One track and field that will resonate with many Canadians is Donovan Bailey’s 100m gold at the Atlanta Olympics. The moment came 20 years ago.

Bailey, who was born in Jamaica but moved to Canada when he was 13, became an iconic figure in the country’s sports history because of his Atlanta performance. He set a world record and won gold at the 1996 Games running 9.84 to become the world’s fastest man. The time was a new world record at the time.


The Canadian beat Frankie Fredericks of Namibia and Trinidad and Tobago’s Ato Boldon to win gold. The defending Olympic champion, Linford Christie of Great Britain, was disqualified for false starting (beginning before the start gun is fired) twice.

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Fredericks got a great start to the race while Bailey trailed nearly the entire field. Bailey came on strong during the final 50 metres to overtake the Namibian en route to a world record.

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At the time, he was the Olympic champion, world champion and world record holder in the 100m. He is the co-holder of the Canadian record in the men’s 100m with Bruny Surin. Both athletes were on the 4x100m relay team that won gold in Atlanta as Bailey added a second gold to his collection.

The 100m race was particularly memorable for Canadians as the United States was a powerhouse in sprinting and Bailey prevailed on their home soil. The win and world record came less than a decade after Canadian Ben Johnson was banned for taking steroids, which annulled his 1988 gold medal in the marquee sprint event.

Donovan Bailey

Donovan Bailey celebrates winning 100m gold at the 1996 Olympics. Photo: Canadian Olympic Committee.

Bailey held the world record in the men’s 100m until 1999 when the mark was lowered to 9.79.

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Bailey again represented Canada at the 2000 Summer Olympics but dropped out due to illness. He retired in 2001 and has since been inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame for his 100m win. He was inducted a second time for his spot on the gold medal-winning 4x100m relay team in Atlanta.

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