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Truly fast non-track athletes

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  • Truly fast non-track athletes

    We often hear hyperbole about how so-and-so "could have been an Olympic sprinter" or "showed Olympic speed" in coverage of NFL, of rugby, of soccer and so on.

    There have undoubtedly been many very fast men in all those sports, especially NFL, but have we really lost any Olympians? Is there anyone we can really point to and say "damn, he was a major loss".

    I don't mean the likes of Nehemiah and Gault, who were already world class, or even Hayes, who was always really a football player. I mean the guys who track lost completely, who we didn't realise were fast until we saw them in another sport and thought "what?...who?...how did we lose them?"

    Valeriy Borzov's drew a distinction between fast men and sprinters. He described a test where runners would go flat out with a tube of paper in their mouths; those who did not crush the paper between their teeth were sprinters, the rest merely fast runners. I see lots of fast runners in other sports, but few sprinters.

    I can name one man from a sport I suspect few of you will know, Rugby. During the 80s and 90s Martin Offiah (nickname: "Chariots") lit up rugby pitches with the sort of pure sprinting speed-while-relaxed that makes any 100m fan purr with delight. He was so much faster than everyone else it was a joke - every time I saw him play I desparately wished some track coach had got hold of him as a kid. But he's the only one I can genuinely say would have run in an Olympic final.

    What do you all think?

  • #2
    Re: Truly fast non-track athletes

    >I can name one
    >man from a sport I suspect few of you will know, Rugby. During the 80s and 90s
    >Martin Offiah (nickname: "Chariots") lit up rugby pitches with the sort of
    >pure sprinting speed-while-relaxed that makes any 100m fan purr with delight.
    >He was so much faster than everyone else it was a joke - every time I saw him
    >play I desparately wished some track coach had got hold of him as a kid. But
    >he's the only one I can genuinely say would have run in an Olympic
    >final.




    Martin Offiah had a 100m best of 'only' 10.8, which he himself admits wasn't all that special. Yes, he always looked quick, but that was probably because all the other guys on the pitch couldn't run quicker than 10.8 (most were probably between 11 and 12). Offiah could have probably gone quicker if he was trained as an athlete, but a lot of speed work goes into the rugby regimen as it is. IMHO I reckon that an Olympic final would have been way out of his league. Maybe a AAA's final at his best.

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    • #3
      Re: Truly fast non-track athletes

      >Offiah could have probably gone quicker if he was trained as an athlete

      This is the point I am getting at. You are quite right that taking Offiah off a pitch even in his prime and putting him on a track would just have been embarassing. But I have never seen a Rugby player with so much potential as a sprinter...if we'd got him earlier.

      But you may be right that I am guilty of the same hyperbole I am seeking to avoid. I recall Nigel Walker (decent hurdler, 10.35w 100m runner) switching to Rugby in his late 20s, after a pure track career. He wasn't much of a player but even with modest (by track standards) speed he embarrassed all the fast men he encountered.

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      • #4
        Re: Truly fast non-track athletes

        Where I grew up (Wales) Rugby is a near-religion. We had one winger who made the British Olympic team as a 100M sprinter, J.J. Williams, but he wasn't a world class sprinter really.

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        • #5
          Re: Truly fast non-track athletes

          ..

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          • #6
            Re: Truly fast non-track athletes

            Sprintstatman,

            Where did you read about this "Borzov" test. This sounds like an interesting read where could I find it?

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            • #7
              Re: Truly fast non-track athletes

              >Where I grew up (Wales) Rugby is a near-religion. We had one winger who made the British Olympic team as a 100M sprinter, J.J. Williams, but he wasn't a world class sprinter really.

              Was JJ an Olympian? He definitely ran in the Commonwealth Games for Wales in 1970 (at age 22). I believe his best was 10.67w.

              Current New Zealand winger Doug Howlett (who is seriously quick on a pitch) was a junior 100m champ in NZ, running around 10.7x I believe. Maybe only the Fijian whose name I won't even attempt is quicker in world rugby. But neither are serious sprint talents.

              Points taken on Offiah. If he wasn't a potential Olympian, few other candidates from the sport come to mind.

              And yes, the idea of Herschell Walker attempting the Borzov test is amusing! He sure could move though.

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              • #8
                Re: Truly fast non-track athletes

                >Sprintstatman, Where did you read about this "Borzov" test. This sounds like an interesting read where could I find it?

                I got this from the wonderful book "The Fastest Men In The World" by Neil Duncanson, published just before Seoul. It contains detailed biographies of all the Olympic men's 100m champs and is a stunning read, invaluable to any track fan. It accompanied an equally outstanding TV series to which Richard Hymans (occassional visitor to these boards) was a consultant.

                In the book Borzov described games devised for him by his coach when he was 12 or 13, one of which was the tube test, designed to promote relaxation. Borzov: "we made paper tubes and coach would order us to run 100m holding them in our teeth. The one who did not bite or squeeze the tube was considered a sprinter, while the rest were considered to be simply runners".

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                • #9
                  Re: Truly fast non-track athletes

                  Other than that, I always used to think Darryl Green and Herschel
                  >Walker were the best of the NFL's fast men, either of whom could probably have
                  >made the US Olympic 100 team on a good day. Green was more convincing with
                  >regard to his sprinting style

                  having seen Green run a 10.08 in a not-so-major meet at San Angelo years ago, I can attest to his track acumen -- also a blazer in the deuce and on the 4x4!

                  Darrell was/is also one of the nicest, most pleasant athletes you could ever hope to meet

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                  • #10
                    Re: Truly fast non-track athletes

                    any anecdotes about Jim Brown/OJ Simpson/Bo Jackson speed?

                    Also there have been a lot of extraordinarily fast RBs and WRs in the NFL in the last 10-15 years who probably never even bothered with track and could tear it up if they had done so. I dont even think an exhaustive list could be adequately made..

                    On a personal note my home state (CT) had two great footballers a few years ago (one of whom went to Div I Iowa's program) who ran the 100m in the 10.40s in track and gave it up after high school, never having really taken it very seriously...(Jermelle Lewis and Sheldon Simpson.. the latter of whom ran a 6.23 55m to lead the nation one of those years)

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                    • #11
                      Re: Truly fast non-track athletes

                      There have been a ton of fast high schoolers from Texas and Florida who have later given up track to focus exclusively on football. Doesn't surprise me, given the difference between how track and football are perceived in the US.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Truly fast non-track athletes

                        there probably are very, very few top caliber non-track US athletes, either past or present, who did not at least run track in high school, except for baseball players, who due to the same-season aspect may never had run track. They used to talk about how fast Mickey Mantle was. So for the US, try to think about fast baseballers.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Truly fast non-track athletes

                          Simpson ran on the last 4x110y WR relay team. He was a decent, but journeyman sprinter. The first I heard of him was in a pre season college football magazine when he went to USC from CCSF. The magazine claimed 54 TDs at city college. Right, I thought.

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                          • #14
                            Re: Truly fast non-track athletes

                            Oops sorry, I thought the topic was "truly non-fast track athletes" and I was going to post my times. Damn that dyslexia!

                            LOL

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                            • #15
                              Re: Truly fast non-track athletes

                              RE: Jim Brown, O.J. Simpson, Bo Jackson

                              I cannot find evidence of Jim Brown running faster than 11.1 in the 100m (he competed in the 1954 and 1955 AAU decas).

                              Simpson ran a 9.4 100y in 1968.

                              Jackson ran 10.39 in 1984.

                              I estimate their normalized 2004 times as: Brown (10.91), Simpson (10.13), and Jackson (10.21).

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