Top 12 Best Sprinters of All Time

With the rising popularity of the sprint, the sport has seen some of the best sprinters of all time. Usually, there are three sprints held at the current time. It’s the 100 meters, 200 meters, and 400 meters sprint.

Sprint, also known as dashes, is raced over a short distance. Sprint is one of the oldest sports dating back to the Ancient Olympic Games.

Men's_10,000m_cheptegei_kejelcha
Cheptegei & Kejelcha sprinting men’s 10,000m

The sprinters must run, jump and even throw in this sport. Likewise, various events are also held like sprinting, hurdling, jumping, etc.

With such variety within a sport, the game is enjoyed by many people worldwide. Therefore, we thought of preparing a list including some of the best sprinters of all time.

Let us know about some of these iconic sprinters together without further ado.

Top 12 Best Sprinters of All Time

This list has been prepared referencing to different sources around the internet like the SportsShow. But before diving into the details, let us take a quick look at the table below, shall we?

NameCountry
12. Hicham El GuerroujMorocco
11. David RudishaKenya
10. Yohan BlakeJamaica
9. Asafa PowellJamaica
8. Justin GatlinAmerica
7. Maurice GreenAmerica
6. Tyson GayAmerica
5. Donovan BaileyCanada
4. Michael JohnsonAmerica
3. Jesse OwensAmerica
2. Carl LewisAmerica
1. Usain BoltJamaica

12. Hicham El Guerrouj

We will start our list of the fastest sprinter of all time with a retired Moroccan middle-distance runner, Hicham El Guerrouj. Born on September 14, 1974, Guerrouj is considered the greatest middle-distance runner in history.

Guerrouj started his professional career early and made his first international triumph at 18. He came third in the 1992 Junior World Championships in the 5000 meters.

After such a triumph, he was number 2 of the Moroccan team at the World Junior Cross Country Championships just a year later.

Hicham_El_Guerrouj_2010
Hicham El Guerrouj 2010 (Source: Wikimedia.org)

Similarly, he was a member of the Moroccan team in the 1994 IAAF World Road Relay Championships. The team won the race in world record time. It was in 1996; El Guerrouj made his first Olympic Games.

There are many records and world records that Guerrouj holds under his name. For example, he holds the world record in the outdoor 1500 meters, mile, and 2000 meters events. Likewise, he also held the world record for the mile and 1500 meters until 2019.

In addition to these records, El Guerrouj also has won many champions. He won the World Athlete of the Year awards three times. In addition, El Guerrouj was inducted into the International Association of Athletics Federations Hall of Fame in 2014.

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11. David Rudisha

David Rudisha is a middle-distance runner from Kenya. 33 year-old Rudisha is the two-time Olympic champion and the two-time World Champion.

After joining the group of runners managed by Templeton and establishing himself at St. Francis Kimuron High School in Elgeyo Marakwet County, he started his running career. Initially, Rudisha’s coach prompted him to 800m.

Rudisha became the world junior champion in 800m in 2006. He started his senior career in 2009, where he reached the semi-finals in the 2009 World Athletics Championships in 800 meters.

David_Rudisha_ISTAF_Berlin_2010
David Rudisha in ISTAF Berlin 2010 (Source: Wikimedia.org)

After starting his professional career, Rudisha is now a world record holder in 800 meters. In addition, he is the first person to run 800m under 1:41.

Similarly, he also holds the world’s best time in the 500 meters in 57.69. Likewise, Rudisha holds the African record for 600 meters with a time of 1:13.10. In 2010, he won the IAAF World Athlete of the Year award.

In addition to the records, Rudisha holds the three fastest, half of the twenty fastest, and six of the eight fastest times ever run in the 800 meters. He has won a record three consecutive Track & Field Athlete of the Year awards.

10. Yohan Blake

Born in Jamaica, this 32 year-old sprinter is the second fastest man ever in 100 meters and 200-meter sprint races. Yohan Blake started track and field early in his high school days.

Starting his sprinting career early, Blake was part of the junior sprinters. He has the fastest time by a Jamaican junior sprinter for 100m in 10.11 seconds. Blake set this record at the 2007 CARIFTA Games held in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Along with being part of the 100 meters sprinter, he was also a member of the winning 4x100m relay team in that game.

Yohan_Blake_2012_Olympics
Yohan Blake 2012 Olympics (Source: Wikimedia.org)

Moreover, he was also the youngest sprinter in history to have broken the 10-second barrier at 19.

In the 2011 World Athletics Championships, Blake became the youngest 100-meter world champion after winning gold. Then in the following year, he won a silver medal in the 100 meters and 200-meter races in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

In addition, his times of 9.75 and 19.44 in 100 meters and 200 meters are the fastest in the Olympic sprint history.

9. Asafa Powell

Next on our number nine is a Jamaican sprinter who currently has the world record for the 100-yard dash (9.09 seconds). Asafa Powell is a 39 year-old sprinter specializing in 100 meters.

Running runs in the Powell family. And although Asafa had initially planned to be a mechanic, he later entered sprinting. Later, he represented his high school at the ISSA High School Championships.

Asafa finished fifth in the semi-finals of the 100 meters in the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester. The athlete was also part of the silver medal-winning team in the Jamaican 4×100 m relay team.

Asafa_Powell_100_metres_Rio_2016
Asafa Powell in 100 meters game in Rio 2016

As of September 1, 2016, Powell has broken the ten-second barrier 97 times, which is more times than anyone else. Similarly, he set the 100 meters world record twice in 2005 and 2008, with 9.77 and 9.74 seconds.

Likewise, the other highlight winnings include Powell, being five times at the IAAF World Athletics Finals, a bronze medal in 100 meters, and a silver medal in 4×100 m relays in the 2007 Osaka World Championships.

In the 2016 Olympics, Powell was part of the Jamaican 4×100 m men’s relay team, which won the gold medal.

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8. Justin Gatlin

Justin Gatlin is 40 year-old American Sprinter from Brooklyn, New York. He competes in the 60 meters, 100 meters, and 200 meters. Gatlin started his sprinting career early in his college years.

During his high school, Gatlin was a hurdler. Then he was awarded a scholarship by the University of Tennessee and started training as a sprinter.

Gatlin is a 5-time Olympic medalist. His personal best record time is 9.74 seconds which ranks fifth on the all-time list of male 100-meter athletes. Likewise, he is also a 12-time World Championship medalist.

Justin_Gatlin_Rio_100m_final_2016
Justin Gatlin in Rio 100 meter final 2016

Although being one of the best sprinters of all time, Gatlin was banned twice from athletics for testing positive for substance abuse. He was banned in 2001 and 2006.

After returning from his ban, Gatlin participated in the 2012 US Olympic trials, where he ran a record time of 9.80 seconds. The time record was the fastest-ever time recorded for a man over 30.

Similarly, the other notable highlights of Gatlin’s career include World Indoor Championship in 2003 and 2012 in 60 meters, two gold medals in the 4×100 meters relay in 2015 and 2017 at the World Athletics Relays.

Likewise, Gatlin is also a record 3-time Diamond League champion in the 100 meters in 2013, 2014, and 2015.

7. Maurice Greene

The next sprinter on our list is a former American track and field sprinter, Maurice Green. Now 47 year-old Greene, during his career, competed in the 100 meters and 200 meters.

In his youth and high school years, Greene participated in American football and track and field. Then after high school, the University of Kansas gave him a Track scholarship.

Greene made his first major international tournament breakthrough in 1995 at the World Championships in Gothenburg. However, he could only make it to the 100-meter quarter-finals after that.

Maurice-Green-on-a-track
Maurice Green on a track (Source: Instagram)

During his professional career, Greene also made a 100-meter world record of 9.79 seconds which was later broken. Similarly, he also won four Olympic medals and a five-time World Championship, among which three were gold.

Unfortunately for Greene, his career was plagued by several injuries from 2001 onwards. However, despite the injuries, he was able to win a bronze in 100 meters and a silver in the sprint relay at the Athens 2004.

Greene’s other notable career wins include the 1999 Indoor World Champion, the world record holder for the 60 meter dash, and the joint-fastest run over 50 meters. In 2008, Greene officially retired from his professional career.

6. Tyson Gay

We have another American track and field sprinter on our list of the top sprinters of all time. 39 year-old Tyson Gay is a sprinter who competes in 100 and 200 meters.

Tyson Gay started his career early although, he was tended to be a slow starter on the track. However, he worked hard to improve himself and break the Lafayette High School stadium record for the 200 meters.

When Gay was 22-year-old, he got his first opportunity to compete in the NCAA Men’s Indoor Track and Field Championship in the 60 meters. He recorded the time of 6.63seconds and came fifth.

Tyson_Gay_2012_Summer_Olympics
Tyson Gay in 2012 Summer Olympics (Source: Wikimedia.org)

After starting his professional career, Gay has recorded his personal best of 9.69 seconds in the 100 meters. Moreover, his time is also the American record. The record made him tied for the second-fastest athlete along with Yohan Blake.

Likewise, Gay’s career highlight includes three gold medals in the 100 meters, 200 meters, and 4×100 m relay at Osaka World Championships (2007). In the 2009 World Championship, he was able to win a silver medal in the 100 meters.

Tyson Gay was named the 2007 IAAF World Athlete of the Year and won the Best Track and Field Athlete. Additionally, Tyson is a two-time winner of the Jesse Owens and ESPY Award in 2008 and 2011.

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5. Donovan Bailey

Born as Donovan Anthony Bailey is a 54 year-old former Jamaican-Canadian sprinter. He was born in Manchester Parish, Jamaica.

Bailey showed his athletic prowess from an early age. Donovan was fast on his feet and always came first in races. At the age of 12, he immigrated to Canada, where he played basketball in his high school.

It was only in 1990, after watching the Canadian Track and Field Championships, Bailey decided to begin racing professionally. While working as a stockbroker, he trained as a 100-meter sprinter part-time.

Bailey participated and won the 60 meters at the Ontario Indoor Championships and the Pan American Games in Havana, Cuba, in 1991. He also won a silver medal in Canada’s 4×100 meters relay team the same year.

Donovon-Bailey-1996-Olympics
Donovon Bailey in 1996 Olympics (Source: Instagram)

Aside from his early winnings, Bailey won a gold medal at the 1996 Olympic Games with a record time of 9.84 seconds. Moreover, he was the first Canadian to break the 10-second barrier in the 100 meters legally.

Likewise, Bailey is a former world record holder for 100 meters. He ran 12.10 m/s in the 1996 Olympics, which was the fastest time record ever at the time.

In 2004, Bailey was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame as an individual athlete and in 2008 as part of the Atlanta 1996 Summer Olympics 4×100 relay team. Additionally, he also became the Ontario Sports Hall of Famer in 2005.

4. Michael Johnson

Michael Johnson is a 54 year-old former American sprinter. The athlete is considered one of the greatest and most consistent sprinters in the entire history of track and field.

Johnson first earned his world title in 1991 at the World Championships in Tokyo. Then, he won the 200m race over Frankie Fredericks by the unusual margin of victory of 0.33 seconds.

Michael won four Olympic gold medals and eight World Championships gold medals during his professional career. The athlete is the only male athlete in history to win both the 200 meters and 400 meters events at the same Olympics at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

Michael_Johnson_1995
Michael Johnson 1995 (Source: Wikimedia.org)

Aside from his winnings, Johnson’s distinctive running style defied the conventional running style. He has a stiff upright running position and short steps, which contradict the wisdom that a high knee lift was required for maximum speed.

Likewise, Johnson is also the only male athlete who successfully defended his Olympic title in the 400 meters at the 2000 Summer Olympics.

Johnson formerly held the Olympic and world record in the 200 meters, 400 meters, and the indoor 400 meters. In addition, he has the national records for the 200 meters, 300 meters, and 400 meters.

As of 2012, he holds 13th ranked in the top 100 times for the 200 meters and 27th in the top 100 times for the 400 meters.

3. Jesse Owens

Our third number is Jesse Owens. Born on September 12, 1913, Owens was a former American track and field athlete and an Olympic gold medalist. Jesse specialized in sprints and the long jump.

Owens is recognized as the greatest and most famous athlete in track and field history. However, as he worked different menial jobs during his youth, he discovered his passion for running.

The Olympian attributed the success of his athletic career to the encouragement of his junior high school track coach at Fairmount Junior High School, Charles Riley.

It was at the 1933 National High School Championship in Chicago, Owens first caught national attention when he equalized the world record of 9.4 seconds in the 100 yards dash and long-jumped 24 feet 9+1⁄2 inches.

Later, he went on to win four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games. He won the medals in the 100 meters, long jump, 200 meters, and 4×100-meter relay.

Jesse-Owens
Jesse Owens (Source: Instagram)

Likewise, Owens set three world records and tied one at the 1935 Big Ten track meet in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He set the record all in less than an hour. This feat of Owens has been called “the greatest 45 minutes ever in sport” and has never been equaled.

Sadly, Jesse Owens died at age 66 on March 31, 1980. However, he is ranked as the sixth greatest North American athlete of the 20th century and the highest-ranked in the sport by ESPN.

Likewise, USA Track and Field’s highest accolade award is named after him as a tribute to this great sprinter, which is given to the year’s best track and field athlete.

2. Carl Lewis

Born as Frederick Carlton Lewis, he is a former American track and field athlete. The athlete was a dominant sprinter and long jumper who competed in the 100 meters, 200 meters, and long jump events.

His father coached Lewis since young, and by the age of 13, he had already started competing in the long jump. He proved himself to be a very promising athlete at an early age.

During his high school and college years, Lewis broke many jump records. Then in 1980, he qualified for the American team for the 1980 Olympics in the long jump and as a team member of the 4×100 m relay.

Carl_Lewis_Doha
Carl Lewis in Doha (Source: Wikimedia.org)

It was in 1981; Lewis became the fastest 100-meter sprinter in the world. After that, he set world records in 100 meters, 4×100 meters, and 4×200-meter relays in his professional career.

Lewis’s world record in the indoor long jump since 1984 is still unbroken. Similarly, his 65 consecutive victories in the long jump set over the 10 years are among the longest undefeated streaks.

Along with his records and wins, Lewis has collected numerous accolades. For example, he was voted World Athlete of the Century by the (IAAF) International Association of Athletics Federations, and Sportsman of the Century by the (IOC) International Olympic Committee.

Lewis’s professional career spanned from 1979 to 1996. After the athlete retired from the sport, he ventured into an acting career and has appeared in several films.

1. Usain Bolt

Number one on our list of the best sprinters of all time is non-other than the retired Jamaican sprinter, Usain Bolt. 35 year-old Bolt is widely considered the greatest sprinter of all time.

Bolt showed his sprint potential as a child. He would run in his parish’s annual national primary school meet, and by age 12, he was the school’s fastest runner over the 100meters distance.

At the 2001 IAAF World Youth Championship, Bolt made his first world stage appearance. Although he could not qualify for the finals in the 200-meter event, he could still set a personal best of 21.73 seconds.

Usain_Bolt,_Anniversary_Games,_London_2013
Usain Bolt, Anniversary Games in London 2013 (Source: Wikimedia.org)

After starting his professional sprinting career, Bolt became an eight-time Olympic gold medalist and an eleven-time World Champion. Additionally, he is the only sprinter to win Olympic 100 meter and 200-meter titles at the three successional Olympics in 2008, 2012, and 2016.

It was at the 2008 Beijing Olympics; Bolt gained worldwide fame. He won the double sprint in world record time, making him the first to hold both records after a fully automatic time became mandatory.

Likewise, Bolt holds the record for the 100 meters, 200 meters, and 4×100 meters relay. In terms of the World Championship also, he is the most successful male athlete in history.

Bolt has won accolades from the IAAF World Athlete of the Year, BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year, Track & Field Athlete of the Year, etc. However, after the 2017 World Championships, Bolt took retirement from the sport.

Conclusion

This concludes our list of the best sprinters of all time. The sport that dates back to ancient times, sprinting, has a long and rich history.

The sprinters on the list are a few individuals who have made huge contributions to the sport. So whom do you consider the best sprinter of all time? Let us know.

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