05 February, 2014

Where is Bob Hayes?

Bob Hayes is one of the greatest sprinters ever, perhaps the greatest of all or, at worse, second only to Usain Bolt. 

I am currently re-reading the superb “La fabuleuse histoire d’Athlétisme” by R. Parienté (the second edition where, regrettably, they have omitted all photos, including the fantastic photo of the 1500 m finish at the 1974 Commonwealth Games between F. Bayi, J. Walker and B. Jipcho on the cover) and I started reminiscing the 60s. 

Bob Hayes triumphed in the 1960, Tokyo, Olympics dominating the 100 m in a world record electronic time of 10.06 s. 

Due to the illogical way IAAF has been managing the records this time was rounded to 10.0 s and considered as equal to the manual 10.0 s of A. Hary. (Since manual records were still being homologated Hayes' record should have been a manual 9.8 s).
I tried to find the official record timeline on the site of IAAF but without success. If it exists it must be very well hidden. Only the current world records are easily accessible. Wikipedia, on the contrary, does give the record progression, based on a compilation by Track and Field News which is complete and accurate. While browsing the Web I was shocked when I stumbled upon a compilation of the evolution of the 100 m men’s world record where Hayes’ name was absent. The same ridiculous list 

100 Meter Record Progression

9.58 seconds, Usain Bolt, (JAM), Aug. 16, 2009 
9.69, Bolt, Aug. 16, 2008
9.72, Bolt, May 31, 2008
9.74, Asafa Powell, (JAM), Sept. 9, 2007
9.77, Powell, Aug. 18, 2006
9.77, Powell, June 11, 2006
9.77, Justin Gatlin, (USA), May 12, 2006
9.77, Asafa Powell, (JAM), June 14, 2005
9.79, Maurice Greene, (USA), June 16, 1999
9.84, Donovan Bailey, (CAN), July 27, 1996
9.85, Leroy Burrell, (USA), July 6, 1994
9.86, Carl Lewis, (USA), August 25, 1991
9.90, Burrell, June 14, 1991
9.92, Lewis, Sept. 24, 1988
9.93, Calvin Smith, (USA), July 3, 1983
9.95 (electronic), Jim Hines, (USA), Oct. 14, 1968 
9.99, Hines, June 20, 1968
10.0, Armin Hary, West (GER), June 21, 1960 
10.1, Willie Williams, (USA), Aug. 3, 1956
10.2, Jesse Owens, (USA), June 20, 1936
10.3, Percy Williams, (CAN), Aug. 9, 1930
10.4, Charles Paddock, (USA), April 23, 1921 
10.6, Donald Lippincott, (USA), July 6, 1912

is repeated over and over. What is the point of all those 9.77 (including the annulled 9.77 of Gatlin) when all the equal performances at 10.0, 10.1, etc. are not given?

Bob Hayes run a 10.06 s 100 m on a crushed brick track on lane 1 on a track that had been devastated the previous day by the 20 km walk. A synthetic track offers a 0.1 s advantage over 100 m, but in the case of Hayes, considering the state of the track, the disadvantage would be more like 0.2 s. Subtract 0.2 s from his time and one finds 9.86 s, a time which would have been a world record for more than 25 years. 

But wait, there is more. There is this incredible 4x100 m. Before the race the french sprinter J. Delecourt told a coach of the US team “you only have Hayes” meaning by this that they could not hope to win the race with just one good sprinter. (The french team was considered a serious contender for the gold medal, also because of their perfectly executed relay passes). The answer of the coach was “Hayes is enough”. It turned out that the latter was right. Hayes took the relay for the final leg some 5 m behind Delecourt. Less than 10 s later he was crossing the line with 3 m advance of the teams of Poland and France with a new world record of 39.0 s. 

The time of Bob Hayes was an incredible 8.5 s (with rolling start). Since in this case he was not running on lane 1 I will allow only for a 0.1 s correction in order to calculate the equivalent synthetic track time. However the time was manually registered and so the standard correction of 0.2-0.25 s is necessary in order to obtain an equivalent electronic time. We end up thus with a worse case scenario of 8.65 s. Now, Bolt’s split in the 2012 Olympics 4x100 m relay was 8.70 s. As I was hinting at the beginning of this post, it is not clear who is the greatest sprinter: Hayes or Bolt. Both are fantastic athletes who have marked their discipline in a permanent way. In the case of Hayes we can only regret that he opted for (american) football just after the Games and so we’ll never know what was his true potential.


  1. I have become slightly obsessed with Haye's final run of his track career here. Trying to calculate how fast he ran, & compensating for track & apparel (mostly the heavy spiked shoes) conditions. Also who is the fastest ever.My thoughts, & I most welcome your opinions...
    First, the fastest time ALLEGED for any 100 meter run is the final leg of the next Olympics, 1968. Now the track was better, & the high altitude assisted with a slew of new world records. But I am skeptical that Jim Hines ran an 8.2 leg!Either hand timed or adjusted for real (electronic) time.Your thoughts?
    Next, the fastest electronic time seems to be the next year after you posted this entry: Bolt hit 8.65, when he & Powell were previously registered at 8.70 or marginally under.Bolt always had that potential...
    Before I get to Hayes, you only give .1 seconds between his form of track & the best modern ones? I thought it was more like 2-3 %, but please explain your logic.Let us be conservative though-would you give something else for streamlined clothes-must be very little-but you must give something for the difference in shoes, right?Though admittedly less adjustment than in a standard 100 meters, since the advantage in better starting blocks is absent.
    About Hayes now: I have read many websites.There seems some confusion between hand & adjusted time.Yet you settle on something in the lower range for the former, which I have seen listed as 8.5-8.9. Why?
    Forgive some redundancy below, I cut & paste what i wrote on another website. But first: the one challenge I have to estimating Hayes as the fastest of all time-as I am leaning to below-is the margin of distance he made up & surpassed the next runner. This would seem a simple matter, but I have seen very different listings, say starting 9 yards or meters behind, to the NY Times saying ~ 2 yards.But most commonly I see 3 meters as about the margin he both made up & won by. What do you think it WAS?
    This is important as a cross check for actual speed.Because though Hayes made up a lot of ground, IF it was say 6 meters total, considering the fastest he or Bolt were over 10 meters (explained below re: the issue of WHERE they received the baton in the passing zone)...Then Hayes was at or near 1/2 second faster than the man who took silver.
    Then though this is inexact, what is the fastest time anyone else in the race could cover that distance? The equivalent of a 10.3 standing start 100 M? Since the second fastest times in the actual 100 Meters were 10.2s? That would put Hayes at 8.8 or 8.85.ADMITTEDLY this is not a very exact thing, how fast the other guy COULD have run.I include it in service to being fair & make the conservative case too..
    But here is I think a BIG DEAL nobody discusses!When considering velocity in a very short race, a small difference in conditions, in this case actual DISTANCE run, is a significant factor!
    I have heard nobody else discuss the issue of where a relay athlete receives the baton, which could significantly effect their actual speed per distance traveled! Here is what I am wondering about... Hello, I have become slightly obsessed with determining how fast Bob Hayes really went in that '1964 100 meter relay anchor leg!
    Also how fast it would likely be compared to the best times ever recorded, COMPENSATING for changes in timing mechanisms, shoes, track, clothes, if at elevation, etc. Allow me to lay out what evaluating many web sources has led me to believe, & I welcome all opinions & help in this matter! Since i might miss it here, please also write me at michaelmfelber@aol.com.

    Though please see the rest of my comment in the NEXT POST first though!

  2. Continuing: I have read numerous sources claiming everything from 8.4-9.1 as Hayes ACTUAL, corrected times. By that I mean compensating for the hand timing. There is a system that adds 2.4 10ths of a second, the NFL (40 yard combine)assumes 2/10ths lag, & in the finals of the 100 Meters he was timed .16 slower in hand timing. So can we assume that 2/10ths of a second is LIKELY to be the time we should guesstimate as most fair to add to his hand time? Next, the most common time cited for him has tended to be an 8.6. Which is stated as if that was how fast he ran, not off due to hand timing. Or if they list it as HAND timed, an 8.5. Which would be 8.7 electronically, let us say "true" time for shorthand. The slower times listed? Allegedly the Soviets did a frame by frame analysis & came up with 9.0 soon after the Olympics. But I am very skeptical of this, their analysis at the height of the cold war is likely to have nationalistic bias.

    A word on methods of evaluating the videotape: I read that even FRAME TIMES can vary unpredictably, so I know not how accurate that is. Then there is slow motion, compensating for the Parallax effect...Is it possible to get a better idea of his actual time through looking at the available film? Then if we arrive at a number for his likely speed, two questions remain: 1)The obvious one, how much time to CREDIT him with compared to the exact conditions of the fastest times ever? It seems to me that he was hampered a bit less by not having the additional burden of lesser starting blocks. And his lane was not chewed up as in the individual 100 meters final. Whether it was accurately described as "moist" I do not know. No elevation involved, yet we need to analyze the weather/wind conditions (neutral I believe), & mainly the heavy spiked shoes & TYPE of cinder track. I have read that it is worse than the "hard sun baked" California dirt tracks used around that time. At any rate, what do you think would be the DIFFERENCE if Bolt & Hayes had their exact top performances done in the other's track, shoe, apparel, weather conditions?
    I do not know, but it seems to me even in a relay, it must be an absolute minimum of .8, & a maximum of several 10ths of a second. What do you think?

    2) I understand the times are all done from the moment of hand off. Which is fine, & anyway the 300 Meter line was obliterated in 1964.

    EXCEPT---> If we are measuring literal speed, should we not compensate for WHERE in the 20 Meter pass off zone (changed recently to 30 meters) a man received the baton?! I do not know where Bolt received it. But I did read that Hayes got it early in the zone. The man teammate who was approaching said Hayes had taken 12 or 13 when he was ~ 1 step away. Presumably starting from the 10 meter "acceleration zone". And Hayes would have already been beyond his reach in one more step... At any rate, he was EARLY in the 20 meter zone. The article said if you want anyone to run an extra (more than usual presumably) 10 meters, it was Bob. Now IF he had run even 5 meters more than Bolt or the fastest "true" 100 meter relay leg...Would that not translate to at least .4 seconds? My logic: Bolt is listed as having the fastest 10 meter split ever at .80/.81. Multiply that out & you have a time faster than anyone ever ran for 100 Meters. So it is marginally conservative to REMOVE .8 seconds per additional meter, agreed?

    This would seem to me perhaps the easiest thing to adjust for. We can easily see where other, well filmed later athletes received the baton. We can approximate where Hayes got it. So how fast do you think Hayes ran manually & translated to electronic (true) time? What do you think that would be equivalent to given the same shoes clothes, weather, elevation & track of the FASTEST true time? Last but not least, what would that be if both started from the same PLACE? As in ran for the same distance? Thank you for your indulgence! :-)