What is the longest-standing individual world record in athletics?
The longest-standing individual world record in athletics is the 1:53.28 for the women’s 800 metres set by Czech athlete Jarmila Kratochvílová in Munich, Germany on July 26, 1983. At the age of 32, Kratochvílová improved on the previous record of 1:53.43 set by Nadyezhda Olizaryenko of the Soviet Union during the Summer Olympics in Moscow three years earlier. Interestingly, prior to July 26, 1983, the world record for the women’s 800 metres had been broken 23 times since World War II but, at the time of writing, has now stood for over 37 years; according to Svetlana Masterkova, who won the gold medal in the women’s 800 metres at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta in 1996 in a time of 1:57.73, the record ‘will last for 100 years’.
Kratochvílová attracted worldwide attention because of her emergence from mediocrity at an age when most track and field athletes would be considering retirement and her unusually broad-shouldered, flat-chested, ‘masculine’ physique. She never failed a drug test, but competed in an era when state-sponsored doping was rife in Warsaw Pact countries, including Czechoslovakia, so her record, was, is and probably always will be treated with suspicion. Indeed, in 2017, European Athletics proposed that all athletics world records set before 2005, including those never subject suspicion, be expunged to remove any lingering doubts about doping scandals.