As 2014 comes to a close, I’ve compiled a list of my personal stand-out memories in world athletics across the year whether good, bad or surprising – please feel free to comment if you agree or disagree, or to offer some suggestions of your own…
*The below views do not represent those of the governing bodies, organisations, publications and athletics events that I work for.
THE GOOD –
World records galore –
Ahead of claiming the world indoor 3,000m crown in March, Genzebe Dibaba began her 2014 campaign on the boards with a world record-breaking spree. In the space of 14 days in February, the Ethiopian scorched to 3:55.17 in Sweden, 8:16.60 again in Sweden and 9:00.48 in Birmingham for 1500m, 3000m and two-miles respectively.
France’s Olympic champion, Renaud Lavillenie finally managed to capture the world pole vault record with an impressive 6.16m leap back in February – in the same Dontesk arena in Ukraine where Sergey Bubka’s 6.15m global best was set almost 21 years before.
February saw its fifth world record courtesy of 2010 world half marathon champion, Florence Kiplagat. Improving her lifetime best by 86 seconds, the Kenyan sped to a 65:12 world half marathon record in Barcelona.
The little-known US men’s 4x400m relay squad of Kyle Clemons, David Verburg, Kind Butler and Calvin Smith recorded a 3:02.13 world record en route to the gold medal in March’s IAAF World Indoor Championships in Sopot, Poland.
Injecting some much-needed promotion into the event, Anita Wlodarczzyk unleashed a 79.58m world hammer record in Berlin in August. The 2009 world champion from Poland improved her best by over a metre in the process.
2013 Chicago marathon victor, Dennis Kimetto of Kenya became the first man to run below 2:03.00 in September with a 2:02.57 win in the Berlin marathon.
British record breakers –
World heptathlon fifth placer, Katarina Johnson-Thompson leapt an astonishing 8cm above her lifetime best to claim the British indoor high jump record with a 1.96m clearance at the British Athletics Indoor Championships in Sheffield in February.
The women’s 4x100m relay squad took the event by storm this summer with no less than two British records in as many weeks. Asha Philip, Ashleigh Nelson, Jodie Williams and Desiree Henry joined forces to register 42.24 for the gold medal at the European Championships in Zurich in August, before returning (with Anyika Onoura in place of Williams) to the same venue for the IAAF Diamond League with 42.21 for another superb national best.
Olympic and world 5,000m and 10,000m champion, Mo Farah took the British two-mile record at the Sainsbury’s Birmingham Grand Prix in August with a 8:07.85 clocking, and World indoor 60m hurdles and world outdoor 100m hurdles bronze medallist, Tiffany Porter capped off her fine season with a 12.51 British record when finishing runner-up at the IAAF Continental Cup in Marrakech in September.
World indoor highlights –
Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim and Valerie Adams of New Zealand were the male and female stand-out international performers in Sopot, with a 2.38m Area Record high jump and a 20.67m shot put glory, respectively.
Of the Brits, Johnson-Thompson claimed a fine long jump silver thanks to a 6.81m personal best, whilst Porter collected hurdles bronze with 7.86. The British men and women 4x400m teams sped to silver and bronze, respectively and 2012 world indoor 800m bronze medallist, Andrew Osagie added another bronze to his collection with 1:47.10 – albeit via a disqualification ahead of him.
Breakthrough Brits –
European under23 1500m bronze medallist, Laura Muir clocked a 2:00.94 Scottish indoor record en route to victory at the Sainsbury’s Glasgow International match in January, ahead of a 4:05.32 1500m Scottish record with another victory – this time at the Sainsbury’s Indoor Grand Prix in Birmingham in February to defeat the Netherlands’ Sifan Hassan (who went onto run a 3:57.00 outdoor world-lead and Area Record in the summer).
Weeks before finishing fourth in the world indoor 60m final, Philip sped to a 7.09 lifetime best to narrowly miss the British record in Sheffield in February.
2012 world junior runner-up, Jess Judd enjoyed her first sub-two-minute 800m clocking with 1:59.77 in the Oslo IAAF Diamond League in June, whilst David Omoregie captured the British and European junior 100m hurdles record with 13.17 in Bedford – in his first season focusing away from the multi-events.
Emelia Gorecka – the European junior 3,000m champion – pipped four-time Olympian, Jo Pavey to the British 5,000m title in a thrilling race in Birmingham in June, as Muir and Laura Weightman – a 2012 Olympic finalist – smashed their 1500m bests with a 4:00.07 Scottish record and a 4:00.17 clocking at the Paris IAAF Diamond League in July.
At the IAAF World Junior Championships in Eugene, USA, Morgan Lake sensationally claimed the heptathlon and high jump titles with a world under18 record and a 1.94m British junior high jump (in the qualifying round) record. Also in Eugene, Dina Asher-Smith took the 100m global crown with an 11.23 victory, as Shona Richards took 400m hurdles silver in a 56.16 British junior record and Omoregie went home with the bronze medal in the 110m hurdles.
In August, at the European Championships in Zurich, Asher-Smith registered a surprise 22.61 British junior 200m record in the semi-final stage.
To close the 2014 winter season, Gemma Steel stormed to the European cross country title in Samokov, Bulgaria in a nail-biting finish with team-mate and NCAA champion, Kate Avery. The victory led the British team to a commanding win and follows Steel’s previous bronze and silver-medal-winning runs in the continental event in 2011 and 2013. Rhona Auckland claimed the under23 crown, whilst Judd swapped the track for the mud to take the silver medal in the under20 race.
Eye catching stars –
Olympic 10,000m runner-up, Galen Rupp started 2014 with a bang courtesy of a fine 13:01.26 American indoor record in Boston in early January, whilst at the Birmingham Grand Prix, world champion Mohamed Aman broke the Ethiopian 800m record with 1:44.52 and Jamaica’s Olympic and world 100m champion, Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce ran a swift 6.98 for the 60m.
Five-time world champion and three-time Olympic champion over 5,000m and 10,000m, Kenenisa Bekele made his eagerly-anticipated marathon debut with victory in Paris back in April in an impressive 2:05.04. The Ethiopian went on to beat Olympic marathon bronze medallist, Wilson Kipsang in May’s Puma Great Manchester Run in 28:23, whilst Ethiopia’s three-time Olympic and world champion, Tirunesh Dibaba took the women’s race in 31:09.
2009 world half marathon champion, Mary Keitany was an overwhelming Great North Run winner in September as the Kenyan made a highly-successful return from childbirth in 65:39 to move to second fastest on world list. Steel ran a 68:13 lifetime best to place third on the British list.
Diamond (League) geezers and gals –
Kenya’s world 1500m bronze medallist, Hellen Obiri scorched to a sensational 8:20.68 African 3,000m record in the Doha IAAF Diamond League in May, and another shock was Egypt’s Ihab Abdelrahman huge 89.21m African javelin record in Shanghai the same month.
In June, Barshim leapt a superb 2.41m Area Record in the high jump in in Rome, whilst in Oslo, 2005 world long jump champion, Tianna Bartoletta of the USA reached a 7.02m world leading mark.
In New York, Barshim faced Ukrainian world champion, Bogdan Bondarenko and in an almighty clash, the pair both cleared a remarkable 2.42m, as meanwhile, 400m hurdles Olympic bronze medliast, Javier Culson from Puerto Rico clocked a 48.03 world leading time.
Croatia’s two-time world indoor and outdoor high jump champion, Blanca Vlasic returned from injury to clear two metres in Paris, Grenada’s Olympic champion Kirani James flew to a 43.74 Area Record in Lausanne and Emma Coburn of the USA ran a 9:11.42 3,000m steeplechase Area Record at the Sainsbury’s Glasgow Grand Prix in July.
The USA’s 2011 world 1500m champion, Jenny Simpson topped off her summer with a 4:00.38 last-gasp victory in Stockholm in August, and the IAAF Diamond League season ended with Olympic champion, Allyson Felix of the USA running a fine 22.02 200m world lead in Brussels in September.
At the same event, Barshim reached an eye-catching 2.43m world lead and Area Record, Adams unleashed a 20.59m world lead in the shot put, and two-time Olympic javelin champion, Barbora Spotakova of the Czech Republic returned from maternity leave to throw a world-leading 67.99m.
Fresh addition to the calendar –
In May, the Bahamas hosted the first edition of the IAAF’s innovative world relays event, which was contested well, enjoyed by many and it injected a much-needed fresh breath of life into the sport from the boxing-like introduction of teams one by one through a curtain to the mixture of race distances on offer.
Commonwealth glories –
During July and August, Glasgow played host to the Commonwealth Games and a collection of significant English and Scottish medals including Olympic champion, Greg Rutherford’s long jump glory, the England 4x400m relay men’s victory, Weightman’s 1500m silver, Eilidh Child’s 400m hurdles and Lynsey Sharp’s 800m silvers, Adam Gemili’s first senior major championship medal with 100m silver, Jodie and Bianca Williams’ 200m silver and bronze medals in 22.50 and 22.58 personal bests and Pavey’s 5,000m bronze.
European heroes –
In Zurich, the continental championships saw the British team gather their greatest ever haul of medals with highlights including Farah’s 5,000m and 10,000m double, Porter’s hurdles win, Martyn Rooney’s 400m victory, James Dasaolu and Gemili’s 100m and 200m winning displays (the latter in a 19.98 British under23 record), Child’s golden hurdles run, Rutherford’s winning leap, the men’s 4x100m and 4x400m dominant squads and the aforementioned women’s 4x100m British record winning quartet.
Also in Switzerland, silver medals were taken home by Sharp in the 800m, Jodie Williams in the 200m and breakthrough star, Matthew Hudson-Smith in the 400m, whilst Ashleigh Nelson (100m), Harry Aikines-Aryeetey (100m), Weightman (1500m) and Chris O’Hare (1500m) captured bronze medals.
International winners who shone featured Lavillenie (with his third European outdoor crown), Poland’s two-time European 800m indoor victor, Adam Kszczot, Bondarenko, Germany’s two-time world indoor and outdoor shot put champion, David Storl, Olympic discus champion, Robert Harting from Germany and the Netherlands’ world heptathlon bronze medallist, Dafne Schippers who sprinted to a surprise 100m and 200m double.
Noteworthy news –
Following Pavey’s remarkable, inspiring and popular European 10,000m win at the age of 40, she was duly recognised in BBC Sports Personality of the Year shortlist and finished third.
The sport received the excellent news in December that Lord Sebastian Coe – Britain’s two-time Olympic 1500m champion and London 2012 Olympic mastermind – had released his manifesto in his bid to become the next IAAF president, whom will be announced in August in Beijing ahead of the IAAF World Championships.
Doping cheats return and dominate –
Disgraced American sprinters Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin made the headlines this summer with Gay making an earlier-than-anticipated return to action and Gatlin topping the world lists with his super-fast 9.77 and 19.71 100m and 200m clockings.
At the end of the year, Russian athletics made the news for all of the wrong reasons with highly-concerning allegations of widespread and systematic doping, which implicated former stars, Maryiva Savinov and Lilya Shubukova – hitting both all involved and the global athletics community with a painful blow.
Injury or illness woes –
It was a big shame that Jamaica’s triple Olympic and world sprinting champion, Usain Bolt was forced to miss the majority of the summer through injury problems, in addition to Britain’s Commonwealth poster boy, Farah being absent from Glasgow following an untimely bout of illness. Injury also kept British stars Holly Bleasdale, Robbie Grabarz, Perri Shakes-Drayton and Andrew Pozzi out of action, and curtailed the campaigns of Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Meghan Beesley.
Controversial behaviour –
France’s two-time Olympic champion, Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad missed out on a third straight European 3,000m steeplechase victory thanks to his un-sportsman-like vest-undressing down the finishing straight in Zurich. Despite his disqualification, he returned to win the continental 1500m crown.
At the Bupa Great North Run in September, Mike Kigen repeatedly appeared to slow down in order to allow his training partner, Farah to win – causing uproar from the British endurance running family.
Great Brits –
Despite qualifying for Sopot by the skin of his teeth, Richard Kilty stormed to the world indoor 60m title in 6.49 to register his third lifetime best in as many rounds.
In his outdoor opener, Rutherford flew to an 8.51m British long jump record in San Diego in April to assert his winning intentions on the season.
European junior champion, Chijindu Ujah caused quite a stir in Hengelo in June with a breakthrough 9.96 100m to move into third place on the British all-time list.
Matthew Hudson-Smith – the European junior 200m bronze medallist – exploded onto the senior international scene this summer with a four-second 400m improvement at 44.97 at the Sainsbury’s Glasgow Grand Prix in July, ahead of his European silver medal-winning performance.
Age no barrier –
2003 world 100m champion, Kim Collins from St Kitts and Nevis proved his legs were still young with a 9.96 national record at the age of 38 at the London Anniversary Games in July, whilst Britain’s Steve Way registered a strong 2:15.16 for tenth place and a British V40 record in the Commonwealth Games marathon.
Undoubtedly though, the most inspiring masters performance of the year came from Pavey, as she stormed her way to the European 10,000m title in a quick 32:22 despite being in her fourth decade.
Summer revelations –
In Shanghai in May, Coburn – who the rest of the IAAF Diamond League field foolishly believed to be the pacemaker – was allowed to run away from the pack to claim a surprise 9:19.80 win in the 3,000m steeplechase.
Two months later, Schippers proved multi-eventers can be a force to be reckoned with in individual events with 11.03 and 22.34 Dutch 100m and 200m records at the Glasgow IAAF Diamond League, ahead of her European half-lap 22.03 golden run.
Kenya’s Silas Kiplagat broke the IAAF Diamond League 1500m record with a scintillating 3:27.64 in Monaco, and led seven men inside the 3:30 barrier as four Area and national records were established in the process. At the same meeting, America’s Tori Bowie continued her breakthrough season with a 10.80 100m, and Colombia’s Caterine Ibarguen leapt a 15.31m Area Record in the triple jump.
Britain’s Andy Vernon made his mark on the track this summer with European 10,000m silver and 5,000m bronze, and Olympic triple jump champion, Christian Taylor of the USA caused a shock with long jump victory in Birmingham in August
Not to the form book –
Farah was expected to break the British marathon record on his 26.2 mile debut in London in April but had to settle for a 2:08.21 English record, whilst at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, Australia’s Michael Shelley took the usually African-dominated marathon in 2:11.15 and Botswana’s Nijel Amos beat Olympic champion and world record holder, David Rudisha in the 800m final in 1:45.18.
To close the year, Lavillenie and Adams were named the IAAF World Athletes of the Year for their outstanding dominance, impressive winning streaks and comfortable claims of international crowns across the indoor and outdoor season – this was the very first time that two field eventers had taken the annual honour in what truly was a remarkable 2014 in athletics.
*The above views do not represent those of the governing bodies, organisations, publications and athletics events that I work for.