Fifty-nine track and field athletes won gold medals during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. But only three of them broke a world record.
The performances of Almaz Ayana (women’s 10,000 meters), Wayde van Niekerk (men’s 400 meters), and Anita Wlodarczyk (women’s hammer throw) were superior not only to those of their Olympic competitors, but to the efforts of every athlete who has ever competed in their respective sports.
Yet there is still another record that none of them have broken, a record that will take decades to break: the record for the longest standing record.
The man who has held the longest world record is Jack White, a Britisher known as "The Gateshead Clipper." His world record of 31 minutes over 10,000 meters stood for 48 years, from May 11, 1863, until November 16, 1911. White achieved the time during a seven-mile (11,265-meter) race. His time at 10,000 meters is an estimate derived from his six-mile (9,656 meters) split, 29:50, and his finish time, 34:45.
But White's 48-year record is eclipsed by the 55-year record of Frances Keddie, who was a student at the University of California, Berkeley, when she set a triple jump mark of 11.83 meters on December 2, 1926. That record was not broken until May 9, 1981. Apart from the triple jump, Keddie was also a champion in the 220-yard dash, according to a news clipping from 1927.