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Sheffield 99 Monday, 20 September, 1999, 11:04 GMT 12:04 UK
Chinese woman produced 'greatest ever' run
Controversy followed Wang Junxia's world record
By BBC News Online's Damian Carrington

The greatest run of all time was not Michael Johnson's 200 metres in Atlanta, or even Haile Gebrselassie's 10,000 m in 1998, but Wang Junxia's 10,000 m in 1993, according to a British statistician.

Festival of Science
The Chinese woman's startling run smashed the previous world best but attracted considerable controversy because of allegations regarding the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Michael Johnson: A star at the last Olympics
Nonetheless, a new statistical analysis by Dr Howard Grubb, from Reading University, rates her run as the best world record on the books.

Dr Grubb compiled the 200 all-time bests in each track event from the 100 m up to marathons. He then compared the speeds of the athletes at each distance and saw a smooth trend for both men and women.

He identified the very best performances by spotting which world records stuck out above the general trend.

The most remarkable (compared to an average of 100%):

  1. Wang Junxia - 10,000 m - September 1993 - 102.0%
  2. Wang Junxia - 3,000 m - September 1993 - 101.5%
  3. Haile Gebrselassie - 10,000 m - June 1998 - 101.1%
  4. Michael Johnson - 200 m - Aug 1996 - 100.9%
According to Dr Grubb's analysis, the women's 5,000 m record should be the most vulnerable to attack, rating just 98.9%, whilst the men's event lying furthest below average is the 100m.

Maurice Green, the world's fastest man at 9.79 seconds over 100 m, should be aiming for 9.71s to reach Dr Grubb's predicted world record.

Seb Coe: Top of the Brits
The greatest run of all-time by a British athlete was Sebastian Coe's 800 m in June 1981, a world record at the time, followed by Steve Jones's marathon run in October 1985. The 400 m is the most likely to improve.

For British women, Paula Radcliffe's world championship 10,000 m this year is the most excellent.

However, Dr Grubb acknowledges that some will disagree with his approach: "The particular conditions of a race, if the weather was hot or cold, if a pacemaker was used, could have an effect," he said. His analysis was given to the British Association's Festival of Science in Sheffield, UK.

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