Rome was ahead of its time

The pictures from that time are black and white and grainy and taken from a great distance, and if you let them run at normal speed you can understand the people who "false start!" screamed. As fast as Armin Hary had shot out of the blocks that were still hammered into the cinder track with long nails, as quickly as he had gained three, four, five meters and more distance from his pursuers, that could not be done with legal matters be. And then also the time that the judges had stopped: 10.0 seconds! That would be a new 100-meter world record, and that was utterly impossible, wasn't it? The arbitration tribunal in Zurich's Letzigrund Stadium quickly declared the race to be invalid.

The "revolution in the world sprint", as Harys biographer Knut Teske later put it, was of course only postponed for a short time. Armin Hary just ran the 100 meters again half an hour later, and he ran it again in 10.0 seconds - this time there was nothing wrong with: the prestigious world record over 100 meters belonged to the 23-year-old from Saarland, who was only two Years before, "sprint sensation that rose from nowhere to European champion", as the SZ wrote. As quickly as he stormed the career, Hary was gone again: After three turbulent years and the Olympic victory in Rome as the crowning glory, he ended his meteoric career.

This Sunday marks the 60th anniversary of Armin Hary's world record run, to this day it is one of the most spectacular achievements in German athletics, a groundbreaking event on the mythical frontier of the sprint, but at that time the whole thing was viewed rather skeptically. "The Zurich record performance was not free from annoyance and complications," wrote the mirror at the time, "those unpleasant circumstances that have always characterized the career of the 100-meter European champion feared by all opponents because of his rocket-like starting ability".

The sports stewards demanded discipline and order - Hary replied

Annoyance and complications - that can probably be said about the relationship between Hary and the officials of the German Athletics Association (DLV). Many of them "experienced their socialization in the late, brown 30s", wrote the biographer Teske, in which they were trained in discipline, order and obedience. Armin Hary, on the other hand, was rebellious and headstrong, he objected, and he had already broken up the hierarchies when he dared to steal the 100-meter victory from the crowd's favorite Manfred Germar from Cologne at the 1958 European Championship in Stockholm.

That summer, Hary had already improved to 10.2 seconds, setting the European record; A few days after winning the European Championship, he then covered the 100 meters in Friedrichshafen for the first time in 10.0 seconds. However, the DLV officials prevented the time from being recognized as a record. They took another precise measurement and found: The track had an impermissible gradient - 0.1 per mille above the permitted value! Calculated over 100 meters, this corresponded to an incline of just one centimeter.

It wasn't Hary's last annoyance with the officials. After the 1959 season, messed up due to injuries and ongoing disputes, in which he fled to the USA to train and think, he got back into shape in the 1960 Olympic year, he wanted to test it in Zurich - but the DLV wanted him to for the games in Rome. The association only gave the go-ahead shortly before the last plane took off from Frankfurt for Switzerland. Hary rushed into the stadium.

Third time 10.0 seconds - recognized for the first time

But even there he did not come to rest, first the supposed record race, then the cancellation, because of which he again argued with the officials, this time the Swiss. The decision about a false start was actually not up to the arbitration board, only the starter - who had let Hary go. After the regular German sports journalist Gustav Schwenk intervened, a new race was scheduled - Hary only had to find two followers to make it comply with the rules. The Swiss champion Heinz Müller agreed, as did Jürgen Schüttler from Cologne. It was ready to go, and Armin Hary ran the 100 meters in 10.0 seconds for the third time in his career. And for the first time they were recognized.

Swiss precision watchmakers later analyzed the films from the two Zurich races again using the most modern methods - they could not detect a false start. If you look closely with the slow motion, you can see that Hary is still in the block when smoke comes out of the starter pistol. In studies at the Freiburg University, he was also certified to be extremely responsive, less than a tenth of a second. Nowadays he wouldn't get very far with that, he would be disqualified immediately: The modern automatic starter reports a false start as soon as someone jumps out of the block earlier than a tenth of a second after the starting shot.

With his anti-authoritarian stance and his talent for sprinting, Armin Hary was ahead of his time by almost a decade. In 1968 young people in Germany rebelled en masse against the ancestors, against the "musty of a thousand years". In 1968 the first sprinter officially covered the 100 meters in less than ten seconds, breaking his world record , Stopped for 9 seconds - on a performance-enhancing plastic track. Four stopwatches were in use on the Zurich Aschenbahn in 1960, with Harys' recognized world record three showed 10.0, the fourth timekeeper came up with 10.1. In the wrongly canceled race, two clocks stopped at 10.0, one at 9.9 - and one even at 9.8, as the judge in question admitted years later. On that evening of June 21, 1960, however, he did not tell his colleagues that, he explained: He could not believe his eyes at the time.