The CHill Zone of T&F: Conway's View From the Finish Line

Top 200 Meter Races of All Time – Women

Nov 3rd, 2012
10:02 am PDT

Allyson Felix2
The men’s event was tough, the women were even tougher. The biggest problem being depth, as most races over the years have suffers from lack of great depth. Just as in the 100, the great female sprint crews of the 90s have a presence on this list, but there is a nice sprinkling of some of the greatest female sprinters of all time with Evelyn Ashford, Valerie Brisco, and the New Millennium group of Felix, Campbell Brown, Jeter, and Fraser Pryce, among others are also heard from.

There have been great 100 meter runs and great quarter miles, but after reviewing things of 200 meter races, I’m convinced that this event had seen the best of female sprinting. With that, here are what I considered the ten best women’s deuces ever.

1. 1988 Olympics – A runaway winner in spite of FloJo’ s runaway victory. Yes it’s nice that the WR was set, but it’s the fact that it’s the only race ever with four women under 22.00 that makes it #1! No other women’s race has seen this kind of depth, and the race behind Flo was hot. And just like Atlanta for the men, second place was faster than the WR at the start of the year. This was easily the best tract every over the distance – and one of the best supporting races ever IMHO.

21.34 – Florence Griffith Joyner
21.72 – Grace Jackson
21.95 – Heike Drechsler
21.99 – Merlene Ottey
22.09 – Silka Moller
22.17 – Gwen Torrence
22.33 – Maya Azarashvili
22.42 – Galina Malchugina

2. 1984 Olympics – This race and my #3 race gave me fits trying to decide which went where. In the end it was the closeness of Los Angeles combined with the impact the race had on the all time list, that gained this race the #2 slot. Brisco Hooks was sterling on the turn, while Griffith, Ottey and Cook gave valiant chase, making the race exciting on top of everything stated above. The winning time was #2 all time in ’84 and the race itself the best finish ever for a field to date. A third of this field returned for the Big ’88 race.

21.81 – Valerie Brisco Hooks
22.04 – Florence Griffith
22.09 – Merlene Ottey
22.10 – Kathy Smallwood
22.20 -Grace Jackson
22.36 – Randy Givens
22.78 – Rose Aimee Backup
22.86 – Lilliane Gascet

3. 2008 Olympics – The second Olympic showdown between Veronica Campbell Brown and Allyson Felix produced another affair with two women under 22.00. As their races tend to be run, we got the classic turn v straight 200 matchup with the turn winning round two. We also got two other women right on the edge of sub22 – making this the deepest race outside of Seoul and number three on my list. Felix and Campbell Brown returned again to go head to head in London ’12.

21.74.- Veronica Campbell Brown
21.93 – Allyson Felix
22.00 – Kerron Stewart
22.01 – Muna Lee
22.34 – Marshevet Hooker
22.36 – Sherone Simpson
22.61 – Debbie Ferguson McKenzie
22.68 – Cydonie Mothersill

4. 1988 Olympic Trials – The women’s 100 is the race everyone talks about from ’88, but this was the best race of the meet as Pam Marshall showed her stuff and pressed Griffith Joyner down the stretch. Joyner had run a near WR in the rounds,but Marshall was not intimidated. Easily the best Olympic Trials performance ever among some of the best US sprinters of all time. Defending Olympic champ Brisco just missed the team to rising star Torrence as a generational change was in the offing.

21.85 – Florence Griffith Joyner
21.93 – Pam Marshall
22.02 – Gwen Torrence
22.11 – Valerie Brisco
22.39 – Alice Brown
22.52 – Dannette Young
22.93 – Wenda Vereen
22.98 – Diane Williams

5. 1999 World Championships – This is another race that gave me fits – sort of the women’s version of the men’s Edmonton race. Here we had a sterling run by Miller in what proved to be the last significant meet of her career, and then a drop off to an extremely close race for the next four spots and the remaining two medals with .06 separating the four sprinters. The excitement of the race, plus the closeness of the the finish of the field moves this race into the upper half of the list – in spite of the less than stellar times.

21.77 – Inger Miller
22.22 – Beverly McDonald
22.26 – Merlene Fraser
22.26 – Andrea Philip
22.28 – Debbie Ferguson
22.42 – Fatima Yusuf
22.53 – Lauren Hewitt
22.64 – Juliet Campbell

6. 1987 World Championships – This is the original double sub race, as Gladisch burned the turn and Griffith gave pursuit. Gladisch, better known as a100 meter runner made a major move up on the all-time list here – and judging from Griffith’s results a year later taught Florence a valuable lesson. The results were solid through the first four, with a young Torrence getting valuable seasoning.

21.74 – Silke Gladisch
21.96 – Florence Griffith
22.06 – Merlene Ottey
22.18 – Pam Marshall
22.40 – Gwen Torrence
22.52 – Mary Onyali
22.52 – Ewa Kasprzyk
22.55 – Nadezhna Georgieva

7. 1992 Olympics – That 90s group of Torrence, Ottey, Privalova and crew strike here in the deuce with a race that highlighted Torrence’s late race strength. Coming off the turn with several women lined up across the track 100 meter style, Torrence powered down the stretch with the field leaning for medals behind her. A nice sub22 and a pair of 22 “flats” along with an exciting finish garners this race a spot on the list.

21.81 – Gwen Torrence
22.02 – Juliet Cuthbert
22.09 – Merlene Ottey
22.19 – Irina Privalova
22.30 – Carlette Guidry
22.58 – Grace Jackson
22.61 – Michelle Finn
22.63 – Galina Malchugina

8. 1993 World Championships – This was almost #7, the races were that close for me. This was the closest finish for 1,2 of all the races on the list. A Classic between Ottey and Torrence – and Ottey’s one big gold medal run – with the race coming down to the lean at the tape. Throw in decent times for the top half of the race and this is a good spot I think as the 90s crew strikes again.

21.98 – Merlene Ottey
22.00 – Gwen Torrence
22.13 – Irina Privalova
22.20 – Marie Jose Parec
22.32 – Mary Onyali
22.50 – Natalya Voronova
22.50 – Galina Malchugina
23.04 – Dannette Young

9. 2012 Olympics - Perhaps the most loaded field ever in terms of pure speed with all three 100 medalists coming back to double, and four women with 100 Meter bests under 10.90 – making the turn critical. And that’s what we got, an exciting turn as half the field battled the first 100 for advantage into the straight. Strength prevailed in the end as the field strung out in the straight, choosing the race a bit higher ranking. Felix finally got Olympic gold to go with three World titles.

21.88 – Allyson Felix
22.09 – Shelley Ann Fraser Pryce
22.14 – Carmelita Jeter
22.38 – Veronica Campbell Brown
22.39 – Sanya Richards Ross
22.57 – Murielle Ahoure
22.63 – Myriam Soumare
22.87 – Semoy Hacket

10. 1979 World Cup – This race was a two woman affair, and the marks behind these two were decent for the time thru 4th place and a bit less than average thereafter – as most World Cup results have been. But that two woman race was one of the most significant in the history of the sport as it was the defining moment between the West and East during the days of Eastern Bloc dominance of the sport. Ashford’s victory against the WR holder was a crushing blow and began her reign as perhaps the sports greatest ever female sprinter – and moved her to the #2 spot on the all time list. With Koch nearly sub22 it was easily the fastest race to date as this dynamic duo left the rest in their wake. I toyed with a couple other races for this spot, but this race was both to dynamic and significant to leave it off.

21.83 – Evelyn Ashford
22.02 – Marita Koch
22.66 – Lyudmila Kondratyeva
22.78 – Annegret Richter
22.83 – Angela Taylor
23.61 – Hannah Afriyie
23.78 – Kim Robertson
24.60 – Sumiko Kaihara

I can only imagine what it’s going to be like trying to rank the 400 meters. Times, finishes, depth. This is a bit more difficult than I expected. But a lot of fun reviewing, reliving, some of the greatest races ever.

4 Responses to “Top 200 Meter Races of All Time – Women”

  1. Anderson says:

    I want to argue for the 2012 US trials for this list. Not only because Felix movrd to #4 all time, but also because of the women in the race. Basically places 1-7 were all capable of making the team, and most wouldn’t have been surprised to see any of them in any of the 7 spots. The build-up was insourmountable with the dead heat from the 100m, SRR, Jeter, Felix, Madison, Duncan all with top times in the world before the race. The drop off from felix was big, and there was no close finish, but it was definately a top 200m race IMO

    • Anderson says:

      Also curious what you think of the 22 second barrier for women. Seems like its compared to 20 second for men when in reality 21 seconds happens way less often then 19 seconds. I think that any time a race is run with 21 second, its automatically put as one of the better races of the year.

      • CHill says:

        I have mixed feelings ..

        We’re getting a lot of sub 20s NOW, but that’s really recent .. For most of the past few decades 20/22 were pretty equitable ..

        I think the issue has been the same as with the men – over emphasis on the 100 for money and prestige .. We should have seen more VCBs and Felix’ by now .. Jeter and Fraser are starting to get there .. But going back to the late 80s / early 90s we knew this was possible long ago ..

        That said, I think it’s an accurate “barrier” … Look at 49.00 !! I think the same story exists .. Women aren’t getting there, yet I think the barrier is accurate .. The right women are not in the event .. It’s a speed event yet we’re not seeing sprinter types there any more .. Sanya, and Allyson on occasion .. The issue is the event is in a “down period”, not that the barrier is off ..

    • CHill says:

      I have some thought to that race, but didn’t put it on the list for all the reasons you gave .. The build up may have been the biggest ever, but then the race fell a bit short .. Only Felix lived up to the hype .. Possibly because so many doubled .. But too big a gap and the race was too strung out ..

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