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World Athletics Championships Oregon22

Series19 Oct 2019

Fab five: landmark moments in athletics


Fab five: landmark moments in athletics (© AFP / Getty Images / Bongarts)

Following Eliud Kipchoge’s sub-two-hour run for the marathon distance last weekend, we look at five other landmark moments for the sport.


First sub-10-second 100m

Jim Hines, 1968

Jim Hines wins the 1968 Olympic 100m title in 9.95


USA’s Jim Hines was the first man to break the iconic 10-second barrier for 100m – and he did so in style, achieving the feat to strike gold at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.

At the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, Robert Hayes had blasted to a 10-second flat clocking (10.06 electronically timed) but it was the Oakland-raised Hines who went down in history as the barrier breaker.

Hines had recorded a blistering manual-timed 9.9 to win the 1968 US Championships in Sacramento but it was his electronically timed 9.95 when powering to glory at the high altitude Mexico City Games which was to be regarded as the first official sub-10-second performance. Hines’ world record was to stand for 15 years until Calvin Smith chipped 0.02 from the mark.


First eight-foot high jump

Javier Sotomayor, 1989

High jump world record-holder Javier Sotomayor


The Cuban high jumping icon became the first – and still only – man to leap eight feet (2.44m), achieving the historic accomplishment at the 1989 Central American and Caribbean Championships.

Sotomayor claimed the 1992 Olympic gold medal plus six world titles (indoors and out) during a storied career but few moments can match his eight-foot clearance in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Four years later Sotomayor added one centimetre to this world record mark in Salamanca, Spain, with 2.45m – a mark which still stands today.


First six-foot high jump

Iolanda Balas, 1958

Romanian high jumper Iolanda Balas


Boasting a staggering unbeaten streak of more than 140 competitions stretching just over a decade, no athlete in history has had such dominance as Romanian high jumper Iolanda Balas.

During an incredible career, Balas won two Olympic and two European titles as well as setting 14 world records. In 1958 alone she set five world records with the last of these – a 1.83m clearance in Bucharest on 18 October – breaching the historically significant six-foot barrier.

The last of her world records marks – 1.91m in 1961 – remained unbeaten for 10 years.


First sub-four-minute mile

Roger Bannister, 1954

Roger Bannister breaks the four minute mile barrier - 6 May 1954 - 3:59.4


Few dates in athletics history hold quite the same reverential status as 6 May 1954. This was the day Britain’s Roger Bannister achieved what many thought previously impossible – a sub-four-minute mile – at Oxford’s homely Iffley Road track

Bannister, a medical student, achieved the feat with the help of pacemakers Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway, Bannister taking his place in history by completing the mile distance in 3:59.4.

The dam finally broken, just six weeks later Australia’s John Landy hacked a further 1.4 seconds from Bannister’s word record mark in Turku, Finland.


First 9000-point decathlon

Roman Sebrle, 2001

Roman Sebrle in the decathlon pole vault in Gotzis


Roman Sebrle became the first man to smash through the 9000-point barrier for the decathlon with a near perfect 10-discipline performance at the 2001 Hypo Meeting in Gotzis. Two years prior, fellow Czech decathlete Tomas Dvorak had come agonisingly close to the mark, falling just six points shy with a haul of 8994 in Prague. But in Austria, 2000 Olympic silver medallist Sebrle was imperious.

Setting outright PBs in four events and equalling a PB in another, the 26-year-old ended with a 4:21.98 1500m to score 9026. Sebrle went on to be crowned world and Olympic champion but never again achieved a 9000-point score.

His world record remained for 11 years and only two other men – Ashton Eaton and Kevin Mayer –have since surpassed that barrier.


Steve Landells for the IAAF