During the month of September, Olympic.ca will be exploring “What makes the perfect athlete?” The goal is not to craft a definitive answer, but to acknowledge great athletes and achievements in sport – Canadian and international – throughout the month and welcome fans to discuss their favourite heroes and moments.
In the world of sport, speed matters. A few hundredths or thousandths of a second can be the difference between winning a race and finishing off the podium.
So when it comes to humans reaching insane speeds, which sport can claim to be the fastest? Below are some of the speed records for sports that use human-powered vehicles. No engines allowed here!
Speed Skiing – 252.4 km/h
Depending on your skiing experience, bombing straight down a hill on skis might sound either very dangerous or like just the thrill you are looking for. Well, Italian Simone Origone clearly favours the latter. The all-time leader in a sport known as “speed skiing”, Simone tucked his way down a crazy steep pitch and reached a max speed of 252.4 km/h, making him the fastest man ever on skis.
Snowboarding – 202.0 km/h
While a lot of snowboarders spend their time in terrain parks and focusing on tricks, Australian Darren Powell spent his time on the mountain getting as much speed as possible. Back in 1999, Darren set a world record by flying downhill at 202.0, breaking his own previous world record.
Luge – 154.0 km/h
The Whistler Sliding Centre has the greatest vertical drop and average grade percentage of the tracks currently used by the international federations for luge, bobsleigh and skeleton. During a training run at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, Austrian luger Manuel Pfister set the record for the fastest speed recorded at the Whistler track, reaching a blistering 154.0 km/h.
Bobsleigh – 153.4 km/h
Similar to luge, bobsledders also know of the Whistler track as being the fastest in the world. The fastest bobsleigh speed recorded at Vancouver 2010 was 153.4 km/h from Germany’s 4-man team of Karl Angerer, Alex Mann, Andreas Bredau and Gregor Bermbach. In the 2-man competition, the fastest recorded speed came from the German pair of Andre Lange & Kevin Kuske.
Skeleton – 146.4 km/h
Just like their sliding cousins, skeleton sliders know that the top speeds in the world come at the Whistler track. During the third skeleton run at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games, Russian Alexander Tretyakov and German Sandro Stielicke both set a new record when they each reached a top speed of 146.4 km/h.
Skateboarding – 130.1 km/h
Lots of kids and adults are taking up skateboarding these days, but most are interested in doing kick-flips and other tricks with their boards. However, Vernon, BC’s Mischo Erban cared more about reaching insane speeds on his board. Erban set a world record when he was clocked at over 130 km/h while bombing down a secret highway in Northern Colorado.
Sailing – 121.2 km/h
Sailing seems like a nice way to relax on the open water, but sail boats are also used for racing and they can reach some pretty incredible speeds. In 2012, sailor Paul Larsen and his crew set the world speed sailing record when they sailed the Vestas Sailrocket 2 to a max speed of 64.54 knots (121.2 km/h).
Kiteboarding – 103.1 km/h
Kiteboarding may be a relatively new sport, but that hasn’t stopped enthusiasts from attacking speed records with the same ferocity as other sailors. Back in 2010, American kiteboarder Rob Douglas set the world speed record, reaching 55.65 knots (103.1 km/h).
Windsurfing – 100.2 km/h
In some parts of the world, the wind whips at rather unbelievable speeds. French windsurfer Antoine Albeau learned to harness the power of the wind for his own benefit. At a competition in Namibia, Albeau was able to increase the world record speed on a windsurfer, which he had previously set, to a new mark of 54.1 knots (100.2 km/h).
Ski Jumping – 96.6 km/h
Ski jumpers may not go as fast as their downhill cousins, but they have still managed reach some pretty impressive speeds. The top speed reached by ski jumpers during the 2013-14 World Cup season (also the fastest speed we could find) was 60 mp/h (96.6 km/h).
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Cycling – 76.6 km/h
If you have ever tried to go full speed on a bike, then you know just how fast it can feel. Well, according to the International Cycling Union’s records, the fastest speed ever recorded over 200m with a flying start is 76.6 km/h, achieved by French track cyclist François Pervis in 2013. TO2015 Chef de Mission and Canadian cycling legend Curt Harnett sits in 5th all time, having reached a speed of 72.9 km/h back in 1995.
On Thursday September 18, Jens Voigt set another cycling record, covering 51.115 km in what is commonly referred to as “the hour” (which puts his average speed at 51.1 km/h). As the end of the hour drew near, the German kept getting faster and faster (click here to watch the entire race). Following his triumph, Voigt announced that he was officially retiring from competition. We will see how long Voigt’s record remains at the top, as one of cycling’s best, Bradley Wiggins, is apparently ready to take a shot at prestigious hour record in the next year.
Horse Racing – 70.8 km/h
Sure cars have power, but when they are compared to one another they use a metric called horsepower. However, I highly doubt that the horse that was used to determine the metric was named Winning Brew. Back in 2008, Winning Brew set the record as the fastest race horse ever after reaching a speed of 70.8 km/h.
Speed Skating – 59.3 km/h
Over his illustrious speed skating career, four-time Olympian Jeremy Wotherspoon set many incredible records. One of the most impressive records is the fastest 400m flying lap, when Wotherspoon reached a speed of 59.3 km/h.
Sprinting – 44.7 km/h
Usain “lighting” Bolt set a new world record for the fastest 100m race ever at the 2009 IAAF World Championships when he finished with a time of 9.58 seconds. Over the course of the race, Bolt’s average speed was 37.6 km/h, but from the 60m to 80m marks he reached a max speed of 44.7 km/h. The video below shows just how far ahead of the competition he really was.
Kayak – 24.8 km/h
Kayaking can be a great way to relax on the open water, while for some it is all about speed. According to the International Canoe Federation, which also governs kayaking, the fastest speed in a kayak was achieved by Hungary’s 4-man crew back in 1997 when they averaged 24.8 km/h.
Rowing – 22.6 km/h
I am sure professional rowers never appreciated the song “Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream”. The fastest rowing boat ever over 2,000m was the Canadian men’s eight at the 2012 Lucerne World Cup, which had an average speed of 22.6 km/h.
Canoe – 22.5 km/h
Most Canadians can say that they have been in a canoe, but most of them have never actually “raced” a canoe. The fastest average speed over the course of a race came from Romania’s 4-man boat back in 1997 when they completed the 200m race in 32.8 seconds, which equates to an average speed of 22.5 km/h.
For comparisons’ sake…/p>
Skydiving/Space Jumping – 1,342 km/h
Felix Baumgartner owns the record for the highest and fastest skydive ever. In 2012, the Austrian completed one of the most daring feats in human history, taking a balloon over 24 miles up in the air, only to jump out. The 128,000 foot skydive, which was obviously sponsored by Red Bull, included almost four and a half minutes of free fall. On his way back to Earth (he was basically in space) he reached speeds faster than Mach 1, topping out at an insane 1,342 km/h.
Did I miss something? Let me know in the comments below.