The Lou Marsh Legacy - Honouring Canada's Top Athletes

Donovan Bailey

Track & Field


Photo of Donovan Bailey at the 1996 Olympics

Photo of Donovan Bailey at the 1996 Olympics

July 27, 1996
The Canadian Press/Claus Anderson

So much to do…so little time!

The most intense 10 seconds in sport. The 100 metre is the shortest outdoor sprint race in athletics. That very feature makes it explosive. Critical millisecond reactions to the gun and massive acceleration expose tightly wound competitors to all sorts of physiological miscues. Hamstrings, quadriceps, and Achilles tendons pop as fast as the sound of the starting pistol. Sure, each race comes with its ranked favourites, but its very nature provides a built-in element of uncertainty.

The tension on a sweltering Georgia night is palpable as eight powerful men get positioned in their starting blocks to contest the 100 metre Olympic final in 1996. Donavan Bailey the Jamaican-born Canadian and 1995 World Champion is a definite favourite. But so too is Namibia’s Frank Fredericks, unbeaten in seven events at this distance in 1996. There is Linford Christie, the defending Olympic champion from Great Britain. 83,000 spectators embark on a roller coaster of emotions through three false starts. Two are caused by Christie and he is eliminated from the final causing additional chaos.

The fourth start is a go and Bailey flinches – he is a little late to the gun but still manages an average start. His posture goes through a smooth evolution to upright while building steady acceleration. He looks to be in fifth place at 40 metres. For the next 20 metres he goes into a zone few achieve. Maintaining good form, he brilliantly matches breathing cadence with running cadence through the critical acceleration phase. Equal focus is given to biomechanics – making sure the foot strikes perfectly on the centre of mass. He achieves an unrivalled increase in speed and at sixty metres he is third behind Frankie Fredericks and Ato Boldon of Trinidad and Tobago. From 60 to 80 metres the runners are coming out of their acceleration zone and fight deceleration. Maintenance is the goal. Donovan has an unusually long femur and inseam. This extended leverage system gives him an advantage. He may be slowing but it appears as though he is accelerating because he is decelerating less than the others. He passes the other two at 80 metres. The last 20 metres require smooth rhythm to avoid the danger of spasms or cramps.

Donovan Bailey sails home in a new World Record time of 9.84 seconds. He holds the elusive 100 metre triple crown – the Olympic Gold Medal, the World Record and the World Championship. Additionally he enjoys that precious little intangible – the bragging rights that go with the ‘fastest man in the world’ title given to the 100 metre victor.

Millions of Canadians beam with pride and most may now be able to bury the memory and disgrace of the devastating doping scandal left by Ben Johnson eight years earlier in Seoul. Donovan Bailey has helped his country’s psyche and his sport globally. Donovan gives everyone hope that ‘clean’ is in!

Bailey’s feat epitomizes our athletic excellence Adobe PDF Transcript


World Championships - 1st place in 100m race, 4 x 100m relay
Atlanta Olympic Games - Gold Medal 100m, 4x100m relay
Triple title - World Champion, Olympic Champion, and World record holder
Lou Marsh Memorial Award
World record holder of 9.84 seconds for 100m race
Track and Field News Sprinter of the Decade