On this day: Double sprint thrill | 1996 Atlanta Olympics

Donovan Bailey of Canada - followed by Frankie Fredericks of Namibia and Ato Boldon of Trinidad - leads the pack in the record-setting men's 100-meter run Saturday, July 27, 1996, at Olympic Stadium in Atlanta. (Rich Addicks/AJC)

Credit: AJC

Combined ShapeCaption
Donovan Bailey of Canada - followed by Frankie Fredericks of Namibia and Ato Boldon of Trinidad - leads the pack in the record-setting men's 100-meter run Saturday, July 27, 1996, at Olympic Stadium in Atlanta. (Rich Addicks/AJC)

Credit: AJC

Editor’s Note: This story was published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Sunday, July 28, 1996, as high drama hit the track at Olympic Stadium. This is a daily take of the events that transpired on the 25th anniversary of the Games in Atlanta.

Up across the border in Canada, where they’d lived through the embarrassment of a drug-busted Ben Johnson, they had reason to shed tears of joy Saturday night. Another adopted son has become the Olympic 100-meter champion.

ExploreEyewitness to history: Gail Devers in photo finish

And the world record-holder.

Donovan Bailey.

After nervously waiting out three false starts, the last of which sent Barcelona Olympic champion Linford Christie to an early shower, Bailey pulled away over the closing 30 meters to win in 9.84 seconds. Gone was Leroy Burrell’s world mark of 9.85. Same for Carl Lewis’ Olympic record of 9.92.

It was a night for sensational sprints. The women’s race offered high drama, with Gail Devers repeating as gold medalist, but only after a photo finish with runner-up Merlene Ottey of Jamaica and Atlanta’s Gwen Torrence, who seemed grateful to have taken the bronze.

Combined ShapeCaption
These two views show the women's 100 meter final finish line seen from the stands (left) and from the infield camera (right) at the Olympic Stadium during the 1996 Summer Olympic Games Saturday July 27, 1996 in Atlanta. Officials determined that Gail Devers of the United States won the gold by .005 seconds over Merlene Ottey of Jamaica. At left photo, Gail Devers is shown at top right, below her is Merlene Ottey, and below Ottey is Gwen Torrence. At right photo Devers is at left with feet having already crossed the finish line, Ottey is seen at right above her, and Torrence is above Ottey. (AP)

Credit: AP

These two views show the women's 100 meter final finish line seen from the stands (left) and from the infield camera (right) at the Olympic Stadium during the 1996 Summer Olympic Games Saturday July 27, 1996 in Atlanta. Officials determined that Gail Devers of the United States won the gold by .005 seconds over Merlene Ottey of Jamaica. At left photo, Gail Devers is shown at top right, below her is Merlene Ottey, and below Ottey is Gwen Torrence. At right photo Devers is at left with feet having already crossed the finish line, Ottey is seen at right above her, and Torrence is above Ottey. (AP)

Credit: AP

Combined ShapeCaption
These two views show the women's 100 meter final finish line seen from the stands (left) and from the infield camera (right) at the Olympic Stadium during the 1996 Summer Olympic Games Saturday July 27, 1996 in Atlanta. Officials determined that Gail Devers of the United States won the gold by .005 seconds over Merlene Ottey of Jamaica. At left photo, Gail Devers is shown at top right, below her is Merlene Ottey, and below Ottey is Gwen Torrence. At right photo Devers is at left with feet having already crossed the finish line, Ottey is seen at right above her, and Torrence is above Ottey. (AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

It was also a night of controversy involving false starts, which are detected by a special timing system that was adopted partly at Christie’s urging.

The starter’s gun is tied into the system, and its sensors detect how soon after the blast the runners move. The shortest allowable time between those events, known as reaction time, is 0.1 seconds. According to meet referee John Chaplin, the system detected that Christie moved 0.086 seconds after the gun on his second false start.

That didn’t prevent the world record that UCLA sprinter Ato Boldon had predicted. The Trinidad star claimed the bronze in a national-record 9.90. The pre-race favorite and the season’s hottest sprinter, Frankie Fredericks of Namibia, was second in 9.89.

“I’m not trying to undo what Ben did in Seoul,” said Bailey, referring to the man who was sprint champion in Seoul in 1988 until his drug test came back positive. “My name is Donovan Bailey. No matter what happens in history, because it was such a huge story, it’s always going to come up.”

Having moved to Canada in his early teens, Bailey remembers watching the race in a Toronto bar with pals. Johnson was a hero, an inspiration. Later, though upset with Johnson’s actions, he was equally peeved with the way Canadians turned on their fallen star.

Combined ShapeCaption
Gail Devers (right), of the U.S., and Merlene Ottey, of Jamaica, cross the finish line in the 1996 Summer Olympics women's 100-meter final Saturday, July 27, 1996, at Olympic Stadium in Atlanta. Devers won gold. (Michael Probst/AP)

Credit: AP

Gail Devers (right), of the U.S., and Merlene Ottey, of Jamaica, cross the finish line in the 1996 Summer Olympics women's 100-meter final Saturday, July 27, 1996, at Olympic Stadium in Atlanta. Devers won gold. (Michael Probst/AP)

Credit: AP

Combined ShapeCaption
Gail Devers (right), of the U.S., and Merlene Ottey, of Jamaica, cross the finish line in the 1996 Summer Olympics women's 100-meter final Saturday, July 27, 1996, at Olympic Stadium in Atlanta. Devers won gold. (Michael Probst/AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

“I wasn’t thinking world record,” said Bailey, who advanced from the semifinals in a modest 10 seconds flat.

With Dennis Mitchell and Mike Marsh fourth and fifth, respectively, this was the first time an American failed to take the medal stand in a non-boycotted Olympics since the 1976 Games.

“This may be a wake-up call,” Marsh said. “Pretty soon we’re going to get tired of it.’'

Now, the Jamaican-born sprinters are on a roll. Johnson hails from the Caribbean island, as does defending Olympic champion Christie and Ben Johnson.

Striking a nationalist cord, Bailey said his birthplace deserves more than its fair share of this latest gold.

“I don’t think of the Jamaicans even sharing in it,” he said. “I am Jamaican, man. That’s home. You can never take that away from me. I’m a Jamaican-born Canadian sprinter.”

Day 8: Gail Devers sets 100-meter pace | Day 10: Late sub kicks U.S. women into soccer final