100 m (one hundred metres) is the classic
sprints race distance.
The reigning 100 m Olympic champion is often named "the fastest
man/woman in the world". A distance of 100 yards (91 m) was often run
in the past, but this is now obsolete. Indoors, events are normally
held over 60 m (sometimes 50 m or 55 m) as few facilities have a
100 m indoor straight.
On an outdoor 400 m running track, the 100 m is run on the home
straight: the start being set on an extension to make it a straight
line race. Many top level 60 m runners fail to excel at the 100 m.
Illegal drug use has been seen by some as a means to gain a
competitive edge; in particular, the scandal at the 1988 Summer
Olympics when the winner Ben
Johnson was stripped of his medal.
Major 100 m races, such as at the Olympic
Games, attract much attention, particularly when the world
record is thought to be within reach. The record has been
lowered 10 times since the introduction of electronic timing in
1968, and never by more than 0.05 seconds. The current world
record of 9.77 seconds is held by Asafa Powell of
Jamaica and Justin Gatlin
of the United States.
In the women's competition the world record belongs to Florence
Griffith Joyner who ran a time of 10.49 seconds in Indianapolis
on 16 July 1988.
At the start, some athletes play psychological games such as
trying to be last to the starting blocks, although direct
intimidation would be considered unsporting. The starter will keep
the sprinters in the set position for an unpredictable time of
around 2 seconds and then fire the starting gun.
The time between the gun and first kick against the starting
block is measured electronically, via sensors built in the gun and
the blocks. Anything less than a 0.1 second reaction time is
considered a false start. The 0.1 second interval accounts for the
sum of the time it takes for the sound of the starter's pistol to
propagate through the air and reach the runners' ears, and the time
it takes for a human to process the auditory stimulus and react to
For many years a sprinter was only disqualified if they were
responsible for two false starts. However, this rule was causing
some major races being restarted so many times that the sprinters
started to lose focus. The new rule is that after one false start,
anyone responsible for a subsequent false start is disqualified
immediately, though this rule has led to some sprinters
deliberately false starting to gain a psychological advantage
especially if they're one of the slower starters in the field.