She Ran Crazy Fast. But Was It Too Fast?

Some questioned how Tobi Amusan shaved 0.08 seconds off 100-meter hurdles record
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 25, 2022 3:27 PM CDT

That Tobi Amusan of Nigeria won the women’s 100-meter hurdles Sunday at the world track and field championships in Eugene, Ore., wasn't a big shock. The 25-year-old has won big in the event at other games and finished fourth in the Tokyo Olympics last year. That she set a world record in the semifinal 90 minutes prior was far more jarring. Amusan ran it in 12.12 seconds. That's 0.28 seconds faster than her personal best and 0.08 seconds faster than the previous world record, set by American Kendra Harrison in 2016. The New York Times tries to explain just how massive that margin-shaving was: It's been more than 40 years since someone cut that much time for the world-record in the race; in recent years, it's been run faster, but in bits: by anywhere from 0.01 to 0.04 at a time.

Amusan wasn't the only one who flew in the semifinal heat. The women who placed fourth, fifth, sixth, and eighth set personal bests, and those who came in second, third, and seventh logged their fastest times of 2022. Cue the speculation: that something glitched with the timing system, or perhaps the wind gauge (which indicated a tail wind of 0.924 meters per second; the max allowed is 2.0). Track star Michael Johnson, who was commentating on the race for the BBC, voiced his suspicion, noting in a tweet that even "all athletes looked shocked." (Indeed, the AP reports Amusan had this to say of seeing her time appear on the scoreboard: "I was like 'Whoa, who did that?'")

Johnson then found himself on the receiving end of some flak, with some accusing him of racism due to the fact an African had taken the record from an American. He responded to that in this tweet. The Guardian chases down a different theory: that Amusan was buoyed by her legal but untraditional shoes. Rather than the typical track spikes, she wore Adidas Adizero Avanti shoes. The shoes have "extra bouncy foam" and are worn by 5km and 10km runners; she switched to them after suffering a foot injury and seeking a softer sole. (This 7-year-old's victory in a race went viral.)

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