Best Sprinters of All Time

best sprinters

On your mark, set, go! We all love the adrenaline that comes with sprints. The quiet before the race, tension once the gun goes, intensity and speed of the fastest sprinters on full display as the crowd goes wild.

Over the years, we’ve witnessed some sprinters come and go, but who are the best sprinters of all time? 

Our Top 10 Best Sprinters of All Time

10. Justin Gatlin

Love him or hate him, Gatlin is one of the fastest sprinters in the world. He became the fifth fastest man in history during the Diamond League meeting in 2015 after he finished the race in a time of 9:74 seconds. He won the Olympic gold medal in Athens in 2004 and has two silver and bronze medals.

However, his career has been overshadowed by doping scandals. Gatlin has served two suspensions after he returned positive tests. So bad was it that when he raced against Usain Bolt in 2015, the media dubbed the race “good vs. evil. Despite his misgivings, he remains one of the best in the event.

9. Donovan Bailey

The Canadian etched his name in the history books when he sprinted home at a time of 9:84 at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Who would have thought that human beings could run even faster? His record fell in the strides of American Maurice Greene, and of course, Usain Bolt came around and overshadowed everyone – we’ll get into that later – but this achievement stand remains one of the biggest in the sport. 

8. Maurice Greene

He was one of the dominant figures of the spot in the late 90s through to the mid-2000s. Greene broke Donovan Bailey’s record of 9.84 seconds and became the first man to run a 100m sprint in 9.79 seconds.

He’s enjoyed success at the Olympics and World Championships, having won four Olympic medals (2 golds, one silver, and one bronze) and five golds in the World Relays.

However, injuries derailed his career and forced him to retire in 2004.

7. Yohan Blake 

Blake is not far off the mark as he is the second fastest man in the world in the 100m and 200m after you know who… Usain Bolt.

He recorded a time of 19:26 seconds in the 200m, 7 seconds shy of Bolt, which is why he makes it into the top 10 best sprinters in the world. His Olympic record isn’t as bad. The Jamaican has two gold medals in the 4x100m and two silvers in individual sprint races. 

He’s also collected medals at the World Championships, Commonwealth Games, and World Relays, among other events.

6. Asafa Powell

The Jamaican has produced some of the fastest times in the sprints. He ran in 9:77 seconds and 9:74 seconds, with his personal best being 9:72 seconds. Powell has run under 10 seconds more times (97) than anyone else in the sport.

His only Olympic medal in the sport came in the 2016 Rio games in the 4×100 meters relay race. His other medals come in the World Championships (2 golds, 1 silver, and 2 bronze medals), World Indoor championships, and other events.

5. Tyson Gay

Tyson Gay is one of the best American 100m sprinters of all time. Along with Yohan Blake, he is the second fastest man, having clocked a time of 9:69.

However, despite his talent, Gay doesn’t have an Olympic medal to his name. He’s won three golds at the World Championships.

4. Michael Johnson

He is not a new name. Michael Johnson is one of the most famous American sprinters and the best of all time.

He set the 200m world record in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta after he ran in a time of 19:32 seconds. However, Noah Lyles broke his record after he ran 19:31 seconds this year.

He also held the 400m world record with a time of 43:18 until Wayde van Niekerk obliterated it in the Rio Games in 2016 in a time of 43:03 seconds.

Johnson has four Olympic gold medals and eight World Championships golds.

3. Jesse Owens

The reason why Owens features highly in this list and deserves to be on the list of the fastest sprinters in the world is that he achieved incredible feats at a time when the facilities in the sport weren’t at their best.

Jesse Owens’s top speed was 10.3 seconds in the 100m and 20.7 seconds in the 200m. That makes you wonder how much faster he would be in modern-day sprints given how much training, diets have improved.

He won four Olympic gold medals at the 1936 summer Games and further cemented his status as one of the best sprinters in the world.

2. Carl Lewis

The American is one of the most-decorated Olympic sprinters in the world, with records in the 100m, 200m, and 4×400 meter relay. He also did the long jump and went unbeaten 65 times in 10 years. 

He has nine Olympic gold medals – six from the 100m, 200m, and relay races and three in the long jump. Lewis was also lethal in the World Championships, having clinched eight gold medals.

1. Usain Bolt

The Jamaican is the most decorated and the best sprinter of all time. His records in the 100m (9.58 seconds in Berlin 2009), 200m (19.19 seconds in Berlin 2009), and 400 by 100m relay (36.84m in London 2012) still stand, and many opine that it will take a long time before anyone breaks them.  

Bolt is the only man to have won the 100m and 200m in three Olympics – 2008, 2012, and 2016. He won eight Olympic gold medals and 11 in the world championships.

These are the fastest sprinters in the world. I think it’s hard to disagree with the list, but we don’t mind hearing different opinions. 

Edward Borden

Edward Borden

My name is Edward Borden, a sports fanatic, writer and editor all rolled into one. I have a bachelor's degree in Mass Media with a specialization in Journalism from Toronto Metropolitan University.

This site is a great opportunity for me to further my passion for sports journalism. Working at Bukavu Online combines everything I love to do. I hope you have found it useful too.

I am an ardent fan of football, basketball, motorsports, and golf. Away from work, find me seen feverishly cheering on Real Madrid, or playing FIFA at every chance I get.

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