For decades, the 10-second mark in a 100-meter run was considered the magical limit in athletics. But on October 14, 1968, Jim Hines broke the sound barrier. The American stayed just below at the Olympic Games in Mexico City: He won the gold medal with 9.95 seconds – and was not only the fastest man in the world, but also the first person ever to run the 100 meters in ran less than ten seconds.

In doing so, Hines wrote a piece of sports history – now the track and field athlete, who described himself as the “greatest sprinter in history”, has died at the age of 76. Hines was known for enjoying life while at the same time being a top athlete. So also before his most famous run.

The then 21-year-old had snuck out of the Olympic Village in Mexico City to spend the night with his wife. “It was a beautiful night. We drank champagne and did what men and women do,” he recalled in the “Welt” interview in 2018 and confirmed: “I had sex before the most important race of my life.”

The next day, Hines was still in great shape. He ran the 100 meters in 9.95 seconds and was at the goal of his dreams: “Olympic champion and fastest person in the world – no athlete can achieve more,” he said happily. The road to the Olympic Games had been quite difficult: Hines and other black athletes on the US team had even considered a boycott in order to take a stand against the racist unrest in the United States.

Jim Hines held the world record over 100 meters for 15 years, and in 1983 his compatriot Calvin Smith improved it by two hundredths of a second. The record, held by Usain Bolt, is now 9.58 seconds. 100 meters under ten seconds are no longer a rarity for world-class runners. But Jim Hines was certain that he would keep a very special place in the history of his sport in the long term: “But there will definitely never be one thing again – namely a sprinter who breaks a sound barrier like I did. Under nine seconds, no flesh-and-blood person can ever run,” he said in 2018.

Sources: “World” / “World Athletics”