IT’S SAD BUT TRUE. As our ’20 coverage ends with this issue, for the first time since the 1946 season you won’t find the definitive World Rankings which have gone such a long way towards defining who we are.
A 73-year string of Top 10s, kaput!
Hardly the kind of thing I was looking for as a Christmas present. One not only for my selfish self, but also for all you loyal readers. Through the years, our surveys have consistently shown that there’s no issue you like better than the Annual Edition, with its recapping of the year’s goings-on.
With that in mind—and safe in the knowledge that even in a year as gutted as 2020 was there was no shortage of high-end athletes doing amazing things (even without high-tech shoes or pacing lights)—we wanted somehow still to honor those athletes without diminishing the historical value of World Rankings places.
So, rather than our traditional 10-deeps, in the following pages you’ll discover that we have created “Podiums” for each of the 44 standard categories. Instead of enumerating the top 10 performers, we have instead tabbed the best 3 as Gold, Silver & Bronze winners.
As explained in our intro to the Podium winners, “Sure, we could have cobbled together Rankings at something less than 10 deep, but the parameters just wouldn’t have been the same.”
We also explain, “Given the immense difference between the circumstances under which these awards were made compared to the traditional World Rankings, we won’t be listing this year’s people in our historical compilations.”
You may find that last to be a harsh judgment, and it’s not one we made easily, but we think doing it this way will provide a better view of the history of the sport. We didn’t want to get into the business of handing out “participation trophies,” although in some places we had no choice but to come close.
To give you an idea of just how severely the relevant numbers were impacted, the women’s 400H is the poster child for an event where ’20 bore little resemblance to recent reality.
Harken back to ’19 (a year in which U.S. runners were World Ranked 1-2-3-7-10), when the 4 fastest runners of the year were all Americans: Dalilah Muhammad 52.16, Sydney McLaughlin 52.23, Ashley Spencer 53.11, Shamier Little 53.73.
None of that quartet ran the event this year, one in which there was a single sub-54 runner (53.79 as the world leader) and only 4 cracked 55. This year’s fastest American ran 58.83, good for No. 115 (!) on the yearly world list.
For a shocking U.S. men’s number, check out the farthest outdoor long jump mark of the year: 25-6¼ (7.78). People were jumping that far almost 100 years ago. For another, let us cite the world men’s high jump, where the list leader of 7-7¾ (2.33) was last that low way back in ’83.
The numbers don’t lie.
How About The Year’s Best Athletes?
You may also note a change in nomenclature for our choices as the year’s top performers. For the first time since ’59 (’74 on the women’s side) there are no superduperstars tabbed as “Athlete Of The Year.”
Instead—just as was foreshadowed in the November/December issue with our tagging of the year’s top high schoolers—you’ll instead find MVPs (Most Valuable Performers). And following the MVP choices, rather than our traditional charting of vote-getters, in order, just a small handful of Honorable Mentions are highlighted.
As with the Rankings, this change in nomenclature was part of our effort to keep things in historical perspective. There simply weren’t enough people of either sex to fill out a Top 10 that could remotely compare with its predecessors.
Having said that, I’d be totally remiss if I didn’t clarify that Mondo’s year compares favorably with any vault season that ever went before it. Indeed, you’ll have to search far and wide to find seasons in any event which compare.
His season alone makes for a perfect present under the tree, but the best part is that in the Olympic year to come we’ll all need bigger trees under which to find more of the great gifts our wonderful sport never fails to bring us.
Stay safe! Mask up! Get vaccinated when your turn in the queue comes up. (This public service message brought to you by the pre-T&FN gh, who a half-century ago was a Bacteriology & Public Health major.) ◻︎