Michael Norman Runs 9.86 for 100 Meters, Joins Wayde van Niekerk as Only Members of Sub-10/20/44 Club

By Jonathan Gault
July 20, 2020

Any conversation about the most versatile sprinter in history must now include Michael Norman‘s name.

On Monday afternoon, the 22-year-old tweeted out a video of himself running 9.86 seconds in the 100 meters in his first race of the 2020 season in Fort Worth, Tex., — a significant improvement on his 10.27 personal best he set as a high schooler in 2016, the last time Norman raced over 100. He is the first person in history to break 9.90 seconds in the 100 and 44.00 in the 400.

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Norman winning the 400 at the 2019 Pre Classic (Phil Bond photo)

Norman’s tweet set the track internet ablaze; his PBs of 9.86/19.70/43.45 mean that he’s only the second athlete — after Wayde van Niekerk — to break 10.00 in the 100, 20.00 in the 200, and 44.00 in the 400. His 100/200/400 bests also compare favorably to the combined performances of sprint royalty such as Usain Bolt and Michael Johnson.

The big difference between Norman, the 2018 NCAA champion for USC, and the other names in that paragraph is hardware: van Niekerk, Bolt, and Johnson have all won multiple world and/or Olympic titles. Norman has never even won a US title, let alone a global medal (he did run the fastest indoor time ever for 400 meters in 2018, but it was not officially ratified as a world record). However, Norman is still only 22 years old; Johnson and van Niekerk did not win their first global outdoor titles until age 23 (Bolt, ever the exception, won his first at 21).

Norman won the Diamond League 400 title in 2019 but did not appear to be 100% at Worlds and was eliminated in the semifinals.

Putting Norman’s PBs in Context

Before even considering Norman’s other PBs, it’s important to remember 9.86 is pretty damn fast on its own. It’s the fastest time in the world in 2020, and last year only one man ran faster: world champ Christian Coleman (9.76), who is currently provisionally suspended from the sport for whereabouts failures.

In the 100 meters, Norman is now tied for 8th on the all-time US list (and 17th on the all-time world list) with a couple of guys you may have heard of: Noah Lyles and two-time Olympic 100 champ Carl Lewis.

All-time US men’s 100m list

Rank Time Name Location Date
1 9.69 Tyson GAY Shanghai 20 Sep 2009
2 9.74 Justin GATLIN Doha 15 May 2015
3 9.76 Christian COLEMAN Doha 28 Sep 2019
4 9.79 Maurice GREENE Athens 16 Jun 1999
5 9.84 Trayvon BROMELL Eugene 25 Jun 2015
6 9.85 Leroy BURRELL Lausanne 06 Jul 1994
6 9.85 Michael RODGERS Eugene 04 Jun 2011
8 9.86 Michael NORMAN Fort Worth 20 Jul 2020
8 9.86 Carl LEWIS Tokyo 25 Aug 1991
8 9.86 Noah LYLES Shanghai 18 May 2019

There are a couple of ways to compare performances across 100/200/400, but any way you slice it, Norman’s PBs put him close to the two greatest sprinters of all time: Usain Bolt and Michael Johnson.

If you go by World Athletics’ scoring tables (which are used to compare performances across disciplines), Norman’s PBs are worth a combined total of 3811 points — behind only Bolt and Johnson.

If you go by total time (which is skewed toward 400 specialists), Norman still ranks third, moving ahead of Bolt but sliding behind Wayde van Niekerk.

In case you’re curious, the 100/400 double at the 2021 Olympics would be very difficult, requiring Norman to run round one of the 400 on the morning of August 1 and the semis and final of the 100 that evening. The 200/400 double is slightly more forgiving — the two events are never contested on the same day, but would require Norman racing five days in a row (including the 200 prelims and semis on the same day). The 100/200 double is the easiest of the three, but given the 400 is Norman’s strongest event, it seems unlikely he wouldn’t run it in Tokyo next year (assuming the Olympics are held).

Talk about Norman’s great 100 on our fan forum / messageboard. MB: MICHAEL NORMAN 9.86!!!! (1.6).

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