Steve Williams, Greatest Sprinter who Never Went to the Olympics [INTERVIEW]

This is Part 1 of a 3 part series

Between 1972 and 1984, American Steve Williams was probably the greatest sprinter who never went to the Olympics.

Injury plagued him in 1972 and 1976, the Boycott prevent athletes going to the 1980 games, and by 1984, he was 31 years old and at the end of his career.

The 1972 though 1984 were tough years with the whole USA vs USSR drama.

Steve Williams 9.8 100m WR in 1975 - Click to Enlarge

In Part 1 of the interview, I wanted to talk about his track career, and there were 4 races that stuck out in my mind:

  1. His 400m 44.86 WR JR Record set in 1972
  2. In 1973 where he defeated the great Valery Borzov on the anchor leg of the 4x100m relay at the USA versus USSR meet in Minsk, USSR.  Borzov had won the 100m and 200m at Munich the year before.
  3. His 1977 IAAF World Cup 100m Gold medal in a stacked field straight final with Silvio Leonard, Eugen Ray, and Pietro Mennea.
  4. His 1977 IAAF World Cup 4x100m World Record 38.03 that included Bill Collins, Steve Riddick, Cliff Wiley, and Steve Williams.  Bill Collins is still running Masters to this day, and Steve Riddick went on to a coaching career that included Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery, and Bahamian 400m sprinter Chris Brown.

Williams, like Carl Lewis, like to swap the baton between his hands after the final exchange.  I asked him IF he didn’t swap hand, could they have broken 38 seconds, a record that would last 7 years?

Before we get to the Interview, watch these two races first.

1977 IAAF World Cup 100m Final

Here in the video on YouTube.


1977 IAAF World Cup 4x100m Final

Here in the video on YouTube.


Steve Williams Interview, Part 1 of 3

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
  • wow, what a sprinter…I know my names but had not hearde of Steve. Anyone that can wollop names remembered for the next 40 years like Borzov of Mennea is a proper legend. shame someone like that was never at his best or able to compete at the big ones. look forward to the rest!
    enjoying these interviews Jimsom, nice addition. Glen Mills would be a great interview, I would very much like to know how his / a short to long approach works, especially when yohan and usain can run 30 point over 300, shows his training works real well speed or speed endurance, as the end of the 200 is when yohan and bolt really fly away.
    another good interview would be kriss akabusi. having read his book, kriss is class and has trained as hard as anyone to got where he did, i.e he didn’t start off at 46 point like many quarter milers, and has also achieved at the hurdles aswell…………
    also how about steven francis…I would like to know what speed enduarnce sessions he uses from feb onwards; the training programme you posted stops there…
    cheers Jimson

  • It’s a tragedy that Steve, like many athletes of that generation, has been largely forgotten. With no World Championships, the Olympics were everythinng and an untimely injury or boycott could deny you the chance of glory for ever.

    Steve also suffered that many of his fastest runs were only hand-timed. The fact that he equalled the then world record of 9.9 more than any other sprinter of that time demonstrates I believe that he was the fastest of that era. With only automatic timings listed now, his legacy is ignored.

    I look forward to hearing more from Steve. I always wondered what he did after he retired from athletics.

  • What is Steve Williams doing now ???? Did you say he’s in the Chicago area.

    He was ONE of the best we ever had… No one could run like he did.


  • Steve Williams is a legend, the best sprinter in 70ers. The main reason i travelled to Zürich, to see him run. I hope he is okay and has a good life.

    • I watched Brooks Johnson (great coach) Steve Williams year 75-76. Steve and Brooks worked well together, he had the right personality for Brooks coaching style. To watch him run in practice, was like watching a gazelle not just from a speed prospective, his technique was beautiful to watch, even his signature head rock. I was 18 at the time and I thought this would help my performance,but of course it did not:).

      I am glad to have witness some of the things he speak off in the video, training in the rain ect.., He was a good roll model for me at that age from a training perspective. I did not her him complain
      through the grueling practices Brooks put us through. I always had the impression that he always wanted to get better.

      It is funny to hear him talk about his running experience from an inward prospective (catching others). Like a freight train.

      Glad to see he is helping younger athletes develop.

  • Just found this. Steve was one of my role models, he was smooth as silk running. But the thing i liked most was someone once asked him why most all the best sprinters in the US were black, but there were white sprinters overseas that were just as fast.
    His answer was pretty much the definitive answer, because sprinting requires you to literally fall down on the way to becoming faster. The best sprinters come from a lower socio economic background where you must get faster to survive. And you need fast competition. In the US the sprinters come not from middle class blacks, but the poorer neighborhoods where there is tough competition daily. And when you go overseas, Italy Russia, etc white people are still on the bottom rung of the ladder.