9.79

Last night I watched SBS’s broadcast of The Race That Shocked The World.

I though it was a remarkable documentary about events leading up to and following Ben Johnson‘s 100 metres victory in the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

He won the race in a world record time of 9.79 seconds … and was disqualified 48 hours later.

All eight participants in the final were in the documentary: Robson da Silva (Lane 1), Ray Stewart (Lane 2), Carl Lewis (Lane 3), Linford Christie (Lane 4), Calvin Smith (Lane 5), Ben Johnson (Lane 6),  Desai Williams (Lane 7), Dennis Mitchell (Lane 8). The documentary contains archive video of each of these athletes and shows them as they are now, twenty-four years after the race.

For anyone interested in performance in sport there are some fascinating snippets of interviews with a remarkable cast:

  • The eight athletes
  • Contemporary athletes
  • Journalists
  • Coaches (Tom Tellez, Russ Rogers)
  • Joe Douglas (Santa Monica Track Club)
  • Robert Voy
  • Don Catlin
  • John Hoberman

Other dramatis personae were introduced but not interviewed: Charlie Francis; Robert Kerr; Jamie Astaphan.

I think the documentary is an exceptional resource for anyone thinking about qualitative enquiry in high performance sport. The narrative structure is very powerful. It uses historical images and juxtaposes them against the athletes today.

The program reminded me about a post from this blog earlier this year, Eyewitnesses, Memory and Oral History. In the struggle against forgetting I think The Race That Shocked The World is a very significant documentary.

The Race That Shocked The World is available on SBS on Demand for the next two weeks.

Photo Credits

Screen grabs from The Race That Shocked The World

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