Men's 100m semifinals at the World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 (Getty Images)

How it works

Traditionally the standard distance over which the 'world’s fastest man or women' is determined and the shortest distance contested on the Olympic track and field programme.

Competitors line up in lanes down the 100m straight of a standard 400m oval. Participants start in blocks. Running outside of your pre-designated lane can lead to disqualification.

A reaction time – measured by sensors in the starting pistol and on the blocks – of less than 0.1 is deemed a false start and runners will be recalled, with the responsible athlete disqualified.

The fastest time wins this race. Placings can be separated by one-thousandths of a second.


The 'stade' (192m race) was regarded as the classic sprint race of the Ancient Olympics. But the blue riband event since the advent of the Modern Olympics in 1896 is the 100m. Evoking many of athletics' most unforgettable images, the 100m has served up many legends of the sport including on the men’s side Jesse Owens, the 1936 Olympic 100m champion; Carl Lewis, the two-time Olympic 100m gold medallist; and more latterly the incomparable Usain Bolt, who triumphed over the classic distance at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Olympics. On the women’s side great 100m champions include: Wilma Rudolph (USA), Gail Devers (USA), Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (Jamaica) and Elaine Thompson-Herah (Jamaica). The US has proved the world’s most dominant force over 100m, but seven of the past eight Olympic 100m titles (four women's and three men's) have been snared by Jamaican athletes.

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