We’re 12 days into the Olympics, and with tons of events completed and medals won, Greatist is uncovering the most interesting facts about our favorite Olympic sports. We started with beach volleyball facts and filled you in on the mysteries of steeplechase, the decathlon, and trampoline. Now we’re breaking down the 200 meter dash, a sprint track event that’s over before you can say “Usain Bolt.”
This event takes place toward the end of the Olympics, with the women’s final on the 8th and the men’s on the 9th. Over it’s long history in the modern games, the U.S.A. has dominated with 17 gold medals (of 25 possible). Runners in the 200 meter have a special skill set, but often run similar distances such as the 100 meter or even the 400. Runners in this event have to balance a strong start, a momentary floating period, a quick pick up, and strong finish, and all in under 20 seconds. Woah.
Mr. & Mrs. Dash — The Need-to-Know
1. Bend it like Bolt.
The race has a staggered start on a bend of the track and ends on the home straight. Runners appear to start at different distances to account for time lost (or gained) while turning the race’s one corner. To start, athletes assume the set position — kneeling down with their feet in the starting blocks.
2. One of a kind.
A straight-away version of the dash, called the stadion (runners sprinted for one “stade,” or the length of the stadium), was the only Olympic event for the first 13 Ancient Greek Olympic Games, which started in 776 BC.
3. Inside track.
So who goes where? In the first round, lane assignments are drawn, but after that it depends on performance. The best guys and gals hit the center lanes which have the least amount of curve to them.
4. Winning in a blink of an eye.
With such a short distance, time between finishers can be as little as one hundredth of a second. (!?!?!?!?!) At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Usain Bolt won with a World Record of 19.30 seconds. The silver and bronze medalists (America’s Shawn Crawford and Walter Dix, respectively) were separated by 0.02 seconds.
5. American excellence.
At the 1904, 1932, 1952, 1956, 1984, and 2004 games U.S. men took home not just the gold but swept up silver and bronze, too.
6. Women reclaim the throne.
The U.S. women took gold in the 200 meters in two consecutive games (’60 and ’64) but it wasn’t until the ’84 games that a U.S. woman regained the gold. American women kept up the streak by winning the event at the next two games.
7. Getting the boot.
Disqualifications (the bad DQ, and not the ice cream kind) are unfortunately easy to come by in this event. A 200 meter sprinter can be disqualified for a false start (bolting from the blocks before the starting gun fires, or within 0.1 seconds of it). Runners can also be penalized for diverging from their lane or obstructing another athlete.
8. Stepping over the line.
At the 2008 Beijing games, second place finisher Churandy Martina of the Netherlands and third place finisher Wallace Spearmon of the U.S. were both disqualified and stripped of their medals for stepping out of their lanes. Total buzzkill.
9. Fast like lightning.
We all saw it. In Beijing, Usain Bolt (killer name for this event, by the way) broke the 200 meter world record at the very same games that he broke the 100 meter dash. In fact, he became the first man to break the world record in both events at the same Olympics.
10. Breaking records.
Bolt ran the 200 meters in 19.19 seconds at the 2009 World Championships, setting a new world record. He also set the Olympic record a year earlier in Beijing with a time of 19.30 seconds. The women’s world record holder is American Florence Griffith-Joyner who ran the event in 21.34 seconds at the 1988 Olympics.
11. The fastest men and women alive?
Does the title of “Fastest Person Alive” belong to the 100 meter or 200 meter winner? In 1997, that challenge was settled when 100 meter winner Donovan Bailey raced 200 meter (and 400 meter) winner Michael Johnson in a 150 meter race with a slight curve in the track. Bailey, the 100m champion, won the contest after Johnson injured himself.
12. Boys only.
The 200 meter dash has been around since the 1900 Olympic games in Paris, France. Initially just for men, it took another 48 years before women could participate.
13. Flying full-sail.
If there is an aiding wind (called wind assistance) measured over 2 meters per second, athletes are not eligible for records (although the race results are still counted).
14. Jesse Owens and Berlin 1936.
At the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Jesse Owens won gold for the 200 meter dash (he also won three more gold medals in the 100 meters, long jump, and 4×100 relay). His inspiring victories radically impacted the games at a time when Hitler’s Nazi regime saw Owens as a less capable athlete because of the color of his skin.
15. Efficient running.
Running at this summer’s Olympics takes place in the Olympic Stadium, which can hold 80,000 spectators. It is the most sustainable stadium ever built for an Olympic games.
Will the 200 meters ever get the same prestige as it’s 100 meter little brother? And what’s your favorite running event at the Olympics? Let us know in the comments below!