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Gold Rush

WINNER: Christie

EVER SINCE Tom Burke won 100 metre gold in the first official Olympic Games in 1896, the title of the world’s fastest man has been held in high esteem.

The winner of this event automatically receives worldwide acclaim in what is seen as one of the most decorated of all sporting achievements.

Author Neil Duncanson spent two-and-a half years researching and chronicling the first to the current 100 metre gold medallist in his book The Fastest Men on Earth The Story of the Men’s 100 Metres Olympic Champions, interviewing every living Olympic gold medallist in the process.

Jamaica’s triple Olympic gold medallist sprinter Usain Bolt was the last to win this race, doing so in 2008 in a world record time of 9.69 seconds which he has since lowered to 9.58, and Duncanson has gone as far as comparing Bolt’s feats to those of Jessie Owens who won four gold medals in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games.

He told the Voice of Sport: “Owens kind of reinvented everything in the thirties. He was that good.

“In his own way Bolt’s done the same thing and not just with the sprints. Track and field was heading down the wrong path. There was a lot of scepticism about drugs, the organisation of the sport and it was heading in the right direction and then this guy comes out.


“He’s not just brilliant at what he does but he does it with a smile and a swagger and has brought the whole sport back to life.”

The last Briton to win 100 metre Olympic gold was Linford Christie at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.

But despite this medal, as well as countless other major accolades, Christie has not been held in the same regard as other world-class British athletes, evident by not even being included in the London 2012 bid. Duncanson believes that Christie was “curiously unappreciated here.”

“He was a winner,” said Duncanson.

“When he went out there on the track it didn’t matter who was against him, he’d eat them anyway. He would spit blood at anybody.

“I think that alienated the standard media pack over here who wanted the nice boy like Seb Coe. Linford was ‘take me for what I am or not at all’ and I think that did him a lot of disservice.

“I think only with time will we come to regard Linford Christie as one of the greatest athletes this country has ever seen.

“He’s curiously unappreciated here and I think that’s because the bulk of the media always got on the wrong side of him when he was racing.”

Not only does The Fastest Men on Earth The Story of the Men’s 100 Metres Olympic Champions provide in-depth information about when these sporting heroes crossed the finishing line first and had their names cemented in Olympic folklore, it also highlights the struggles to deal with the fame and fortune that goes with winning gold.

“There are 25/26 stories of extraordinary athletes. It wasn’t just about explaining how they got into the Olympics and what they did then.

“What interested me as much was what happened to them when they’re not fast anymore?

“Some of them did very well but most of them found life very difficult. A lot of the stories are useful life stories about how you deal with difficulty that comes your way and, in some cases, how you surmount them.”

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