Frank Fredericks, the two-time Olympic silver medalist from Namibia and BYU, equalled the third fastest time in history while winning the 100-meter dash Tuesday in Helsinki. In the process he defeated defending world champion Donovan Bailey of Canada.
Fredericks' time of 9.87, which easily bettered the fastest times in the world this year (9.92 by Ato Bolden and Dennis Mitchell), has been bettered by only two men in history - Leroy Burrell (9.85 in 1994) and Carl Lewis (9.86 in '91). Defending Olympic champion Linford Christie also ran 9.87 to win the 1993 world championships."It was incredible, absolutely incredible. Frank blew everyone away," Fredericks' coach, Willard Hirschi, told the Deseret News by phone from Helsinki. Fredericks, the 1992 Olympic silver medalist in the 100 and 200, has been on a tear this season. Earlier this year he set world indoor records for the 100- and 200-meter dashes of 10.05 and 19.92. He also equaled his outdoor personal record in the 100 of 9.95.
"I was expecting a close race," said Hirschi. "Part way through the race, I thought, Where's Bailey? What's going on here? Then I saw the time. I thought, Holy cow, is this for real?"
The race came just 24 days before the Olympic Games. "What happened in this race was important psychologically," said Hirschi.
Fredericks, who is scheduled to compete in several European races before the Olympics, could be headed for a pre-Olympic showdown with American great Michael Johnson in the 200 next week, according to Hirschi.
"I had not expected to do this well, but obviously it is possible to run well in any conditions," said Fredericks.
Fredericks was aided by a wind of 1.9 meters per second, just under the allowable of 2.0 for record purposes. Britain's Darren Braithwaite followed in 10.13 and world champion Donovan Bailey of Canada was third in 10.15.
"Obviously a world champion in the same race helped," said Fredericks, who broke the stadium mark of 10.07 set by Lewis in the 1983. "I wanted to make sure of a good reaction time, because Donovan comes back in the middle of the race."
Fredericks said the 200 will be his top event in the Olympics.