By Lee Dover
The excitement for the London 2012 Olympic Games is starting to reach fever pitch with little over a month to go.
One of the weird wonders of the biggest event on the planet is that a lot of the anticipation hangs over a contest which lasts less than 10 seconds.
However, while the duration of the Olympic Men’s 100m dash is always over in a flash, the shock and awe of the race is usually felt for days, weeks or even years.
Ever since American athlete Tom Burke won the first Olympic gold for the 100m dash in 1896 when he blitzed ahead of the competition, the race has gone into the folklore of the Olympic Games.
Back then, fans were left scooping their jaws off the ground when Burke recorded a time of 12 seconds on his way to victory.
Things have changed dramatically over the past century, as athletes showed that they had the legs to record times that some had thought impossible just a few years previously.
First to break 10 seconds
Jim Hines, another well-remembered Olympic sprinter from the US was the first to break the 10 second mark when he grabbed gold at the 1968 Games in Mexico City with a phenomenal dash which lasted just 9.95 seconds.
By 1988 though, times under 10 seconds became the norm when American sprinter Carl Lewis won gold with a sprint lasting just 9.92 seconds.
Linford Christie achieved silver with a time of 9.97 and Calvin Smith had 9.99 seconds on the board but could only nab a bronze medal.
Perhaps the most controversial men’s 100m final was at the 1988 Games in Seoul when Canadian Ben Johnson destroyed the field in 9.79 seconds but later tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and was subsequently stripped of his gold medal, handing first place to Carl Lewis.
Linford Christie finally brought home gold for Great Britain in 1992, before another Canadian – Donovan Bailey – romped home at the 1996 Games in a new world record time of 9.84.
After watching US stars Maurice Greene and Justin Gatlin lighting up the track at Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004, Jamaican athlete Usain Bolt sensationally stepped up to the plate and became the new fastest man on the planet in 2008.
Beijing encountered the Lightning Bolt up close and personal when he set a new record at that Olympic Games with a time of just 9.69 seconds – and that included 15 metres where the Jamaican eased off the pedal and started to celebrate.
With that in mind, Paddy Power is offering odds on that London 2012 will see another electric display by Bolt come August 3rd.
Need a little more convincing? Well listen to these words from sprinting coach Glen Mills.
“Usain is quite aware of what it takes to be a champion and what he needs to maintain this high level of performances. He wants to be a legend in the sport. He is quite aware that his work is not done yet.”
Mills definitely knows a thing or two about the Jamaican lightning bolt – he has been coaching the phenomenal athlete since 2004.
Id you’re looking for a little more value Paddy Power’s online betting goes 10/1 that Justin Gatlin - who served a four-year ban between 2006 and 2010 for using performance enhancing drugs – will repeat his 2004 victory.