John Smith (sprinter)

John Walton Smith (born August 5, 1950) is a former American athlete, who competed in the sprints events during his career. He is best known for winning the 400 m event at the 1971 Pan American Games. He remains the world record holder for the 440 yard dash at 44.5 seconds.[3] He set the record while winning the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships on June 26, 1971 while running for the Southern California Striders.[4] The record has stood since then due to metrification in the sport. Contemporary athletes rarely run or are timed officially for the extra 2.34 meters to equal 440 yards.

John Smith
John Smith (b1950).jpg
Personal information
Born (1950-08-05) August 5, 1950 (age 70)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Height188 cm (6 ft 2 in)
Weight83 kg (183 lb)
Event(s)Sprint, long jump
ClubSouthern California Striders
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s)100 y – 9.4 (1971)
220 y – 20.7 (1970)
400 m – 44.2 (1971)
440 y – 44.5 WR (1971)
LJ – 7.43 m (1968)[1][2]

Smith came as a favorite to the 1972 Summer Olympics, but injured a hamstring in the 400 m final and failed to finish the race.[1]

After retiring from competition, he became a sprint coach, training Maurice Greene and Ato Boldon amongst others. At the time, his team called HSI[5] (standing for Hudson Smith International) was the top sprint team in the world.[3][6] He now coaches Carmelita Jeter,[7] who holds the second fastest 100 m time after Florence Griffith-Joyner. He also coaches Norwegian sprinter Jaysuma Saidy Ndure, Nigerian sprinter Blessing Okagbare, Commonwealth Games Champion, and English Gardner, NCAA Champion at Oregon and US Outdoor Champion.

Smith ran for Fremont High School in Los Angeles, finishing fifth in the 440 at the CIF California State Meet two years in a row, 1967-8.[8] He also won the City Championships in the long jump. In 1967, he finished one place behind Wayne Collett from Gardena High School, one year his senior. He would next join Collett at UCLA, forming a powerhouse team. They won the NCAA 4x440/400 relay championships four years in a row, 1969-72. Smith won the individual 440 in 1971 and 400 in 1972 and both years UCLA won the overall team championship.[3] Both Collett and Smith qualified for the 1972 Olympic team in the 400. Following his athletic career, he coached UCLA for 17 years before branching off to the HSI team.

Athletes coached by John SmithEdit


  1. ^ a b John Smith Archived 2016-10-05 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ John Smith.
  3. ^ a b c John Smith. UCLA
  4. ^ USA Track & Field - USA Outdoor Track & Field Champions. Retrieved on 2016-07-15.
  5. ^ HSI John Smith Drills Session with Jon Drummond. (2008-01-12). Retrieved on 2016-07-15.
  6. ^ Layden, Tim. Ace of Clubs.
  7. ^ Video on YouTube
  8. ^