The Greatest 400 metre hurdlers of All-Time: Edwin Moses and Sally Gunnell

Another in my occasional series of all-time greats in different sports and events.

Here is my choice of the top men and women in track and field athletics at 400m hurdles. The men’s event has been established for over a century so I am choosing a top ten:

1. Edwin Moses (USA)

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My choice of the greatest ever male 400m hurdler is one of the easier ones to make for any discipline. Ed Moses is simply head and shoulders above anyone else who has ever done the event. He dominated the 400m hurdles for over a decade starting in 1976 when he won the Olympic title, breaking the world record in the process. He went unbeaten for a decade from 1977 to 1987, a run of 122 races which is a record for any track event athlete at the top level. This run included the inaugural world title in 1983 and the 1984 Olympic gold and he would surely have taken gold in 1980 if the USA hadn’t boycotted the Moscow Games. He went on to take the 1987 world title in one of the most thrilling races I have ever seen, winning by 0.02 from the 2nd and 3rd placed athletes. Moses set four world records and quarter of a century after his retirement still holds four of the top ten times in history.

2. Felix Sanchez (Dominican Republic) – won 43 races in a row from 2001 to 2004 including the 2001 and 2003 world titles and the 2004 Olympics. He regained the Olympic title in 2012 aged 34.

3. Glenn Davis (USA) – the Olympic champion of 1956 and 1960, the only man to retain the Olympic title at this event.  He set two world records at 400m hurdles,  and another at 440y hurdles. His first world record of 49.5 in 1956 made him the first man under 50 seconds for the event.  He was a great flat runner, setting world 440 yards records and winning a relay gold in 1960.

A difficult choice but I have just gone for Sanchez because of his durability.  He has stayed at the top of his event for over a decade whereas Davis had only five, brilliant as they were, years in the event.  These two are a little way ahead of my next three choices.

4. Kevin Young (USA) – the 1992 Olympic champion, where he set a world record that still stands today and hasn’t been seriously threatened.  He was also world champion in 1993 and had a 25 race unbeaten streak in 1992 and 1993.

5. Glenn Hardin (USA) – the Olympic champion of 1936.  His most brilliant performance came in 1934 when he set a two world records.  The latter of those took over a second off the old record and remained unbeaten for nineteen years. He had taken the world record in 1932 on a technicality when finishing second in the Olympics behind Bob Tisdall who had knocked over a hurdle and wasn’t allowed to claim the record.  Hardin never lost another race in his career at the 400m hurdles after that.

6. Andre Phillips (USA) – a consistently good runner during the golden era of the event in the 1980s.  He was at or near the top for most of the decade and was Olympic champion in 1988.

The choice of my last four is quite a difficult one.  I just went for these athletes ahead of double Olympic champion Angelo Taylor and Harald Schmidt who was perennially in the shadow of Ed Moses.  In almost any other era he would have been an Olympic champion.

7. Morgan Taylor (USA) – the first athlete to win three Olympic medals at the 400m hurdles which he did in 1920 to 1928.  He took gold in 1924 in a time that would have been a world record if h hadn’t knocked over a hurdle.  He suffered the same fate earlier the same year but in 1928 did break the record.

8. Kerron Clement (USA) -world champion in 2007 and 2009, won the Olympic silver medal in 2008.

9. Charlie Moore (USA) –   He won the 1952 Olympic title and was American champion each year from 1949 to 1952.

10. Yuriy Lituyev (USSR) – consistently near the top of the event in the 1950s.  He was Eurpean champion in 1958 and won two more European silvers.  His best Olympics was only a silver in 1952 but he broke the world record in 1953.



The women’s 400m hurdles has only been an internationally recognised event for around forty years so I have only chosen a top five. If choosing the top man was easy then the choice of top woman is hard. Despite being a serious event for forty years there has never been a woman who has dominated the event for more than a few years at a time. My top five are all pretty closely ranked in my mind so I have had to look closely at their performances in championships and whether they have run notable times.

My choices of the top five are:

1. Sally Gunnell (Great Britain)

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She may not have dominated for years and years but Sally Gunnell did manage to achieve everything that she could in the sport. She is the only athlete in this list to win every title available and break the world record and that puts her top of my list.  She was the 1992 Olympic champion and in a great race with Sandra Farmer-Patrick in 1993 she took the world title in a world record time.  She often ran well in championships and was also European and Commonwealth champion.

Melaine Walker (Jamaica) – the Olympic champion of 2008 and world champion in 2009 where she ran the second fastest time in history.

Nezha Bidouane (Morocco) – world champion in 1997 and 2001 and winner of two other Olympic and world medals.  She was twice world cup winner and three times Mediterranean Games champion.

Deon Hemmings (Jamaica) – the 1996 Olympic champion and winner of four other medals in Olympic and world championships.

Lashinda Demus (USAS) – 2009 world champion and winner of four other world and Olympic medals. She ran the third fastest time in history.

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