Bob Hayes, World’s Fastest Human

The world’s fastest human was Bob Hayes, the only man to win both an Olympic gold medal and a Super Bowl ring, and hold world records in the 60-, 100-, and 220-yard dashes and the Olympic 100-meter dash at the same time.

I remember the Tokyo Olympic games in 1964. Bob Hayes won the Olympic championship in the 100 meter dash in 10 seconds flat, which tied the world record. Five days later, he ran anchor in the finals of the Olympic 440 meter relay. The fastest man on a relay team runs last, so in the anchor leg, he took the baton from Dick Stebbins in the passing zone about five yards sooner than usual. He received the baton in fifth place 112 yards from the finish line. The “World’s Fastest Human” saw the United Nations in front of him. First, he had to catch Jamaica. Then, he had to catch Russia, then Poland and then France. In a blur that lasted 8.6 seconds, Bob Hayes ran the fastest 110 meters of all time. The 1936 four-time Olympic gold medalist, Jesse Owens, was sitting in the stands next to Hayes’ mother, Mary, during that anchor leg of the 400-meter relay. It is one of the most electrifying performances in Olympic history that will still send chills up and down your spine when you watch it.

JUST AS DOMINANT IN FOOTBALL: The next year, Bob Hayes played for the Dallas Cowboys, gained more than 1000 yards that season, and led the NFL in yards per catch (21.8) and receiving touchdowns (12). He was so fast that opposing teams had to play zone defense against him because no one man could cover him when he went out for pass.

HE HAD A MISERABLE CHILDHOOD. He was very poor. He told reporters: “I didn’t have a normal teen-age life. It was hard and tough…pool halls and shoeshine parlors. Even with church on Sunday. It was the fast lane on street corners with my dad.”

FLAT FEET: After he was born, the doctor told his mother that he had flat feet and put him in casts to help straighten out his feet. Several newspaper articles claimed that Bob Hayes went on to become the world’s fastest human in spite being born with such flat feet that he had to be put in casts to have them corrected. The articles should have said that BOB HAYES WENT ON TO BECOME THE WORLD’S FASTEST HUMAN IN SPITE OF BEING ABUSED BY SOME UNKNOWING PHYSICIAN WHO ALMOST RUINED HIS ATHLETIC CAREER BY PUTTING CASTS ON THE WORLD’S STRONGEST FEET.

People with flat feet can usually run very fast and are less likely to become injured. During World War II, flat feet would have gotten you out of the army, but many studies show that people who have the flattest feet suffer the fewest injuries (Archives of Family Medicine 1993(July);21:64).

When you run, you land on the outside bottom of your feet and roll inward to absorb the hard shock of your foot striking the ground. Most people who have flat feet have normal arches. Their feet appear flat because they have flexible ankles that allow their feet to roll so far inward that their arches touch the ground, so you can’t see them. The more you roll in, the greater the shock absorption and protection from injury. People with flat feet are often fast runners because rolling in allows their feet to press harder on the ground to send them forward with greater force. Almost all of the world’s great sprinters have flat feet.

LIFE AFTER FOOTBALL FOR AN OLYMPIC CHAMPION: He retired in 1976 and was inducted into the National Track & Field Hall of Fame later that year. In 1979 he was convicted of drug trafficking, spent 10 months in jail and was hospitalized three times. In the mid-1990s he moved back to Jacksonville to live with his parents. However, the drug and alcohol problems continued and he required rehabilitation programs three times after his retirement.

TEN PERCENT OF ADULTS WILL BECOME ALCOHOLIC IF THEY DRINK AT ALL. “I’ve got five generations of alcoholics in my family,” Hayes told reporters. “Alcoholism is powerful and fatal. I was out there, going nowhere, trying to find a solution. I just had to grow up.”

An acute case of intoxication with alcohol brought him to an emergency room where he was told that drinking had damaged his heart, liver and kidneys. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer that had spread and given surgery and radiation which did not destroy the tumor. He aged incredibly, spoke like a very old man, coughed incessantly, couldn’t walk, and his thin legs twitched all the time.

Bob Hayes, The world’s fastest human, died of kidney failure at age 59 on September 18, 2002.

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