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.
Which moves faster: a badminton birdie or a golf ball? Which has the higher speed record: a hockey puck or a baseball?
In analyzing “what makes the perfect athlete?”, we take some time to look at the records that exist for the objects used to play some of the fastest sports in the world (ranked in order of speed):
Badminton – 493 km/h
Would you ever have guessed that a badminton birdie (aka shuttlecock) is the fastest recorded object in sports? While testing out new racket technology in 2013, Malaysia’s Tan Boon Hoeng set a new world record with a 493 km/h smash. According to Guinness World Records, the fastest recorded hit during competition belongs to China’s Fu Haifeng, who managed to smash a 332 km/h shot during the 2005 Sudirman Cup. Still don’t believe badminton is fast? Check out the second video below.
Golf – 339.6 km/h
Many think of golf as a lazy man’s game, but the best of the best can hit the ball at insane speeds. According to Guinness World Records, the fastest ever recorded drive came from American Maurice Allen who hit a 339.6 km/h bomb at an indoor simulator in 2012. On the professional tour, Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson have each recorded swings of 206 km/h, while long drive specialist Jamie Sadlowski has hit 235 km/h.
Jai Alai – 302 km/h
The Jai Alai pelota is known as the most lethal ball in sports. It is 3/4 the size of a baseball and harder than a golf ball. The best in the sport can toss the pelota at speeds of over 300 km/h. As a result, Guinness World Records has dubbed Jai Alai as the fastest moving ball sport in the world.
Squash – 281.6 km/h
Although squash is played with a hollow rubber ball, the best in the sport can hit it at astounding speeds. In the first video below, Australian Cameron Pilley is seen breaking his own world record by hitting two serves that were recorded 176 mp/h (281.6 km/h). in the second video, his brother decided to play his target. Big mistake!
Tennis – 263.4 km/h
Milos Raonic is known as one of the fastest servers in men’s tennis. However, his fastest serve ever (249.9 km/h at the 2012 Rogers Cup) is only the 5th fastest of all time. Australia’s Samuel Groth hit a 263.4 km/h serve at a 2012 Challenger event, but the ATP only recognizes serve speeds from the ATP World Tour and Davis Cup levels. Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic has the fastest serve recognized by the ATP, registering a 251 km/h bullet at the 2011 Davis Cup.
Soccer – 210.8 km/h
When the best soccer players in the world take a good run at the ball, they can put crazy amounts of power into their shots. However, only recently has the speed of shots in soccer been tracked. The fastest shot recorded in competition, according to several sources, was a 131 mp/h (210.8 km/h) rocket from Ronny Heberson back in 2006.
Hockey – 183.7 km/h
Anyone who watches hockey can attest to the fact that 6’9 defenceman Zdeno Chara can slap the puck. Big Z holds the NHL record for the fastest shot, recording a 108.8 mp/h (175.1 km/h) shot at the 2012 NHL All-Star Skills Competition. However, over in Russia, at the 2012 KHL All-Star Skills Competition, defenceman Alexander Ryazantsev set a new world record by reaching 114.1 mp/h (183.7 km/h) on the radar gun. Good luck to any goalie who has to get in front of that shot.
Baseball – 174.0 km/h
While advancements in strength and conditioning have come a long way in the last 40 years, the speed at which a pitcher throws a baseball has not. Although the technology to track pitches wasn’t as good, in 1974 hall of famer Nolan Ryan threw the fastest ever recorded pitch at 108.1 mp/h (174.0 km/h). Since then, Cincinnati Reds reliever Aroldis Chapman has come the closest to reaching that mark, hitting 105.1 pm/h (169.1 km/h) as a rookie back in 2010.
Cricket – 161.3 km/h
Cricket is one of the most-followed sports around the world, despite its lack of popularity in North America. The best bowlers in the game can reach speeds similar to those of baseball pitchers. The fastest recorded bowl of a cricket ball came from Pakistan’s Shoaib Akhtar back in 2003 when his bowl reached 161.3 km/h.
Table Tennis – 112.5 km/h
Commonly referred to as ping pong, the sport of table tennis is played with a much lighter ball than any of the others on this list. However, the best in the game can still hit the ball at insane speeds. New Zealander Lark Brandt holds the record for the fastest recorded smash, having hit 112.5 km/h at the inaugural World Fastest Smash Competition. The best table tennis servers can also hit insane speeds (check out the video below).