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“After running the 9.9 in Sacramento, I knew I could break 10 seconds. And even before I got to Mexico City, I had run three 9.1s in the 100-yard dash.” -Jim Hines
Jim Hines was born on September 10, 1946 in Dumas, Arkansas. His family moved to Oakland, California in 1952, where Hines began to play baseball with a group of kids from their new neighborhood. He was incredibly fond of the game and dreamed of becoming like Willie Mays.
It was Hines’ love for baseball that got him involved in track. While on Lowell Junior High’s baseball team, Hines’ speedy responses caught the attention of the high school track coach. “I was playing center one day when somebody hit a ball to left field,” he recalls. “The left fielder fell, and I ran over and caught it in left field.” At first, he wasn’t interested in track, but the track coach’s persistence paid off, and when he came to McClymonds High in 1961, Hines agreed to join the team.
“I chose track because… I’d gotten a taste of what it was like to win,” he says. “That was all it took.” During his high school career, Hines was undefeated in the 100 and 220 yard dashes. He set Oakland athletic records for both, and senior year, he ran the 100-yard dash in 9.4 to tie the national prep school record.
After high school, Hines attended Southern Texas University in Houston and ran for their track team. While with the Houston Striders, he ran a 9.1 100-yard dash to equal the world record, sharing the feat with Bob Hayes and Harry Jerome. A year later, he made history at an AAU Nationals semi-final heat in Sacramento. Hines ran a hand-timed 9.9 for 100 meters, making him the first man to break the race’s 10-second barrier.
Four months later, at the Olympics in Mexico City, he was officially entered into the record books as the world’s fastest sprinter. When Hines ran the 100 yard dash on October 15, 1968, the ABC network clock showed a time of 9.89. Though the record books would later settle at a time of 9.95, which Hines disputed, his record-breaking speed received international acclaim. Hines went on to earn the United States another gold in the 400 meter relay.
Hines’ record lasted 15 years, a mark that is highly unusual for sprint records. “Sprint records usually last no more than several years,” said historian and statistician for Track and Field magazine, Hal Bateman. Hines was on the record books until 1983, when Calvin Smith broke it with a 9.93.
Shortly after he won the medals, his Houston apartment was robbed and thieves took the medals. Helpless, Hines took out an advertisement in the local paper asking that medals be returned, with no questions asked. Eventually, they arrived back at his apartment in a brown paper envelope and have since been stored in a safe deposit box.
Today, Jim Hines is a member of the International Track and Field Hall of Fame, the United States Track and Field Hall of Fame and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.
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