Deciding who I think is the greatest women’s 100m runner of all-time has been the most difficult of any event so far. The waters are muddied in this event by the prominence in 100m championships of athletes who were almost certainly aided by drugs. How should I deal with that and upgrading the efforts of athletes who finished behind? In addition some athletes of earlier decades who won titles were later reclassified as non female athletes.
Another difficulty is that the event is the most competitive in women’s athletics. there has been no single athlete who has been dominant for more than four years and the ones who have been at the top for that long often mised out on the Olympic gold so deciding between them has been tricky.
My choices for consideration for the top ten are:
Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce (Jamaica) – one of only three women to win the Olympic title at 100m twice and the only one to win medals in three successive Games at 100m. She was a great championship competitor who won the Olympics 100m gold in 2008 and 2012 and three world titles (in 2009,2013 and 2015). She has won three Diamond League 100m titles and has run several of the fastest 100m times ever.
Evelyn Ashford (USA) – the outstanding sprinter of the 1980s, especially if you take account of the likely drug use of many of her main rivals. She had a great rivalry with Marlies Gohr in particular. Ashford was the Olympic Champion in 1984 and won another silver. She set world records in 1983 and 1984. If only “clean” athletes are considered it is probable that she was the leading 100m runner in the world in six separate years.
Ashford may have had a slightly longer time at the top and didn’t have as many championship opportunities as Fraser. However, Fraser’s brilliant championship record just make me pick her as my number one.
These two are in my mind clear of the rest but after that it is very hard to pick the order. These are others I considered and they could be in any order within the Top Ten.
East German athletes are still included in the official records and if you are to count them I would have Marlies Gohr and Renate Stecher in my Top Ten. Gohr was a consistent performer for several years and won the 1983 world 100m title. She broke the world record three times and won . Stecher was the Olympic champion in 1972 and set a world record in doing it. She also set or equalled the world record in the event five other times.
Fanny Blankers-Koen (NED) – a brilliant athlete in many different events who in 1948 won four Olympic golds including the 100m. She also won the 1950 European title and won another European bronze at 100m. At her peak in the War years of the early 1940s there were no championships but she still set some outstanding marks. She set an unofficial world record equalling mark in 1943 . In 1938 she had set a world record for the 100 yards.
Veronica Campbell-Brown (Jamaica) – her major successes cdame over 200m but she was also the worlds leading 100m runner in four years in the early 2000s. She was world champion in 200 and won two other medals.
Wyomia Tyus (USA) – the Olynpic champion in 1964 and 1968, the first woman to win this title twice. She had a good career outside these titles with three national titles but was never world number one in the years between Games. She set a world record in 1968 at the Olympics ahaving equalled the record three times in earlier years.
Carmelita Jeter (USA) – world champion in 2011 and a medallist in four other championships. She also ran some of the fastest recorded times in the event.
Merlene Ottey (Jamaica) – the best sprinter of the early 1990s with four years as world number one and many medals but she never won a major championship gold at 100m.
An athlete who was at the top for several years and would have been in my Top Ten was Stanisława Walasiewicz who won the Olympic title in 1932 and set three world records. She was later found to be inter-sex having a male Y chromosome and so although her results still stand in the record books it is hard to evaluate the worth of the performances.
Another athlete who would have been considered on the basis of performances at the time is Ewa Kłobukowska who was European champion in 1966 and set a world record in 1965. However, she was another who fell foul of gender testing and her results are open to question. Her compatriot Irena Szewinska would have been the world’s best instead in those mid-60s years and had success into the 1970s when she won the European title.
Many people have Wilma Rudolph as one of their favourites at 100m. She was brilliant when winning the 1960 Olympics but had only a short time at the top of the sport and are considered for my Top Ten. Helen Stephens is another who had only a short career but won an Olympic title in 1936 and set world records that took the mark down considerably in the mid 1930s.
I leave it to you to decide which of these you think deserve a place in the Top Ten with the complications I have described.