Feats of today
Montgomery breaks 100-meter dash world recordPosted: Saturday September 14, 2002 10:42 AM
Updated: Saturday September 14, 2002 10:25 PM
PARIS (AP) -- Tim Montgomery, who only turned to track after injury ended his dreams of a football career, broke the 100-meter world record Saturday, becoming the new king of sprint after years in the shadows.
Montgomery's time of 9.78 seconds, helped by a strong wind and a devastatingly quick start, shaved 0.01 of a second off the record set three years ago by Maurice Greene, the Olympic and world champion who watched from the stands.
Montgomery, who until Saturday had not fulfilled all the promise he showed as a teen-ager, stunned the small crowd at the half-empty Stade Charlety, who were not expecting fast times from the late-season IAAF Grand Prix Final.
But the South Carolina native suspected all along he was destined for greatness.
"I knew something special was in me," Montgomery said. "I can say I'm the fastest man to ever run the 100 meters."
All Montgomery needed to crack athletics' most prestigious record were the right conditions.
"Today was perfect," the 27-year-old said. "The whole race, the whole day. To break a world record, the day and the record must be perfect, and that's what happened today."
"At 30 meters, I felt like no one was beside me, so I said, 'I'm going to dig in a bit harder.' And I just dug down, and kept running, and kept running, and kept running, to put as much distance on Dwain Chambers as possible. And the world record came."
Chambers, of Britain, finished second in 9.87. Fellow American Jon Drummond was third in 9.97.
Montgomery said he didn't immediately realize the record was his.
"When my coach came and picked me up and slammed me down, that's when I knew something had happened big."
Greene withdrew from the Grand Prix Final citing fatigue, but stayed in Paris and watched Montgomery race.
"An athlete can have a magical day and today he had a magical day," Greene said. "Everything clicked for him."
"It doesn't hurt at all. I knew that I wasn't going to die with my world record," Greene said.
Sprint queen Marion Jones heaped praise on Montgomery, her close friend who has "Marion" tattooed on his wrist.
"When you see a human being run faster than anybody in the history of the sport run, it's amazing and it's extraordinary," she said. "I'm just in awe."
Montgomery's reaction time was an incredibly fast 0.104 of a second. His tail wind was 2.0 meters per second, the maximum allowed. Had it been stronger, his record wouldn't have counted.
Favorable and sunny conditions aside, Montgomery ran a race few could have predicted.
His previous best was 9.84, and he had run no faster than 9.91 throughout the season, which seemed to confirm that Montgomery was stuck on the fringes of greatness.
He won bronze in the 100 at the 1997 World Championships, and four years later at Edmonton finished just behind Greene to win silver.
His only major gold medals were those he took for being anchor of the American 4x100 relay team at Edmonton, and for taking part in the 4x100 relay at the Sydney Olympics, where he ran the first heat.
Yet early on Montgomery had displayed extraordinary potential. He chose track after a broken arm ended his football hopes, and at age 19 ran 100 meters in 9.96. That would have been a world junior record, but the time was discounted because of an illegally placed wind gauge.
A skinny youth, the 1.78-meter (5-foot-10) sprinter also overcame lack of proper training.
"It was a place with no track and field," Montgomery said of his South Carolina roots. "They don't even have a track there, it's only grass."
"So at 19 years old with no muscles, no nothing, no technique, just straight out running and you're going 9.96," he said.
A major turning point came in 1999 when Montgomery switched coach, opting for Trevor Graham, who also coaches Jones.
"I knew when I got to a program when I was training six times a week and putting in the work that something big was going to happen," Montgomery said. "I didn't know when, but I knew it would happen."
At the Stade Charlety, Montgomery ran in the lane Jones had just used to conquer her 16th straight victory in the 100 meters.
"Marion went in lane 5 and I said, 'Why not? This is the last race, one more race to go, I'm going to use her start,' and I didn't change the blocks at all," said Montgomery. "I just used the start that she had out there and it paid off."
Montgomery said there was "no limit" to how fast humans can run.
"World records were made to be broken. I'm sure they'll be broken over and over and over again, except 19.32," he said, referring to Michael Johnson's 200-meter world record, set at Atlanta in 1996.
Montgomery, who plans to race in next week's World Cup in Madrid, earned dlrs 100,000 for setting the record. He also took dlrs 100,000 for topping the IAAF's 2002 overall rankings for male athletes, and a further dlrs 50,000 for being this year's best sprinter.
In breaking the record, Montgomery ended Greene's two-year reign atop the event rankings. He had beaten Greene at two meetings of the prestigious Golden League series this season.
But Montgomery wasn't dismissing Greene yet.
"One performance doesn't make anyone," he said. "He has proven in major championships that he can overcome anything."
Greene has been on shaky form all season. He sat out 10 months after sustaining a hamstring injury at the World Championships, and says he was "devastated" by the recent deaths of several relatives.
But on Saturday, Greene said he was determined to take the record back.
"I know I can run faster," Greene said. "It's going to be a lot of fun next year."