Is Racquetball Really The “Worlds Fastest Sport”?
First let me start out by stating that this is a non-scientific editorial. We have all heard the claims of racquetball being the “world’s fastest sport“. Even the official logo of the International Racquetball Tour (IRT) makes this claim as seen here:
At the risk of being labeled a “naysayer“, I decided to take a deeper look into racquetball’s claim of being the “world’s fastest sport” . If you accept that racquetball’s claim of being the “world’s fastest sport” refers specifically to “ball-speed ” then you can also exclude speed claims from the likes of car racing, air races, target shooting, etc. It may also refer to “reaction time“, but table tennis (ping pong) would arguably have the “fastest” claim locked up. I really don’t know what else “world’s fastest sport” would refer to, unless they mean a typical Kane Waselenchuk match which lasts about 27 minutes depending upon who Kane is delivering a beatdown to. I only mention this to add a touch of “scientific” to my non-scientific editorial.
After much research, (which admittedly equates to searching the Internet), I have discovered that racquetball essentially has a purported ball-speed range of anywhere from ~141 mph to a whopping “urban legend” speed of 198 mph. I have heard the various rumors throughout the years regarding speed-gun test results in the range of 160 mph to over 200 mph. I am aware of one ball-speed claim for racquetball legend Egan Inoue where he was allegedly clocked on radar hitting a racquetball at 191 mph. As far as I can tell, this claim has never been independently verified. I have witnessed a lot of radar tests for racquetball, squash and tennis and personally I have not seen results come anywhere close to this claim. (Note: No disrespect to Egan Inoue. I am not doubting the validity of the claim and regardless, it is not the point of this editorial. Nevertheless, I asked Egan for some details about this ball-speed record and as soon as he replies I will post an update.)
Inoue is a former World Racquetball Champion as well as a Mixed Martial Arts Legend with 5 World Championship titles. Check out this video about Egan’s personal successes and his challenges and how he overcame them.
IRT professional Ben Croft and 40By20.com Official Equipment Sponsor Racquetball Warehouse recently put together a series of videos where Ben is speed-testing several high-end racquetball racquets from various manufacturers. (Getting Technical With Ben Croft). As you can see in the videos, the top ball-speed was about 141 mph. These non-scientific tests were done using a radar gun, which adds another level of subjectivity in itself. If these were true scientific experiments, the speed-tests would have been conducted in a controlled atmosphere involving control factors such as temperature, windage, elevation and ball consistency, just to name a few. Again, these were non-scientific ball-speed tests and I am not discrediting Ben Croft by any means. Speaking of Ben, if you haven’t checked out this amazing video, by all means do so!
Let’s also take a look at the sport of badminton. The Guinness World Records and the badminton community also make the claim for the sport of badminton as being “the worlds fastest sport”. They back this claim up by touting the record for “fastest badminton hit in competition” at a whopping 206 mph. (Guinness World Record-Badminton). This was also clocked on a radar gun, but was captured in actual competition. There is even a new highly contested badminton speed record that purportedly exceeds 260 mph, but the ball-speed was determined by analyzing video and using some sort of newfangled mathematics calculation. Since I was never any good with the “new math” I will stick with ball-speed results from the good old radar gun.
Check out this amazing badminton doubles video:
For the Record…
The fastest badminton*** hit in competition was 206 mph by Fu Haifeng (China) in 2005.
Canadian long drive golf champion Jason Zuback set the world ball-speed record in 2009 with a golf ball speed of 204 mph. (Video HERE)
The previous world ball-speed record of 188 mph was held by José Ramón Areitio, a Jai Alai player.
Tennis has a ball-speed record of 156 mph held by Ivo Karlovic, a Croatian tennis professional.
So where does racquetball fit in all this?
The fastest racquetball serve was reportedly recorded by Egan Inoue at 191 mph.
Urban Legend says that a guy named Brian Fredenberg allegedly served a racquetball at 194 mph and also a guy named Brian Baker allegedly served a racquetball at 198 mph. I could not find any real documentation of this or any specifics of how the speeds were recorded. (e.g. radar gun? calibrated eyeballs?) Wiki Answers
If we agree to use the Inoue ball-speed standard of 191 mph as the racquetball ball-speed Holy Grail, then racquetball really cannot lay claim to the title of the “World’s Fastest Sport“. We can however state that racquetball is “approximately the World’s Third Fastest Sport“…
Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think touting racquetball as “approximately the World’s Third Fastest Sport” has the same marketing jingle or impact…
***Note: Badminton uses a “shuttlecock” and is technically not a “ball“. For the purposes of this blog I will acquiesce to the shuttlecock as being classified as a ball.