What's the Fastest Speed Reached at the Olympics? An Investigation

Humans can move fast...but projectiles move faster

The world's top athletes gather at the Olympics after years of preparation, shattering records, winning gold and claiming glory for themselves and their nation.

Plenty of the upcoming events will showcase athletes' immense strength and skill. But some of the most popular Olympic sports hinge on a different athletic attribute: speed.

Whether it's swimming or track & field events in the summer, or skiing, luge and speedskating in the winter, we're obsessed with how fast Olympians are going. Are they faster than last time? Are they the fastest team this year? Or did we just witness a speed that will last the test of time?

There's no doubt we'll again see the world's top athletes impress us yet again at the Tokyo Olympics. But who or what, in the pursuit of greatness and glory, traveled the fastest ever in an Olympic competition?

Let's investigate.

Was it Michael Phelps?

Michael Phelps competes in the Men's swimming 4x100m Medley Relay Final at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. (Odd Andersen / AFP via Getty Images)

Let's make this quick. Michael Phelps is a living Olympic legend. He has a bazillion Olympic medals and holds records in the 200 meter freestyle, plus too many other events to list.

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Michael Phelps has shown the world he is, to say the least, a very fast swimmer. But humans can only travel so fast in water, and this is about the fastest speed reached, period.

Sorry Michael, your 5-6 mph isn't going to cut it here.

Will it be Simone Biles?

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Simone Biles holds a gold medal won during the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. (Getty Images)

Simone Biles holds the world record for gold medals among gymnasts. She's won more all-around titles than any other gymnast in history, and she can execute a move that's so dangerous its point value is limited.

Biles is obviously an elite athlete. So elite that a team of sports scientists wondered if Biles' moves defied the laws of physics. Long story short: no laws of physics broken, just records. Although those scientists did figure out that Biles has to resist incredibly strong forces just to stay on course and land upright. When she's flying through the air, the force pulling her down is as strong as the bite of an alligator, those physicists say.

But is her speed elite? Though she could probably beat plenty of us in a race, a physicist quoted by Inverse.com calculated Biles' speed to be 14.7 miles per hour as she launches into a triple double move.

Sorry Simone, but it gets faster!

Was it Usain Bolt?

Gold medalist Usain Bolt of Jamaica bites his gold medal during the medal ceremony for the Men's 4x 00 meter Relay on Day 15 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Record-breaking Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt has been called the fastest man on the planet. The world-record holder for the Olympic 100m, 200m and part of the 4x100m relay races, he has reached a top speed of 27.3 mph in Olympic competitions, according to the official Olympic website.

Encyclopedia Britannica says Bolt's top speed is faster than the average New York or San Francisco traffic. And while he probably can't catch up to the 186,000 mph speed of actual lightning, the now-retired Bolt and wife Kasi named their daughter Lightning.

Here's one more random stat: on a regulation Major League Baseball field, it's 90 feet from home plate to first base. So, running at his top speed, Bolt could theoretically reach first base in 2.25 seconds.

While Bolt is an incredibly fast human, he couldn't catch up to the next few items on this list.

Baseball: pitchers throw heat

When it comes to pitching, fans of Major League Baseball have heard it all this year. Pitchers are throwing harder. They're getting examined for foreign substances that could make the ball spin faster.

But for those who don't know: the best pitchers can throw the ball really, really fast.

Guinness World Records lists the fastest-ever baseball pitch as a 105 mph bomb from then-Cincinnati Reds player Aroldis Chapman. Chapman is now the closer for the New York Yankees.

Hockey: watch out for those pucks!

Ice hockey is a winter sport, so don't expect to see it in Tokyo this year.

While players can reach blazing speeds when skating well, the real contender for speed is the puck.

When a strong player takes a slapshot, the puck can easily approach 100 mph - and that's cold, hard rubber. Imagine the bruises!

The current record in a pro hockey skills competition is 109.2 mph, set by LA Kings minor-leaguer Martin Frk. He topped the 108.8 mph record the Boston Bruins' Zdeno Chara set in the NHL Hardest Shot competition.

Not Olympic, but worth mentioning: speed skiing

There are objects that travel faster in sports, but no human body can travel faster than those with help from fresh-packed snow and ice.

In winter competitions, humans can easily reach over 100 mph in the sport of speed skiing. That speed alone would get you a speeding ticket in your car, but it's not even the high mark of this sport.

Italian Valentina Greggio holds the world record in the sport of women's speed skiing, traveling 153 mph down a mountain in France.

But it wasn't in an Olympic competition: speed skiing is no longer an Olympic event due to the high danger of the sport, according to the Financial Times.

Golf: more than leisure

The best golfers of the world can launch the ball at a high speed.

Guinness lists the fastest golf drive as 217.1 mph. It was achieved Jan. 23, 2013, when U.S. golfer Ryan Winther let loose at the Orange County National Driving Range in Orlando, Florida.

We likely won't see this record broken during the Tokyo Olympics - accuracy matters, after all. But just know, there's room for strength.

Badminton: a top contender

Badminton players can unleash some serious power, and probably a nice breeze too.

The world record for a badminton hit is 426 km/h, or 264 miles per hour, according to Guinness. Mads Pieler Kolding broke the record during a Badminton Premier League match in Bangalore, India.

What about shooting events?

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Vincent Hancock of the United States competes in the qualification match for the skeet event during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Olympic shooting competitions often use air guns, which behave a little differently than typical firearms. There are rifles, shotguns and pistols which could all have their own speeds.

But according to a grim article in the journal Clinical Practice and Cases in Emergency Medicine, air weapons can launch their projectiles as fast as 1,200 feet per second, or 818 miles per hour.

There's no direct measurement of the bullets' speed from the guns in Olympic shooting events (the focus is on hitting targets, after all, not...whatever it is we're doing here). But if that speed held, or was even 400 mph off, then Olympic shooters are supplying the fastest objects of the competition.