TrackLife International

Elaine Thompson-Herah’s 10.54 is the Legit 100m World Record

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As if to show the world that her epic performance at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (in 2021) was no fluke, Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson-Herah returned to the track for the Diamond League stop at the 2021 Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon, USA.  There, she scorched one of the greatest groups of elite women’s 100-meter sprinters ever assembled and produced the fastest “legal” time ever recorded.

Thompson-Herah blazed to a 10.54 secs (+0.9 m/s) personal best (pb) and broke the Jamaican women’s 100-meter record she set only two weeks prior at the Olympics. This 10.54sec is indeed the legitimate women’s 100-meter world record.

Well placed, well earned, and well deserved are accolades and superlatives such as sensational, scintillating, and historic used to describe Thompson-Herah’s performance in Tokyo by virtue of her accomplishments. And so, she could easily be named the MVP (pun intended) of the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Her feat is historic because she is the only woman in Olympic track and field history to have won four individual gold medals. She has joined the elite class of her countryman, the legendary Usain St. Leo Bolt, as the only other person in Olympic track and field history to win 100m and 200m gold medals in consecutive Olympics, commonly regarded as the “Double, Double”.

Also historic is that she ran a blistering 10.61secs (-0.6 m/s wind speed) in the 100m to break the late Florence Griffiths-Joyner’s (Flo-Jo’s) 33-year-old Olympics record (10.62), equaling the legitimate world record of 10.61 by Flo-Jo in the final of the 1988 US Olympic track and field trials.

That World Record

For many years, people in the track and field fraternity have held the view that the official women’s 100m world record was 10.61secs by Flo-Jo and NOT the 10.49 she ran in the quarterfinals of that same trials.

There are many people within and outside of the track and field fraternity, including the staff writers of Track & Field News in their September 1988 edition, who questioned the accuracy of the wind speed of Flo-Jo’s 10.49secs in the first of three quarterfinals. One commentator who called the race in real-time July 16, 1988 said the clocking was wind-assisted, but he quickly retracted his view.

An in-depth analysis of the 1988 USA Olympics Trials was done and published by Nicholas P. Linthorne, Ph.D., in a June 1995 report for the then International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) under the heading “The 100-m World Record by Florence Griffiths-Joyner at the 1988 US Olympics Trials.”

Linthorne, deceased (October 2020), was a respected and renowned physicist and university professor of biomechanics.  In his report, Linthorne used graphs and charts to substantiate his findings and conclusions. Here is one of his charts:

             

1988 U.S. Olympics Trials Women 100 meters

Race                             Wind Speed (m/s)           Date

Heat 1                             +3.2                                          July 16

Heat 2                             +3.9

Heat 3                             +2.7

Heat 4                             +3.5

Quarterfinal 1                  0.0?

Quarterfinal 2                  0.0?

Quarterfinal 3               +5.0

Semifinal 1                     +1.6                                          July 17

Semi Final 2                  +1.3                                          e

Final                               +1.2

According to Linthorne, meet officials questioned the wind reading for quarterfinals 1 and 2; the wind gauge and the timing system were subsequently checked and found to be working fine. However, he went on to say that a video of quarterfinals 1 and 2 showed that at the wind gauge site, the gauge was misaligned by about 60 degrees causing the 0.0 m/s wind speed reading. It was then corrected for the third quarterfinal. Hence the +5.0 m/s wind speed.

In his conclusion, Linthorne wrote that, except for quarterfinals 1 and 2 of the women’s 100m, the official wind reading for the men’s and women’s 100m races were consistent with the athletes’ race times. Therefore, the wind reading for those two quarter-finals, he said, should be: Quarterfinal 1 – between +5.0 and +7.0; Quarterfinal 2 – between +3.0 and +4.0

Keeping in mind that Florence Griffiths-Joyner ran her 10.49secs in quarterfinal 1 and of the four 100-meter races that she ran at that Trials, only the 10.49 did not have a positive (+) or negative (-) wind reading.

One of the final conclusions of the report is that the official women’s 100m world record is, therefore, the 10.61 secs (+1.2 m/s) run by Florence Griffiths-Joyner on July 17, 1988, in the final of the Olympics Trials in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Therefore, when Elaine Thompson-Herah clocked 10.61 into a negative wind (-0.6 m/s), she did not only break the Olympic record but, by virtue of that time, equaled the women 100m world record.

Imagine if she had the benefit of a +1.2 m/s wind in Tokyo; that remains much food for thought.

Work Cited

Nicholas P, Linthorne, Ph.D.

The 100-m World Record by Florence Griffiths-Joyner at the 1988 US Olympic Trials.

Report for the International Amateur Athletic Federation. June 1995.

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