The 200 metres is a sprint event. On an outdoor 400m track, the race begins at the halfway point taking in the curve and the home straight, so a combination of techniques are needed to successfully run the race. A slightly shorter race, called the stadion and run on a straight track, was the first recorded event at the Ancient Olympics. The men’s event was on the first modern Olympics programme in 1896, but women were not able to compete over this distance until the London Games in 1948.
The 200m places more emphasis on speed endurance than shorter sprint distances as athletes rely on different energy systems during the longer sprint. In the United States and elsewhere, athletes previously ran the 220-yard instead of the 200m, though the distance is now obsolete.
Because humans use the same muscles for both support and forward speed, the runners in the inside lanes are disadvantaged by centrifugal force during the bend phase. Consequently, the middle and outer lanes are preferred. The 200 metres is an event subject to the wind assistance rules. Races run with an aiding wind measured over 2.0 metres per second are not acceptable for record purposes.
Sprinters start from blocks which contain an electronic pressure pad to detect false starts based on reaction times to the starting gun. A reaction time of less than 0.10 second is deemed to be a false start, and results in disqualification. A runner may also be disqualified for running outside their lane on the inside of the bend.
The race attracts runners from other events wishing to double up and claim both titles. This feat has been achieved ten times at the Olympic Games, most recently by Jamaica's Usain Bolt in 2008 and 2012. An Olympic double of 200m and 400m was first achieved by Valerie Briscoe-Hooks in 1984, and later by Michael Johnson from the United States and Marie-José Pérec of France both in 1996.
In the men’s event, 20 seconds is considered to be the elite mark. Britain has only two runners who have broken the 20s barrier – John Regis and most recently Adam Gemili who has also run 100m in a sub-10s time. 22 seconds is considered to be an elite performance in the women’s event. No Briton has yet broken that barrier.
2016 Olympic Champion: Usain Bolt (JAM)
Olympic Record: 19.30s – Usain Bolt (JAM – 2008)
World Record: 19.19s - Usain Bolt (JAM – 2009)
British Record: 19.94s John Regis (1993) (Regis also ran 19.87s at altitude the following year but it was not ratified)
2016 Olympic Champion: Elaine Thompson (JAM)
Olympic Record: 21.34s – Florence Griffith-Joyner (USA – 1988)
World Record: 21.34s – Florence Griffith-Joyner (USA – 1988)
British Record: 22.07 – Dina Asher-Smith 2015
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