He will forever remain the first. The first to have crossed this symbolic bar of ten seconds, running the 100 m in 9 sec 95 at the Olympic Games in Mexico in 1968, a record that stood 15 years.

"In addition to having been Olympic champion in the 100m in 1968, Hines is known to have been the first man to officially pass the threshold of 10 seconds," recalled World Athletics in a statement published on the night of Sunday to Monday, saying it was "deeply saddened" by the death of the "legendary sprinter".

In the Mexican capital, only the podium in the 200m or so remained in the memory, when Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their gloved fists during the American anthem to protest racial discrimination in the United States. But the 100m also made history by consecrating Hines.

On October 14, 1968, the American became Olympic champion ahead of Jamaican Lennox Miller and his compatriot Charles Greene in a final that brought together eight black runners for the first time.

His time, 9 sec 9 on the stadium panel and 9 sec 89 on the electric stopwatch, was finally set at 9 sec 95. "If they corrected my time, it's because no one could believe that a man runs so fast," Jim Hines, bravache, said in an interview with the French sports daily L'Équipe in 2016.

He stopped at 22

Four months before his coronation, the American had already played with the times. On June 20, 1968, at the U.S. Championships, on the Sacramento Ash Track, he completed the 100 m in 9.9 seconds according to manual timing, finally revised to 10.03 seconds. But on the Mexico City tartan, while electric timing is now authentic, he writes for good the history of the sprint.

This record will stand until the 9.93 seconds of his compatriot Calvin Smith in Colorado Springs in 1983.

In Mexico City, where he also won gold with the American 4X100m relay, Hines distanced himself from the protest gestures of his compatriots Smith and Carlos. "This controversy has cast a dark cloud over what (we) have achieved," he said in 2016.

On the podium in the 100m, however, he refused to shake hands with the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the American Avery Brundage, who supported South Africa's return to the Games, while apartheid reigned in that country.

Shortly after the Games, and when he was only 22 years old, Hines gave up athletics to enter American football without much success, signing with the Miami Dolphins and then the Kansas City Chiefs.

Born in Arkansas on September 10, 1946, Hines had also come close to becoming a baseball player before a coach, impressed by his speed, convinced him to let go of the bat for the track and field. And to enter the legend.

© 2023 AFP