Ten of the Best Athletics Performances of All-Time

By Ian John
July 5, 2023

You don’t often see athletics betting on bet365 Sport, but when it is available, it is usually for the biggest events.

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    Whether that is the Olympics, World Championships, Commonwealth Games or European Championships, betting on some of these events is hugely intriguing.

    In fact, I am surprised that people are not keener on making bets on these events!

    Especially when you consider some of the sporting moments it has given us over the years!

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    So with that in mind and with the Diamond League action in full swing over the weekends, and the World Championships coming up in Hungary, here’s our ten of the best athletics performances in history.

    The Ten Best Athletics Performances in History

    10. Michael Johnson – Atlanta 1996, Superman lands Gold & World Records in 200m, 400m.

    Although his records have now been surpassed, Michael Johnson’s legendary performance across the 200m and 400m in Atlanta 1996 are still a feat of human endurance and speed.

    Johnson not only won both races, he did so by such a margin that his opponents were many metres behind him as he set one world record an Olympic record and collected two golds to become the undisputed star of the games in Atlanta.

    YouTube video

    9. Jesse Owens silences Hitler and wins four Gold Medals and sets four World Records in 45 mins

    The 1936 Olympics were supposed to be a show of Nazi superiority. Instead, Jesse Owens demonstrated the nonsense of those cynical beliefs when winning four gold medals at the Games.

    Owens victories in the 100m, 200m, Long Jump and 4x100m Relay were not repeated until Carl Lewis achieved the feat in 1984.

    However, it was his symbolic rejection of Nazi beliefs which perhaps best defined this moment in history.

    YouTube video

    8. Seb Coe obliterates the 800m world record which remains the record for 16 years.

    On a poor track in Florence Italy, Sebastian Coe would show his incredible endurance and speed in an 800m performance that obliterated the previous world record, also held by Coe.

    A fast first lap gave Coe a chance to break the record and with 300m to go, he hit the front and kept increasing his pace, running 20-30 metres clear of the pack to finish in a time of 1:41.73.

    It was a record that took 16 years to break by Wilson Kipketer, who then saw that record smashed by the incredible David Rudisha at London 2012 when he moved the mark down to 1:40.91.

    Even so, Coe’s performance was decades ahead of his time on a poor track., Who knows what Coe may have ran had he been on the perfect surfaces available to modern athletes.

    YouTube video

    7. Mo Farah Completes The Quartet of Gold Medals despite a fall in the 10,000m

    Sir Mo Farah had already shone at the London 2012 games, picking up a double gold for the host nation in the 5,000 and 10,000m.

    He went to Rio as one of the favourites to repeat his success of four years previously. However, in the 10,000m final, Farah was accidentally tripped up and sent tumbling to the floor.

    He regained his footing and got back in the race to claim his third gold medal, adding a fourth just a few days later to go down as one of the greatest athletes the UK has ever produced.

    YouTube video

    6. Jan Zelezny throws 98.48m and changes the Javelin forever

    The three time Olympic Champion will forever be the man who holds the record for how far a javelin can be thrown.

    In Jena in 1996, Zelezny smashed his own World Record with a throw of almost 98 and a half metres, almost the entire length of the athletics field.

    Zelezny and some of his rivals were now throwing the javelin so far that organisers were worried they would eventually throw beyond the grass and onto the track.

    As such, the javelin was redesigned, with its centre of gravity moved to ensure that in future, the javelins would land shorter than they did previously.

    Few men are ever so good at their sport that they change the rules. Zelezny is one of those few.

    YouTube video

    5. Armando Duplantis world record pole vault – 6m 22cm

    For many years Sergei Bubka was the Pole Vault superstar, but now there is a new kid on the block in the shape of Swedens Armando Duplantis.

    The youngster is not just the person who set the new World Record, but he is taking the sport to new heights, literally.

    Bubka set a world record of 6.14m in July 1994 and it was almost ten years before it was broken by Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie, who jumped 6.16m.

    However since 2020, Duplantis has increased that record six times, including setting a new record mark of 6.22m in February this year.

    In winning the Olympic Pole Vault final in 2021, silver medalist Chris Nielsen remarked that taking him on was like a part time footballer “trying to emulate Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo”.

    YouTube video

    4. Jonathan Edwards smashes his own WR and jumps over 18m in the Triple Jump

    American Willie Banks held the Triple Jump world record at 17.97m, set in 1985 and by 1995, Jonathan Edwards from Great Britain stood a chance of challenging that record.

    Indeed, in Salamanca Spain, he set a new mark, improving Banks record by a single centimetre. It was a jump that would set up his incredible performance at the World Championships in Gothenburg a month later.

    Edwards smashed the world record in that event, jumping 18.16m, the first man to go over 18m in history. But then just 20 minutes later, he did it again, jumping an incredible 18.29m. The first man to jump 60feet and a record which still stands to this day.

    He also jumped 18.39m and 18.43m in Lille in the same year, those jumps though were wind-assisted and do not count as records.

    YouTube video

    3. Flo-Jo Smashes the women’s 100m record – 10.49 seconds – which still stands

    Some may question the authenticity of her records, but as it stands, Florence Griffiths-Joyner is still the fastest woman in history.

    In the 1988 US Trials for the Olympic Games in Seoul, Joyner smashed Evelyn Ashford’s current World Record mark of 10.76 seconds, running an incredible 10.49 seconds in her first race of the event.

    This performance has been noted as being ‘probably strongly wind assisted”, but it obliterated the current record and has not been close to being beaten since.

    Flo-Jo then went on to win double gold in the 100m and 200m at the Olympics, setting a new 200m record in Seoul too.

    YouTube video

    2. Usain Bolt sets new 200m World Record in Berlin 2009 – 19.19

    In 1979, Italian Pietro Mennea set a 200m world record of 19.72 at altitude, a record that stood until Michael Johnson beat it by 0.06 seconds in 1996, then bettering that mark to an incredible 19.32 in the 200m final at the Atlanta Olympics.

    Many felt Johnson’s achievements in 1996 would never be repeated as Superman claimed gold medals and world records in the 200m and 400m..

    That was until Usain Bolt, already a triple gold medalist from the Beijing Games in 2008, where he took Michael Johnson’s record down to 19.30.

    Then Bolt took to the field at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin.

    In his preferred 200m, with Michael Johnson watching on, he obliterated his previous best record mark with a time of 19.19 INTO a headwind.

    YouTube video

    1. Usain Bolt sets new 100m World Record in Berlin 2009 – 9.58

    He’s already in this list once for his exploits at 200m, but this performance by Bolt blew everyone away.

    Including his opponents.

    Tyson Gay finished 1 and a half metres behind and still set a brand new American national record with a time of 9.71. Asafa Powell had his best race in a final and was three metres behind.

    As Steve Cram said in commentary “we have never seen anything like this”.

    And it may be a long, long time before any sprinter comes anywhere near this record or what Bolt achieved in his career.

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