Walter Dix (born January 31, 1986) is an American sprinter who specialises in the 100 meters and 200 meters. He is the seventh fastest 200 m runner with a best of 19.69 seconds, and has broken the 10-second barrier in the 100 m with a best of 9.91 seconds.
Dix was a highly successful amateur athlete, setting a state record in the 100 m and trying out for the US Olympic Team at the age of eighteen. He joined Florida State University and in his first year he broke the 100 m American junior record and won at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. After a fourth place finish at the 2005 US Championships, Dix continued with his collegiate success, setting a NCAA record of 19.69 seconds in the 200 m and coming within one hundredth of the 100 m record. He completed a 100 m, 200 m, and 4×100 meter relay sweep at the 2007 NCAA Outdoor Championships, the first to do so since John Carlos. He closed his amateur career in 2008: another NCAA 200 m title made him the third most decorated track athlete in NCAA history, and he won gold and silver at the 2008 US Olympic Trials.
Dix turned professional in mid-2008, signing a multi-million dollar contract with Nike. He reached the Olympic finals in the 100 and 200 m, and won two bronze medals; the only American track athlete to win two individual medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He suffered an injury at the 2009 US Championships, thus missing out on the World Championships, and a contract dispute with his agent resulted in only a handful of appearances that season.
The son of a track and field coach, Walter Dix competed at athletics meetings from a young age, specialising in sprinting and the long jump. His speed also translated well to the football field, and he often played the sport at school. Dix was an accomplished high school runner: in his final year at Coral Springs High School in 2004 he set a state record of 10.28 seconds in the 100 meters and broke the 200 meters Florida high school record with 20.62 seconds. Aside from J-Mee Samuels' 10.28 seconds in the 100 m, these were the two fastest marks by a high school athlete that year. Both these times were within the Olympic standard for the events. He competed at the US Olympic Trials in the 200 m, but did not progress beyond the heats stage.
He began attending Florida State University (FSU) in late 2004, working with coach Bob Braman. At his first regional meeting for the university, he won the 60-meter dash, 200 m and 4×400 meter relay, and was chosen as the Atlantic Coast Conference rookie of the year. He made his first major impact at the NCAA Indoor Championships: after a sixth place finish in the 60 m, he came second in the 200 m with a world junior record of 20.37 s, beaten only by Wallace Spearmon. Following this, he became USA Track & Field's Athlete of the Week after setting an American junior record in the 100 m. Running in the Icahn Stadium at the 2005 NCAA East Regional Championships, his heat-winning time of 10.06 seconds bettered Stanley Floyd's 25-year-old mark. Dix went on to win the 100 m final and also won the 200 m in 20.23 seconds, the fourth fastest time by an American junior sprinter.
At his first NCAA Outdoor Championships, Dix became FSU's first winner at the championships since 1980, and the first to do so as a freshman. He won the 100 m in 10.21 seconds, beating the defending NCAA champions DaBryan Blanton and Tyson Gay to the title. After recording a personal best of 20.18 seconds in the semifinals, he managed a fourth place finish in the 200 m race. Dix competed at his first US senior championships that year and, as the only amateur to reach the 100 m final, he finished fourth. The only athletes to beat him were Leonard Scott, reigning Olympic Champion Shawn Crawford and the eventual world champion Justin Gatlin.
Dix's second year at FSU was characterised by success in the 200 m. He won his first indoor NCAA title in the 200 m and was runner-up in the 60 m, having set a personal best of 6.59 seconds in the heats. His time of 20.27 seconds in the 200 m final was the fastest indoor run in the world that year. His fastest of the season came at the Reebok invitational and his time of 20.25 seconds placed him as the 13th fastest runner in 2006. He completed a 200 m NCAA Championship double by taking the outdoor title, and he also finished as runner-up in the 100 m, second to Xavier Carter.
In his third year as an FSU athlete he won four NCAA Division I titles, starting with a 200 m win indoors. In the 2007 NCAA East Regional final, he won the 100 m dash in 10.05 seconds. His performance in the 200 m was more impressive however: he set the all-time collegiate record of 19.69 seconds in the 200 m, breaking Joe DeLoach's record that had stood since 1988. This made him the sixth fastest 200 m runner ever and it was the seventh fastest run in history at the time.
At the NCAA Outdoor Championships that year, he won three separate national titles, beating all opposition in the 100 m, 200 m, and 4×100 meter relay races. This achievement made him the first man to win the three races at an NCCA Championships since John Carlos did so in 1969. Dix's time of 9.93 seconds in the 100 m was a world-leader at that point of the season, and was just 0.01 behind Ato Boldon's NCAA record. For these accomplishments, he was again named USATF's Athlete of the Week.
In his final year as an amateur athlete, he spent much of early 2008 battling a hamstring injury. However, he returned in April to win his third 200 m NCAA outdoor title, while placing fourth in the 100 m. Although his personal bests rivalled those of top professional athletes, Dix decided to finish his degree in social science at FSU, as his graduation in May 2008 allowed him to focus on the Olympic Trials thereafter.
Over the course of his college career, Dix became only the second athlete to win three NCAA 200 m outdoor titles (after Ralph Metcalfe) and, with six outdoor NCAA titles, he is listed as the joint third on all-time list. Furthermore, he finished with two indoor titles and 18 All-American honors.
Competing at the US Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon, Dix qualified for the 2008 Summer Olympics in both the 100 and 200 m events. After recording a personal-best-equaling 9.93 seconds in the 100 m semifinals, he took second place behind Tyson Gay with a wind-assisted 9.80 seconds. He stated that his NCAA experience had helped raise his confidence and that he was less nervous than he was at the 2005 US Championships. The 200 m favorite Gay suffered an injury in the qualifying rounds, and Dix and Crawford both finished the 200 m final with 19.86 seconds, with Dix elected the winner by a photo finish. After signing a sponsorship deal with Nike worth around $1,000,000 a year, described by his agent as "the largest deal ever for a track athlete just coming out of college", Dix stated that his aims for the Olympics were personal bests in the individual sprints and a gold in the relay race.
Competing in his first Olympics, Dix qualified for the 100 m final with a season's best of 9.95 seconds. In the final he registered a personal best of 9.91 seconds, finishing behind new world record holder Usain Bolt of Jamaica and Richard Thompson of Trinidad and Tobago. The Olympic bronze medal was Dix's first medal at a major international competition.
A few days later, he finished fifth in the 200 m final with a time of 19.98 seconds, some distance off the winner Usain Bolt who had broken the world record. However, it transpired that both the silver and bronze medalists (Churandy Martina of the Netherlands Antilles and American Wallace Spearmon) had stepped out of their lanes thus they were disqualified. As a result, Dix received his second Olympic bronze medal. Further disqualifications occurred in the heats of the Olympic 4×100 meter relay race: Darvis Patton and Tyson Gay misjudged a baton pass, causing the American team to be eliminated and spoiling any chance of Dix receiving a relay medal. He finished the Olympics as the only American sprinter to medal in two individual events. Dix closed the season with two sub-10 second runs at the Weltklasse and Athletissima meetings, finishing second to a Jamaican on both occasions (Bolt and Asafa Powell).
The year after the Olympics, Dix began the season with a world-leading time of 10.00 seconds in Tallahassee in April. He also set a world-leading relay time of 37.92 seconds with Travis Padgett, Shawn Crawford and Darvis Patton at the Penn Relays. However, he failed to maintain this strong form through the rest of 2009. Coach Teddy Long planned to improve Dix's start and acceleration in his races, but the two parted company in April. He placed third behind Michael Rodgers and Asafa Powell at the Prefontaine Classic but, unusually, this proved to one of the highlights of a low-profile year for Dix. He competed at the US Championships, but injuries forced him out of both the 100 m and 200 m races and he did not qualify for the World Championships. Furthermore, he entered a legal battle with his management company, regarding whether they merited the 20% portion of his multi-million dollar sponsorship contract with Nike. The dispute with his agent Kimberly Holland was resolved in July: although the terms were undisclosed, Dix left Holland's Icon Management and decided to be his own agent. With his father as his coach, a legal battle and no major races to prepare for, Dix ran only a handful of local meetings in the rest of 2009.
Walter Dix is the son of Washington and Plinnie Dix. His father, a former sprinter, is an assistant principal and track coach at New River Middle School, while his mother is a high school teacher. He has two older brothers, Alex and William, who also were track runners. While attending Florida State University, Dix was a member of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity.
|55 meters||6.19 s||Gainesville, Florida||January 13, 2007|
|60 meters||6.59 s||Fayetteville, Arkansas||March 10, 2006|
|100 meters||9.91 s||Beijing, China||August 16, 2008|
|200 meters||19.69 s||Gainesville, Florida||May 26, 2007|
|200 meters (indoor)||20.27 s||Fayetteville, Arkansas||March 10, 2006|
|Long jump||7.39 meters||Gainesville, Florida||March 26, 2004|