The Current24:42How 9.84 seconds made Donovan Bailey an icon
In 1990, Donovan Bailey was doing well for himself. He was selling real estate, wearing nice suits and driving nice cars.
But the Jamaican Canadian had a nagging desire to race taking up space in the back of his mind. So when he went to see some friends who were in town for a track competition at Etobicoke Centennial Stadium, he had an idea.
“There were a couple of guys [at the competition] that I’d competed against in high school. And I’m like, I used to beat those guys in high school … I can still beat them,” said Bailey.
He hadn’t been training, he hadn’t competed in years and he didn’t even have the right gear. But, in a hand-written note, his friends registered him with a club and lent him what he needed to compete.
“I got on the track, ran the 100 meters, [and] won,” Bailey told Matt Galloway on The Current. “It was surreal, actually.”
“I just showed up and crushed them.”
Six years later, Bailey would reach his ultimate goal at the 1996 Olympic Games and set a new world record.
Bailey is telling his life story in a new memoir, Undisputed, releasing on Oct. 31.
WATCH | How an unexpected race led to Donovan Bailey’s Olympic stardom:
Featured VideoIt was 1990, six years before Donovan Bailey would become an Olympic world champion. He decided to enter a track competition at Etobicoke Centennial Stadium on a whim, without any preparation, and he won. That victory put him on the path to becoming the fastest man on earth.
Desire to race
It was that experience at the Etobicoke Centennial Stadium when Bailey realized he could have a track career. But the path had been paved long before that.
“There was something that was pulling me there. I was never really satisfied being in an office. I was just not that person,” Bailey said.
“Every time I watched the World Championships or the Olympics or whatever, I’m like, ‘Why is that guy on the team? I used to crush him.'”
Bailey grew up in Manchester, Jamaica, the fourth of five boys. He credits his parents with giving him the confidence to take on any challenge.
“This was a place that I saw that I definitely could do anything,” said Bailey.
His parents made sure he put school first, but sports were his retreat from that work, and it wasn’t hard for Bailey to discover his gifts. He says by the age of 10, he was one of the fastest kids on the island.
“I was really blessed genetically and from great parents, great genes and so I was always the fastest kid — the kid that could jump the highest when I was playing basketball, when I was playing soccer,” he recalled.
“So when track came around, it was it was such an easy thing.”
At age 12, Bailey immigrated to Oakville, Ont., with his family.
Becoming world champion
In 1996, Bailey sought to claim the title of fastest man in the world. As he stood ready to race the 100-metre final at the Atlanta Olympics, he says he was as calm as could be.
“I feel like, you know, I’m wearing my pajamas in the living room watching TV,” said Bailey.
That’s because of his training and preparation leading up to the event.
“Everything I ate, every night I slept, every physio session that I had, every weight that I lifted, every conversation I had around track, every single thing was to that moment,” he said. “I had to have an absolute level of comfort in order to do what I did.”
The first 30 metres of that 100-metre sprint felt “objectively horrible,” Bailey recalled, but he says he was able to stay calm and recover.
“I thought it was my race to lose.”
WATCH | 25 years since Donovan Bailey’s record-breaking 100-metre sprint:
Featured VideoDonovan Bailey looks back on his gold medal-winning and record-breaking 100-metre sprint at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, 25 years later.
By the 70 metre mark, he says he knew the race was his. Bailey set the then-world record, running the 100-metre sprint in 9.84 seconds.
He says it would take him much longer to run 100 metres today — and jokes he would only “make it to 30 metres.”
“What happens, inevitably, is that the competition juices kicks in and I’ll push out of the blocks as hard as I can, and I’ll probably pop my Achilles coming off the blocks,” he said.
“And if I don’t do it then, then I’m going to blow a hamstring by the time I get by the 20, 30 metres.”
Seyyed Hafeez Hashmi, a multi-faceted individual whose diverse expertise spans the realms of journalism, literature, media, and digital innovation. With a rich tapestry of skills and accomplishments, Seyyed Hafeez Hashmi embodies the essence of a prolific author, seasoned journalist, anchor, analyst, graphics designer, social media influencer, and the visionary force behind several impactful platforms.