Notes from around the Human Experience…
YEAH, WE WERE ALL WONDERING ABOUT THIS, GUYS: In our last column, an On This Date tidbit featured Jim Hines running the first sub-10 second 100-meter time under automatic timing at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. Our research showed Hines continued running sub-11 second times into his late 30’s and for some reason we were moved to determine that Hines was 22 years and one month old on that October day in Mexico City.
So, like you probably were, we became curious of the ages of others who set the 100-meter world record.
On Your Mark…Get Set…Research: What surprised us was how difficult it was to find a definitive list of 100-meter world records. Wind-aided, not wind-aided. Hand timing, automatic timing. Before the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) or after the IAAF, Records set but later rescinded.
Dry, Technical Matter: In the end, we narrowed it down to records sanctioned by the IAAF, which started recognizing the mark in 1912. Since our point – whatever the hell it might end up being – was made by those who established new records, we did not bother factoring in those who tied the record. Rescinded records are not included and those who set the record twice have both – or in Usain Bolt’s case, all three – of their ages factored in.
Dry, Technical Matter: Under these criteria, the men’s 100-meter record has been set 21 times by 15 men. The first record was 10.6 seconds set by Donald Lippincott of the US at the 1912 Stockholm Summer Olympics. Interestingly, he did this in a heat and merely earned the bronze medal in the final the following day.
Dry, Technical Matter: Bolt was the last man to set the record, 9.58 seconds in 2009.
Dry, Technical Matter: Once we established our criteria, it was a simple, though fairly labor intensive, matter to find the exact ages of the world record setters. Here’s what we found out:
Average Age: 23 years, nine months.
Oldest Record Setter: Carl Lewis, 30 years, one month.
Youngest Record Setter: Donald Lippincott, 18 years, seven months.
Most Common Age: 22 years.
Dry, Technical Matter: Research is fun. Long-time readers of this crap may – or they may not – recall the work we did into finding out how a top girl would fare against the boys. This seminal research was inspired by a chat we had about how the UConn women’s basketball team would do against a men’s college team. You can’t objectively rate basketball teams, so we looked into how the NCAA women’s 100-meter champion would have done that year against the men. As we recall, her time would have gotten her into the NCAA men’s Division III championship race, where she would have finished fifth or sixth.
Some Philosophy Crap: Life is interesting and skills wax and wane at different times. Sprinters generally seem to peak in their early 20’s. Writing is different. We couldn’t write a decent grocery list in our early 20’s. We’re middle-aged now and it was only in the past few years or so where we arrived at the point where we are saying what we feel needs to be said every time we sit down to ply this trade. You, the reader, reap the benefits of this!
The Bottom Line: If you’re in your 30’s and are looking to start a sprinting career, don’t bother. On the other hand, if you’re a writer, be patient. Your best is yet to come.
UP, UP AND AWAY IN MY BEAUTIFUL BALLOON: Man ascends from Earth for the first time when Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier – in a balloon he developed with his brother Joseph-Michel – makes a tethered ascent near Paris on this date in 1783.
The Montgolfiers were born into a family that manufactured paper and their interest in lighter than air flight was inspired by seeing ash rising in paper fires. Over the summer they had experimented with unmanned balloons before manning the gondola with assorted animals.
Maybe I Could Swim Back To France: Napoleon I, former emperor of France and King of Italy, begins his exile on St Helena Island in the South Atlantic Ocean on this date in 1815. Earlier in the year, Napoleon had abdicated his position as emperor shortly after losing the Battle of Waterloo and had sought asylum from the British, who had some zero clue what to do with him.
Napoleon would spend the rest of his life on St Helena, dying in at the age of 51 in 1821.
“Wayne Gretzky, The Great One, Has Become The Greatest Of Them All!”: Wayne Gretzky of the Los Angeles Kings becomes the NHL’s all-time leading scorer on this date in 1989, earning his 1,851st point in a game in Edmonton against his old team, the Oilers. He broke the record that had been established by Gordie Howe.
Who Wrote This Script? We’re Just Curious: Gretzky tied the record in the first period with an assist and broke the record with a goal late in the third period to tie the game 4-4. To really drive the stake into the heart of Edmonton fans, he scored the game-winner in overtime, too.
Oh Yeah: Gretzky was just getting started, finishing his NHL career with 2,857 points, a record that not only still stands, but will be very difficult to break. Howe now ranks fourth on the NHL’s scoring list, behind Jaromir Jagr and Mark Messier.
FunFact: The quote in the lead line introducing this item came from Bob Miller, the longtime Voice of the Los Angeles Kings, following the goal.
More Up, Up And Away: China joins the United States and the Soviet Union/Russia as the only nations to send a human into space on this date in 2003, when Yang Liwei, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Chinese army, spends 21 hours in low Earth orbit.
FunFact: China was also the third nation to reach the moon, landing an unmanned rover on the lunar surface in 2013.
Quotebook: Originality does not consist in saying what no one has ever said before, but in saying exactly what you think yourself. – James Stephens, Irish poet, 1882-1950
Answer To The Last Trivia Question: Calvin Smith of the United States broke Jim Hines’ 100-meter world record with a time of 9.93 seconds in 1983.
Today’s Stumper: Whose NHL all-time scoring record did Gordie Howe break? – Answer next time!