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Donovan Bailey Biography

Hones Sprinting Skills, Captures Olympic Gold, Calls It Quits, Chronology, Awards And Accomplishments


Canadian sprinter

Canadian sprinter Donovan Bailey set the world record in a 100-meter race in 1996, earning the distinction of "world's fastest man." At his peak during the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, the Jamaican-born Bailey ran a record-setting, gold-medal-winning time of 9.84 seconds. With three teammates, he also captured the gold in the 4×100-meter relay. In Canada, his home since age 13, Bailey became a star, if not a national hero. The outspoken athlete gained a reputation for bluntness and bravado, often publicly ridiculing his rivals. He retained his world record until 1999, when American sprinter Maurice Greene outstripped him by 5-100ths of a second. By then Bailey had sustained a nearly careerending Achilles tendon injury; he went on to recover and return to sprinting, retiring in 2001 before his 34th birthday.

Bailey, one of five sons born in Manchester, Jamaica to George and Daisy Bailey, would wake at dawn to help tend to the family's chickens, goats, and pigs before going to school. He moved with his family to the Toronto suburb of Oakville in 1981. Here Bailey attended Queen Elizabeth Park High School, becoming a track and basketball standout. "I could have left high school and run track right away, but that wasn't what I wanted," he told Michael Farber of Sports Illustrated. "I wanted a nice house, money, fast cars. I was taught to work real hard, to work on my own."

Bailey attended Sheridan College in Oakville, playing forward for one season on the basketball team. Graduating with a degree in economics, he set out to accomplish his material goals. A self-made businessman, Bailey worked as a marketing and property consultant, and ran a business importing and exporting clothing. At 22 he bought a house in Oakville and drove a Porsche 911 convertible. But track and field still lured him, and in 1991 he began to train seriously as a sprinter.

Sketch by Wendy Kagan

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Famous Sports StarsTrack and Field