor was, I’m inclined to believe it was more towards 8.7ish, no direspect to the other runners but none of the world’s absolute best sprinters were on anchor (Tokyo finalists), I’m inclined to believe they were 10.3-10.5 runners, Hayes taking 6m (3m down, and won by 3m) out of them would suggest 8.7-8.9

    As for Jim Hines, I’m guessing that split is for flying 100yard, no way he is running 8.2 anything…I’ve seen only the final 80m or so of that leg and the way he pulled away from Figuerola doesn’t suggest 8.2 at all

    As for Carl Lewis, I do not know where 8.85 comes from. There were no IAAF studies done in 1992 Barcelona that I am aware of, and there was discussion on Charlie Francis Forums a while ago with forum members that counted frames on high-speed video of Lewis’ leg and found 8.68-8.70. He really did fly away from the rest, including Christe & Ezinwa (both 9.96 that year)

  • I’m wondering how Bob commented about wanting to see his relay leg 40 years after that 1968 race? In 2008, fourty years after the race. Bob had been dead six years.

  • A noteworthy detail is that Hayes’ astonishing performance not only resulted in one of the most incredible come-from-behind athletic performances ever recorded, but that it was accomplished on the last cinder track surface used in olympic competition. Every time recorded anywhere near Hayes’ split did not occur on such an inferior surface.

    • not only tha, but the track was pretty chewed up by the time the relay had been run. Freshly packed cinder track is one thing, run a few races on it and it is a terrible surface to run on.

  • American olympic relay sprinting dominance is in serious jeopardy. Most of the previous olympiads record US sprint relay victories that were led by some of the sports greatest athletes…Jesse, Bob, and Carl to name a few.

    But recent years have not only shown the emergence of Jamaican sprint powers named Powell, Bolt and most recently Blake (19.2 200m, 2011 100m World Champion), but our teams baton handling errors compound our slippage into “also ran” status — men and women.

    The big question is: can the US effect a comeback to its olympic glory days of old in London 2012? The worlds best sprint relay team currently resides in a tiny island in the Caribbean where reggae and cricket are big ticket items, and all fans of the sport know who and where I’m making reference to.

    • @G Walker, 2.8 Million people compared to 312 million Americans, and EACH country had 7 men go under 10.00 seconds in 2011? And EACH country had one failed drug test.. Rodgers (USA) and Mullings (JAM). So you have 6 guys to choose from… just get the stick around!

  • When the Olympic sprint relay final takes place, there will be four athletes per team representing their countries, making the size and population of their respective nations moot. As for the other similarities mentioned, hopefully drugs won’t be a factor, and of the seven sprinters that performed sub 10.00 seconds in the 100, bear in mind that the smaller nation boasts the reigning 100m world record holder, a former 100m world record holder, and the reigning 100m world champion. To “just get the stick around” is not likely to be enough for the US to win the gold.

  • people,come on hayes WITHOUT A DOUBT,fastest 100m anchor/split EVER. the man ran on dirt for Christ’s sake compared to the rest that have ALL run on modern rubberized trampoline surfaces(even Hines in 68)if tou’ve never seen it youtube it and watch hayes run faster than ANY human ever,it’s just crazy

    • have you ever seen the 2008 olympic final leg for jamaica by asafa powel? and did you know that that is ultra high performance by fully automatic timing? what are you thinking? The track was also faster, and he was handed the stick by the man who ran a 100 and 200 world record. (Usain Bolt.)think again

    • this video is Jim Hines and the 1968 4x100m. Yes, it’s also one of the fastest record splits but this was in Altitude on the 1st synthetic track for the Olympics.

  • i was at the 1984 games in los angeles and i will never forget carl lewis’ anchor legs split in the 4×100 finals that was shown on the score board with the other splits for the americans… his split was shown as 8,43.. ill never forget that…

    • The TV commentator read out the split times for the 1984 olympics, I remember Lewis’s time as 8.98, 8.43 is greatly exaggerated, but that’s american hype. Remember that Lewis was not at his best until later on in his career, he had a best of 9.97 in 1984. The fastest 10m split I have seen for Lewis was 0.83 in 1987 and he only maintained that speed for 30m. even the fastest men today barely improve on that speed.

      • Lewis was 8.98 in Helsinki 1983 WR (37.86) and 8.94 in LA 1984 WR (37.83)… he has 8.86 from 1987 Rome WCH Final (37.90) which was impressive to watch, it’s on youtube. I see 8.85 quoted for Barcelona but I’ve also seen others say they’ve counted the frames and it was in 8.7 region

        Arguably Lewis’ best ever 100m came at the 1984 US Olympic Trials (10.06 into -2.2). His 0.83 split is from 1988 Seoul Final (9.92) from 50-60m and again in 1991 Tokyo (9.86) from 70-80m. Bolt has hit 0.80/0.81 and Tyson 0.81 too, Powell has 3 consecutive 0.83 from 50-80m in his 9.74 from Rieti 2007. Mo Greene even has 0.82s to his name.

  • By the time anyone reads this, the 2012 olympic games will be in the proverbial rearview mirror of life and fading steadily. Even though the men’s 4 X 100 relay did not prevail, their effort was noteworthy, and it took a world record effort to hold them off. There is no shame in their performance. As for the ladies 4 X 100 team, I couldn’t be prouder if they were flesh of my flesh. To utter destroy a long standing women’s sprint WR that I suspect was a product of performance enhancing drugs is nothing short of awe inspiring. The olympics had it all, stories of triumph, a few heartbreaks here and there, but overall I feel it lived up to its billing as the greatest sporting spectacle on earth for two weeks. Whether you’re a track and field fan, swimming, volleyball, or something else, there were many worthwhile stories to be appreciated, many athletes who established themselves as stars (e.g. Allyson Felix, Gabby Douglas, etc.), and more than ample reason to be proud of the stars and stripes. For me personally, the greatest triumph I take from the games is our dominance in the overall medal count, because EVERY medalist from EVERY sport contributed to keeping Team USA on top, especially against a sporting juggernaut like Communist China. As some rapper once said, “on to the next one”.