The 100 meter sprint is often seen as the pinnacle of all the track and field events. There is always a magical sense of anticipation whenever a final, or indeed even a heat of the 100 meters race is about to begin. This is in particular true in grand events such as the Olympic Games where the race is always guaranteed a full house on the night of the men’s or women’s final. Who could forget Beijing 2008 when Usain Bolt proved himself as the fastest man on the planet even whilst having the time to ease off the gas before the finish line?

If you enjoy the Olympics you may be interested in:

Here is the rundown of the 12 all-time fastest men to have sprinted the 100m:

=9 Leroy Burrell - 9.85 Seconds

In 1994, the final of the 100m sprint at the annual track and field competition in Lausanne turned out to be a special one for Burrell who set the world record with his 9.85 seconds. The record stood for two whole years until it was beaten by Donovan Bailey in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

=9 Mike Rodgers - 9.85 Seconds

The first of three other sprinters to match Burrell’s 9.85 seconds is American 100m specialist Mike Rodgers. Rodgers achieved the triumph just recently in the Prefontaine Classic  in June 2011.

=9 Justin Gatlin - 9.85 Seconds

There really is no better place to set your best ever 100m time than in the final of the Olympic Games. American Justin Gatlin did just this in 2004 at Athens claiming the gold medal for himself which turned out to be the highlight of his career. Just three years later in December 2007, Gatlin was given a 4 year ban from sprinting due to doping.

=9 Olusoji Fasuba - 9.85 Seconds

Officially Nigeria and Africa’s fastest man ever across 100m Fasuba ran in 9.85 seconds in May 2006. The achievements of Fasuba are seen as quite remarkable bearing in mind at just 5 foot 5 inches he is a whole foot shorter than the current world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt.

=7 Donovan Bailey - 9.84 Seconds

Pipping Burrell’s all time record by just 1/100th of a second, Donovan Bailey gave Canadian athletics fans something to cheer about following the disqualification of Ben Johnson after his 100m win in the 1988 Olympics for doping. 

=7 Bruny Surin - 9.84 Seconds

Bailey holds the Canadian record of 9.84 seconds with fellow countryman Bruny Surin who achieved the time in 1999 in Seville. At the time, this was the fastest losing time in a 100 m race.

6. Steve Mullings - 9.80 Seconds

Jamaican sprinter Mullings, aged 28 achieved his personal best time of 9.80 seconds this year in Eugene Oregon.

5. Maurice Greene - 9.79 Seconds

Officially the time of 9.79 run by Greene in 1999 stood for six years as a world record until broken by Asafa Powell in 2005. Greene, for a while was a formidable sprinter winning 2 gold medals at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

4. Nesta Carter - 9.78 Seconds

The best 100m time of 2010 was run in 9.78 seconds by both Nesta Carter and Tyson Gay. Carter, a sprinter who has been successful with the Jamaican relay team made huge improvements in 2010 and could be one to watch in the coming years.

3. Asafa Powell - 9.72 Seconds

Experienced sprinter Powell has had a distinguished career as shown by the fact he has broken the 10 second barrier at the 100m more times than anyone else. Once the fastest in the world before the euphoric rise of Bolt, Powell set his personal record a month after his disappointment at the 2008 Olympics.

2. Tyson Gay - 9.69 Seconds

The fastest American to ever run the 100m, Tyson Gay’s time of 9.69 matched that of Usain Bolt’s in the final of the Beijing 2008 100m final. Interestingly at the DN Galan, Stockholm in 2010 Gay (9.84) quite comfortably beat Bolt (9.97) although it was reported that Bolt was nowhere near his optimum fitness. Hopefully, however it will be a confidence boost for Gay ahead of the 2012 Olympics.

1. Usain Bolt - 9.58 Seconds

When Bolt dominated our screens at the 2008 Olympic Games, everything was perfect for him with world record times in both the 100m and 200m sprints. However, it was a year later in Berlin that really should have shocked the world when Bolt broke the 9.6 barrier with a time of 9.58. According to athletes and experts alike Bolt can get his time down to 9.4 seconds if he is at prime fitness.