Who Are the World's Fastest Man and Woman?

The cliché, "Records were meant to be broken," fits the sport of track and field as well as a pair of custom-designed running shoes fits a sprinter.

The world record in the men's 100-meter dash, considered the preeminent track event in the world, has been broken 12 times since electronic timing was introduced into the sport in 1968.

The current record holder is Jamaican sprinter, Usain Bolt, who ran the 100-meter race in a blistering 9.58 seconds at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin. That bested his own world record of 9.69, which he had set the year before at the Beijing Olympics. The record-breaking margin of 0.11 seconds is also the largest since the start of digital race-time measurement.

Both of Bolt's times were "wind legal" efforts. In order for a time in the 100-meter race to be recognized for awards purposes, the speed of the tailwinds at the sprinters' backs on race day cannot be greater than 2 meters per second, according to the rules of the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF), the governing body of track and field competitions.

The winners of the Olympic 100-meter races are often declared "the world's fastest man and woman." There is little debate over Bolt's worthiness for the title of fastest man. He is the reigning Olympic champion and current world record holder in the 100, and also holds the world record in the 200-meter race, which he ran in 19.19 seconds in Berlin.

On the women's side, it is not so clear-cut.

The reigning women's Olympic 100-meter dash champion is Jamaica's Shelly-Ann Fraser, who won gold in Beijing with a time of 10.78 seconds and is generally considered the fastest woman in the world.

However, her time isn't close to the women's 100-meter world record of 10.49, set in 1988 by the late Florence Griffith-Joyner. Though some have suspected that this record was set while Joyner was using performance-enhancing drugs, the record has stood firm for 22 years. The closest anyone has come to breaking it was last year, when American sprinter Carmelita Jeter scorched the track at the Shanghai Grand Prix with a time of 10.64.

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