From football to baseball, the top athletes are renowned for their skill, strategy, stamina and, most importantly, speed. But which of them has what it takes to outrun the competition? Who is the fastest athlete in the world?
To give you the answer, we compiled a list of the eight fastest sportspeople in the last two decades.
Ready, set, go!
Fastest Athletes Throughout History
The history of sports is full of athletes whose performances have put them in the running for the title of fastest person on Earth.
Some of them, like Bob Hayes, the only athlete to win an Olympic gold medal and a Super Bowl ring, started off in athletics and then moved on to other sports. Argentinian Claudio Caniggia also began his career in athletics before becoming one of the fastest soccer players of all time. Jackie Robinson, considered one of the top baseball players, was a track and football star before signing up for MLB.
Others, like legendary sprinters Jesse Owens and Carl Lewis, stayed in the same field and achieved greatness. Lewis is one of the fastest athletes of all time, breaking the 10 seconds for 100 meters record a total of 15 times. Owens, on the other hand, broke three world records in athletics and tied a fourth, including the 220 yards sprint and the 220-yard low-hurdle, in just an hour.
The Fastest People in Field Sports
Now that we’ve taken a trip down memory lane, it’s time to read up on three of the fastest track runners that have come on the scene in recent years.
The man who has broken several world records and ran 100 metres in a fantastic 9.58s, Lightning Bolt is without a doubt the fastest track athlete in the world and the best sprinter of all time.
Usain Bolt has won eight Gold Olympic Medals, becoming the only sprinter in Olympic history to win medals in the 100m and 200m event at three games in a row. He is also an eleven-time World Champion, consecutively winning gold medals between 2009 and 2015 in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay (except for a 100m false start in 2011). His incredible performance at these competitions earned him the title of most successful male athlete of all World Championships.
Still, the moment that made Usain Bolt a synonym for speed and a well-known name beyond the world of athletics was the double sprint victory at the 2008 Beijing Olympics when he became the first person to set a new record in the 100m and 200m events, or effectively the fastest man on the planet.
Bolt currently holds the world record in 100 meters (9.58s), 200 meters (19.19s) and 4×100 meters relay (36.84s).
But Usain Bolt doesn’t just hold world records; he also is the best at improving them—he beat his 100m record of 9.69 in 2009, and he has broken the 200m world record twice, clocking 19.30 in 2008 and 19.19 a year later.
An American track and field sprinter, Tyson Gay was one of the fastest athletes before Bolt came along.
He has won many awards in major international competitions, including three Gold medals in 100-meter, 200-meters and 4×100 meters relay at the 2007 Osaka World Championships. This made Gay the second man to win all three events in one competition. Gay is also a four-time American champion in 100 meters, and he won the Jesse Owens Award twice. On top of that, in 2017, he became the first athlete in history to dip under 10s in 100 meters, 20s in 200 meters and 45 seconds in the 400-meter event.
Gay’s 100 meter personal best is 9.69 seconds, putting him in second place as the fastest sprinter (together with Yohan Blake), whereas his 19.58 second in 200 meters makes him the fourth-fastest American runner in history.
This Jamaican sprinter is the youngest-ever 100m world champion, winning the gold in 2011 at just 21 years of age. What’s more, he still holds the Jamaican junior national 100m record and was once the youngest sprinter on record to break the 10-second barrier (he was just 19 years and 196 days old). He also won a silver medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in London in the 100m and 200m races for the Jamaican team.
Yohan Blake is not just one of the top 10 fastest athletes alive; he is also the second-fastest man on Earth in both 100m and 200m races. Like Tyson Gay, his personal best in 100m is 9.69, while he clocked 19.26 seconds in the 200 meters (mere milliseconds behind the great Usain Bolt).
Although Blake needs to improve on his 100m season-best of 9.95s to get a medal at Tokyo, he has promised to return to “beast” mode, so it will be exciting to see if he can beat his former training partner and set a new world record.
Fastest People in NFL
Athletics isn’t the only sport where participants are known for their speed. The NFL also boasts several players who can give even the fastest athletes in a sport race a run for their money.
Nicknamed the “Cheetah”, Tyrek Hill is one of the fastest athletes in the world of football.
Hill first showed off his incredible speed at his college Pro Day when he ran a 40-yard dash in 4.29 seconds, faster than any of the other NFL Combine participants.
After this amazing feat, Hill was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs, where he has played as a wide receiver ever since. He continued performing phenomenally speed-wise during his career in the NFL, holding two of the top ten ball carrier speed for three consecutive years (from 2016 to 2018), including the two top speeds of 2016 (23.24 and 22.77 seconds).
However, he reached his best speed in 2020 when he topped out at 21.91 mph on a 44-yard receiving touchdown—the fifth-fastest recorded running speed for the season.
Raheem Mostert, who plays running back for the San Francisco 49ers, is the fastest ball-carrier for the 2020 season. According to NextGen stats, Mostert currently holds the top two positions on the list of fastest players in NFL for 2020. He reached 22.73 mph against the Arizona Cardinals during Week 1 of last season, which was the fastest speed recorded by a running back over the last three seasons.
He managed to break his own record just a week later by reaching a whopping 23.09 mph on an 80-yard touchdown run against the New York Jets.But Mostert is not just one of the fastest players in the NFL; he was also a successful track athlete, winning the FHSAA 3A District 6 title in the 300-meter hurdles in 2010. He was also one of the fastest college football players in the NCAA, preceded only by Tyreek Hill.
The Fastest Soccer Players
Dribbling the ball at full speed in order to score, the ability to get past defenders—speed is one of the most essential skills in football. So which footballers can classify as speed demons? Who are the fastest players in soccer?
This Welsh player is known for his strength, skill and, most of all, speed. In fact, according to a 2017 study, the Real Madrid winger topped the list of the worlds fastest soccer players, beating some of the biggest names in football like Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. His top speed was measured at an impressive 36.9 km/h.
In addition to being incredibly fast, Bale is also the youngest person ever to represent the Welsh national team, making his international debut in 2006, when he was only 17. Since then, he has earned 90 caps, and scored 33 international goals, thus becoming the highest goal-scorer for the national team.
The combination of speed, ball control and great crossing ability has made Bale a sought-after player and a force to be reckoned with on the football pitch.
Davies is a Canadian athlete who currently plays for Bayern Munich as a left-back or a winger.
During the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup, he became the youngest man to appear in the Canadian men’s team and the youngest player to score for his national team. He was only 17 at the time.
But his achievements did not end there. At the start of the 2021 Bundesliga, Davies was clocked as the fastest player in the competition by reaching a recorded speed of 35.3 kmp/h. Furthermore, he managed to beat his own record later in the season by running at 36.51 kmp/h in the match against Werder Bremen. This not only made him the fastest player in the Bundesliga but also one of the fastest soccer players in the world today.
No list of the fastest soccer players would be complete without mentioning one of France’s most valuable footballers.
Kylian Mbappé is the fastest footballer right now, clocking in an astounding speed of 36.2 kmp/h in the match between France and Germany in the UEFA Euro 2020.
Mbappé currently plays as a forward for Paris Saint-Germain. He has been with the club since 2018 when he transferred from Monaco for a staggering fee of €180 million, making him the second-most expensive player and the most expensive teenager in football history. So far, Mbappé won three Ligue 1 titles, three Coupe de France titles, and was pronounced Ligue 1 Player of the Year two times. He was also Ligue 1 top scorer for three seasons in a row and the third-highest goalscorer in PSG history.
Before recording his impressive speed at the Euro Cup, Mbappé reached an amazing 38 kmp/h at the 2018 World Cup. He also sprinted at 36 km/h against Marseille in 2021 when he scored his 16th goal of the season. Even though minutes behind Bolt’s speed of 44.72km/h, Mbappé’s 36 kmp/h certainly earned him a place not just among the fastest soccer players ever, but among the fastest athletes in the world as well.
From Bolt to Mbappé, all of the athletes on our list have made it big in the world of sports thanks to their speed, as well as talent, skills, endurance and sheer commitment. And whether they are still active or retired, the records they set will remain for future generations to aspire to and eventually break. So, tune in to the latest sports events and be on the lookout for the next rising star who might just become the new fastest athlete in the world. After all, isn’t that one of the most exciting things about sports?