2010 - End of Year Reviews – Sprints
Monte Carlo - Statisticians A. Lennart Julin (SWE) and Mirko Jalava (FIN) conclude their 2010 annual review with a look back at this past season’s action in the Sprints.
2010 was a very good year for the men’s sprints. It was also a season which saw changes at the very top. Usain Bolt was fast as usual, but he was no longer unbeaten. In the 100m no athlete was clearly above the others and in the 400m Jeremy Wariner was back to number one following a short break.
In 100m 13 runners recorded times under 10 seconds, very close to the all-time best of 14 from 2008. Furthermore there were a total of seven under 9.90s, which is one better than the previous best of six, also set in 2008.
As usual, the start of the season was abuzz about what Bolt could do in 2010 and he did start with a somewhat promising 9.86s in May in Daegu, the site of the 2011 World Championships. But that race, with a couple of early 200m outings on either side of Daegu, was all Bolt could do due to an injury before July and it was clear there was a way for other to dominate the most followed event of athletics too.
Fellow Jamaican Asafa Powell was the next one to impress with fast wins in Doha with a windy 9.81 (windy 9.75 in heats) and 9.83 in Ostrava. Powell then nearly took the world leader under is belt winning in 9.72 in Oslo, but was narrowly denied by the wind gauge which showed +2.1 m/s, just over the 2 m/s limit for wind legal marks. The 28-year-old later set a 9.82 season’s best with a win in Rome for his fourth straight win in as many finals and then closed his season with two second place finishes in Gateshead and Saint-Denis.
American Tyson Gay didn’t put in a season full of races in 2010, but was unbeaten in his five 100m finals. Gay also went under 10 seconds in each of the five races with a 9.78s world leading season’s best in London in August and another fast 9.79 result in Brussels two weeks later. He was the co-world leader at the end of the season with Jamaican Nesta Carter, who dropped 0.07 seconds off his personal best in one race winning the Rieti race in 9.78 at the end of August.
The biggest moment of the 100m season came in Stockholm in August with Gay comfortably beating Bolt (9.84 to 9.97), ending the Jamaican’s string of 14 straight wins starting from the Olympic final in Beijing on August 16, 2008 - just 10 days short of two years.
As usual, the USA headed this event with 29 athletes in the world top 100. Jamaica had 13 for second and Great Britain nine for third place.
As has become typical in non-championship years, the 200m season was thin while the top names did not collide too many times. Bolt still emerged as the world leader in the end with a 19.56 clocking in his first race of the season in Kingston on May Day. The Jamaican only raced twice during the season in the 200m also winning in Shanghai in May in 19.76.
Americans Walter Dix and Tyson Gay both registered a 19.72 season’s best. Gay too only appeared two times to run 200m in 2010 with one additional 200m race on the straight in Manchester in May where he set a world best of 19.41 for this rarely-run event. Dix raced a bit more registering six wins in seven competitions, but he too cut his 200m season short with the last race coming in Gateshead in July.
Jamaican Yohan Blake was the surprise of the season in this distance. The 20-year-old, previously only a 100m specialist, had run 20.62 as a 17-year-old in 2007, but after that hadn’t shown much, coming into this season with a 20.60 personal best from 2009. But all this dramatically changed in just the two races he ran this in Monaco and Zürich. In Monaco Blake lowered his PB by a huge 0.82 seconds margin to 19.78 and then backed this performance up with another fine 19.86 clocking in Zürich placing second in both races.
The USA headed this event too with 36 athletes in the world top 100. Jamaica as usual was second with 15 and Great Britain third with just six.
In the 400m the 2010 season saw the return of 2004 Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner to the No.1 spot. Wariner suffered a narrow loss to compatriot David Neville in Ponce in May, but was convincing after that winning several important races and winning seven-out-of-seven, excluding the US Champs where he did not finish the lap. The 26-year-old recorded the fastest time of the year in Zürich in mid-August clocking 44.13 and won the inaugural Continental Cup as well couple weeks later in another fast 44.22 finish.
It was a good season for 1984-born runners in this event as the next two in the yearly list, both from Jamaica, were born in 1984 along with Wariner. Jermaine Gonzales finally got back to top level after three very quiet years. He ran his personal best 44.85 in Rome in 2006 as a 22-year-old and was a promising talent, but could only do 45.78 as his fastest time between 2007-2009. But the 2010 season changed this with Gonzales running 45.22 on May Day in Kingston, his fastest time since that 44.85 PB in Rome on 14 July 2006. Later Gonzales went on to run seven straight sub 45-second races from June to August and recorded important wins in Monaco, where he set a 44.40 national record and in Berlin accompanied with second place finishes in Zürich and London.
Ricardo Chambers also bettered his former PB of 44.62 set in May 2007 placing second behind Gonzales in Monaco in 44.54 and later finished second (44.59) behind Wariner at the Continental Cup.
The USA was the strongest country with 29 athletes in the world top 100. Jamaica had 11 for second and Bahamas seven for third place.
The picture in recent years of the event being a closely fought dual between USA and Jamaica didn't change in 2010 although the group of top runners was reduced on both sides. Jamaica was missing Kerron Stewart (injury) and lost Shelly-Ann Fraser halfway through the summer due to a DQ for using a prohibited painkiller. And the USA was lacking top names like Lauryn Williams and Muna Lee.
But still it was USA vs JAM for the very top position through Carmelita Jeter and Veronica Campbell Brown. They seemed to be rather evenly matched as the final score turned out a tie at 2-2. However, it should be noted that Campbell Brown only ran five meets (two in May, two in July and one in August) while Jeter had a full season of 11 competitions including seven at Diamond League meets.
With so many of the established top runners off the scene – at least temporarily – 2010 offered the opportunity for new athletes to feature prominently – but very little actually happened. The main revelation of the year was that Long Jump specialist Blessing Okagbare of Nigeria turned out to be just as competitive internationally as a 100m runner showing consistency in the 11.00-11.10 bracket.
Also establishing herself at that level was Kelly-Ann Baptiste of Trinidad & Tobago, but for her improvement compared to last year was more moderate (about a tenth) than for Okagbare who was an 11.30ish sprinter before 2010. Marshevet Myers (formerly Hooker) was even better in the very late season winning the London DL and dipping under 11.00 in two more international meets.
The USA/Caribbean grip on the event remained firm and the European impact remained quite discrete. But a slight positive trend was noticeable at the European championships in Barcelona when – after showing consistency during the summer at 11.20/11.30 – Germany's Verena Sailer and France's Véronique Mangue pushed each other to 11.10/11.11 despite running into a slight headwind.
But it could well be that those two following them in the Barcelona final – Myriame Soumaré (FRA) and Ezinne Okaparaebo (NOR) – are more likely to in the upcoming years dip into the sub-11.00 territory that indicates being truly competitive on the world stage. Unless, of course, they themselves are beaten to it by British prodigy Jodie Williams who took the World junior title in Moncton despite then having not yet turned 17.
This event has for quite a few years now belonged to the duo of Allyson Felix and Campbell-Brown who have been taking turns with the major gold medals - Felix with World titles in '05, '07 and '09, and Campbell-Brown with Olympic titles in '04 and '08. This dominance lived on also in this non-championships year: Felix ran five Diamond League races winning four, only losing in New York when she faced Campbell-Brown.
That New York race in early June turned out to be their only match-up of the year as Campbell-Brown for some reason chose not to run any more 200's over the summer. What could have happened if they had gone head-to-head on more occasions is of course anybody's guess but it should be noted that their times in the NYC clash – 21.98 and 22.03 – remained the by far fastest times of the whole year.
Third on the 2010 world list is some three tenths back and that time was a real flash-in-the-pan effort by Myriam Soumaré of France. Always regarded as more of a 60m/100m-type of sprinter Soumaré got into the European Championships final with a 23.01 PB and only after finishing a well-beaten third in her semi-final.
In the final she as expected was very quick in the early stages but when just about everybody expected her to fade and be passed by the endurance runners from Russia and Ukraine in the middle lanes, Soumaré just kept on going out there in lane 8 – and was never caught! Not because the others underperformed – actually three of four had their fastest race of the year and the fourth missed by just 0.03 – but because Soumaré super-performed. She in one strike lowered her PB by almost seven tenths to 22.32!
Although most competitions go fairly well according to logic and previous merits every now and then something completely unforeseen happens. This was certainly such an occasion. But it will be very interesting to follow Soumaré's future career as a 200m runner. Did the race in Barcelona signify her stepping up to a new level permanently or was it just an exceptional day-of-days that she won't be able to come close to duplicating in the future?
Although at the very top the 200m, just as the 100m, is dominated by the USA and the Caribbean nations (mainly Jamaica) the pattern is somewhat different just below the surface. While the Russian sprinters are nowhere near the top at the 100m they are very much in the mix at the double distance with names such as Aleksandra Fedoriva, Anastasia Kapachinskaya and Yuliya Chermoshanskaya.
However, there still is a gap of about half a second up to the very top and it will be tough to bridge that when there is a gap almost as large in PBs at 100m. While the Russians – as well as Ukraine's European runner-up Yelizaveta Bryzhina – are at 11.30/11.40 in the short sprint their main opponents from USA/JAM are capable of sub-11.00. That difference in basic speed is hard to compensate completely by better endurance.
The USA, Jamaica and Russia are very much the main powers also in the 400m. Actually among the top-15 of the 2010 world list one finds the USA five times, and Jamaica and Russia four times. The only two exceptions to the rule being Amantle Montsho of Botswana and Libania Grenot of Italy! With Sanya Richards-Ross, the dominant runner in recent years, out with injury it was a very tight lead group with the top-9 crammed into just 0.52.
Typically Allyson Felix who ruled the Diamond League (won four out of four) is only No. 8 statistically despite having records of 4-0, 2-0 and 4-0 respectively versus the top-3 on the World list - Debbie Dunn, Tatyana Firova and Montsho. And it was Montsho who picked up most other significant wins with two DLs, the African championship, Continental Cup and Commonwealth Games.
The statistical World leader Debbie Dunn had two fast wins (USA championships and Lausanne, both sub-50) but otherwise was considerably slower, e.g. running 50.50+ in all her seven DL-scoring outings. The Jamaican Williams duo – Shericka and Novlene – had another year of consistency at "50 point something".
The European scene was once more dominated by the Russians who made the battle for the medals in Barcelona an internal affair with Firova winning closely followed by Kseniya Ustalova and Antonina Krivoshapka. With the major British forces in the event – Christine Ohuruogu and Nicola Sanders – battling injury problems (Ohuruogu ended her season on 4 June, Sanders ran in the 52's) the only opposition to the Russian group in the sub-50.50 area to be seen was Italy's Grenot but she still had to be content with 4th place in the European Championships.
The World Juniors did not showcase any runners capable of "immediately" establishing themselves on the global senior scene. However, the Moncton final did display intense competition with the winner at 52.52 and the remaining seven finalists all running 53's. And it should be noted that the winner Shaunae Miller (BAH) was born in 1994, i.e. she has three more years as a junior!