Night of Speed
On June 20, 1968, two semi-final races were held as part of the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships held at Hughes Stadium in Sacramento, California. At the time, the world record for the 100 metres was 10.0, hand timed, set and equalled over the years by Armin Hary (Germany) and Harry Jerome (Canada) in 1960, Horacio Esteves (Venezuela) and Bob Hayes (United States) in 1964, Jim Hines (United States) and Enrique Figueroa (Cuba) in 1967, and by Paul Nash (South Africa) and Oliver Ford (United States) earlier in 1968. Earlier in the day, with the maximum allowable wind of 2.0, Roger Bambuck (France) and Charles Greene (United States) had again tied the world record.
With a 0.8 aiding wind, Hines won the first semi-final, timed in 9.9, to set the new world record, but in second place Ronnie Ray Smith (United States) was also credited with the same time, equalling the world record. Minutes later in the second semi-final, with a 0.9 aiding wind Greene was also given the same time. As this was before the acceptance of fully automatic timing, the hand times were official, each recorded by three separate hand timed stopwatches. An experimental Accutrack timing device was being used for this meet, the times recorded by it showed Hines ran 10.03, Smith 10.14 and Greene 10.10, information held for the interest of future track statisticians.
Greene went on to win the National Championship, in a wind aided 10.0.
Later that year, with the assistance of the altitude of Mexico City at the Athletics at the 1968 Summer Olympics, Hines would improve the record to 9.95 while winning the Gold medal, which was to become the first accepted fully automatic timed world record accepted when the IAAF adopted such times in 1977. At those same Olympics, Greene took the Bronze medal and all three teamed with Mel Pender to win the Gold medal in the 4x100 metres relay in world record time. Over the next eight seasons before the IAAF changed their record criteria, six more individuals had tied the 9.9 hand timed world record. The automatic 9.95 was not surpassed until 1983, when Calvin Smith ran 9.93, again at altitude, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
It is worth noting that Bob Hayes had been timed at 9.9 seconds in the final of the 100 metres at the 1964 Olympics, four years earlier. The official time was given as 10.0 seconds because of an idiosyncratic method of measuring the 'hand' times which was only used at that Olympics.