Chasing the elusive 200m world record

The late Florence Griffith-Joyner of the United States set a 200-metre world record that is unlikely ever to be beaten.

16 September 2021 | Sports



The women’s 200-metre world record remains elusive as no one has ever come close to it since the late Florence Griffith-Joyner of the United States did the unthinkable by running 21.34 seconds at the 1988 Olympics.

“We will not think about the world record at this point but I know that Beatrice and Christine Mboma can run much faster times than they do now.

“Breaking the 200-metre world record will be something special, but we are more focused on improving at the moment,” coach Henk Botha said when asked about chasing the record.

As the athletics season concludes, all eyes and hopes were on the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and other competitions, with the world hoping that the 33-year-old record could finally have a new owner.

Yet, not even Elaine Thompson-Herah with a personal best of 21.53 seconds, or Christine Mboma’s 21.78 could rattle the elusive record.

Gabriella Thomas of the United States with a PB of 21.61, who was part of the crop of potential 200m record breakers, was far from her best after only managing a bronze at Tokyo without coming close to the PB she set in June.

But some still believe the American can improve and challenge for the record.

Not even her retired American compatriot and one of athletics’ greats Marion Jones came close to the 21.34-second mark, with her PB of 21.62 she ran in 1998 in still standing as the fourth fastest 200m time in history.

Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas, with a PB of 21.74, did not have the best of seasons since a scintillating run in Zurich in 2019 which saw her getting her PB.

Miller-Uibo who is 27 years old, is also expected to rejuvenate her form and bounce back to chase for the elusive glory.

So far, only five women have managed a finish around 21.60, while only Elaine Thomson-Herah has gone step further by getting in the 21.50s.

Namibia’s Christine Mboma, who is just 18 years old, with a current PB of 20.78, is among the 13 women who have finished in the 21.70s.

The 2020 Olympic silver medallist is not at her peak yet and many have pinned their hopes on her to one day break the 200m world record.

Mboma, who has a PB of 48.54 seconds in the 400 metres, looked as if she was close to breaking the 400m record of 47.60 set in 1985 by Marita Koch.

The athlete was however removed from the race category following the controversial high testosterone level rules that are currently under scrutiny.

The Namibian remains one of the potential athletes to come close to smashing the 200m record, provided that she keeps improving and reaches her peak.

“I just need to work harder and I will be able to run faster if I keep being committed,” Mboma said when asked if she could go faster.

Namibia Press Agency sport journalist Hesron Kapanga has no doubts that Mboma has what it takes to break the record.

“Christine is a gem and one can definitely say that she has all the potential of breaking all those records.

“All she needs is a bit of polishing because she is currently running with what she is being taught and her natural talent.

“That is however not enough because I know for sure that this lady will be like Usain Bolt if she gets the best polishing because she will break all the records in probably two years from now,” Kapanga said.

Great Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith, who has a PB of 21.88, is another athlete who has the potential of coming close to the record.

He current form has been far from her best when she ran her PB in 2019, but there have been gradual signs of improvement.

Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson, who has a PB of 21.81 set in September this year, appears to be drifting further away from that record even if she has her personal best this year.

Her Jamaican and evergreen compatriot Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (21.79) looks highly unlikely to get that record given she will be approaching her 35th birthday without showing signs of slowing down.

The fact that the Jamaican is still running PBs in the 200m serves as an encouragement to the young athletes that they could still have enough time to chase the elusive world record.

Other encouraging news for those athletes yet to hit their 30s is that Griffith-Joyner was 28 when she broke the world record.

Thompson-Herah will be much more encouraged given that she is only turning 30 and probably in the best form of her career following her Tokyo 2020 success where she ran 21.53.

The record chasers will be encouraged that Jamaica’s Usain Bolt in 2009 smashed Michael Johnson’s (19.32) world record by finishing in a time of 19.19 in Berlin at the age of 23.

Still the question remains whether the current fastest women in history can break that record.

The Athletics Enthusiast believes it can be done if the athletes work hard and continue improving.

“This record has remained elusive for so long and it will take a special athlete to break it.

“If you however look at athletes like Thompson-Herah, who is in the form of her career, you can say that it is not impossible to break it.

“Christine Mboma has shown a remarkable amount of improvement in a short period of time and one does not know yet how much faster she can go but she has the potential to break that record one day.

“Shaunae Miller-Uibo is the third athlete I think can do it given the immense talent she has and if she can remain injury free,” veteran athletics coach Letu Hamhola said.

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