When Tommie Smith last set the world record in the straight 200 meter run, Walt Disney was still alive, the Beatles had yet to release Sgt. Pepper and Smith himself was still known as a great track star, not just as the guy who did the black power salute in Mexico City. For 44 years Smith's hand-timed 19.5 stood as the best ever time in the longer sprint run on a straight track. Not anymore.
American sprint star Tyson Gay lowered Smith's mark by .09 seconds this weekend on a specially constructed track at Manchester's Great City Games. His time of 19.41 included a blazing first 100 split of 9.88 and served notice that, when healthy, Gay can present a challenge to Usain Bolt. (It might not be much of a challenge, but still.)
Smith himself was in attendance to witness the feat and gave hearty congratulations to Gay. Soon after he broke the mark in May 1966, the IAAF stopped recognizing separate world records in the straight 200 and only included marks set on the regulation curved track. The race is rarely contested anymore, namely due to the fact that there aren't many tracks which include 200-meter straightaways.
After the race, Gay was asked whether he could supplant Bolt as the world's fastest man. "He's in another class right now but I'm working hard to get there," he said. "The challenge is for me to work hard to get to where he is at."
- Tommie Smith
- Tyson Gay