NEXT MONTH’S ISSUE, our popular Annual Edition, will as always ID the world’s top athletes in various categories. In many places, the choosing will be tougher than ever, what with the pandemic shutting off so many avenues of competition, leaving us with a dearth of data with which to work.
Perhaps the toughest problem will come in sorting out the top end of the men’s MVP debate. But in this case it’s not because we have too little data; rather, it’s because we have so many candidates who are worthy of challenging for, let’s say, a podium’s worth of choices. The way I see it, there are 5 men who can make a case for being in the top 3. Each of them moved into at least No. 2 on an all-time list.
Let’s look at their pros & cons, alphabetically:
Pros—There are 2 big ones for the 24-year-old Ugandan: World Records in both the 5000 (12:35.36) and 10,000 (26:11.00), knocking off a pair of longstanding Kenenisa Bekele standards. Those were his only track races of the year.
Cons—The bigness of the possible negatives depends on your view of technology, a subject I weighed in on in this space last month. I speak, of course, of both races featuring new Wavelight pacing technology (not to mention a phalanx of high-end rabbits) and new high-tech shoes.
Not a factor—Cheptegei’s disappointing 4th in the World Half-Marathon Champs won’t be held against him, but then again, in the T&FN scheme of things he also won’t get any extra credit for his road 5K WR. Our AOY protocol doesn’t consider any off-track racing other than the full marathon.
Pros—No other shot putter has ever had a season, marks-wise, to compare with the 27-year-old American, who made 74-foot throwing commonplace… Overall, he had 13 such marks, compared to the previous high of just 4 by anybody else. The best of his 74-footers, 75-2 (22.91) moved him to =No. 2 on the all-time list… Furthering his domination, he had—counting all throws in a series—the year’s 36 longest throws… Undefeated in 10 meets bettering 22m (72-2¼) in 9 of them.
Cons—Didn’t break the WR?
Pros—The 20-year-old Swede twice raised the absolute WR with indoor vaults of 20-2¾ (6.17) and 20-3¼ (6.18)… Also claimed the outdoor best with his 20-2 (6.15), taking down Sergey Bubka’s 26-year-old mark… In a long and busy season, won all 16 of his meets, 10 of them over the 6m (19-8¼) barrier… Went 8-for-8 against arch-rival Sam Kendricks.
Cons—In U.S. terms, the Louisiana native couldn’t celebrate his records by buying himself a beer until November 10 (coincidentally, the day this column was written).
Pros—The 27-year-old German javelin thrower moved to No. 2 on the all-time world list with his 320-9 (97.76)… He also threw 311-2 (94.84) in that meet for the No. 6 performance ever… He became only the second man—behind WR holder Jan Železný—to break the 310-foot, 320-foot and 95-meter barriers… Had the year’s 3 farthest meets, plus 5 of 6, 6 of 8 and 7 of 10.
Cons—He blotched what would have been an undefeated season by fouling out in his first meet of the year before winning 9 straight.
Pros—His 46.87 in the 400H gave Kevin Young’s venerable WR of 46.78 its biggest scare yet and ended up with all-time performances 2, 8, 9 & =10… Undefeated in 6 meets, had the best sequence of marks ever: 47.10, 46.87, 47.62, 47.08, 47.07, 48.23… Became the first man ever to break 47.10 more than once in a season and did it three times… The 24-year-old Norwegian also ended up as No. 3 on the yearly flat 400 list at 45.05.
Cons—Not his fault, but didn’t meet the other 2 WR chasers, Rai Benjamin and Abderrahmane Samba (neither of whom ran the event).
Not a factor—His “WR” for the rarely run 300H, which isn’t part of our selection criteria.
So in a nutshell, there’s a Fab 5 for you. Which ones would win the 3 spots on your podium for the year?
The envelope please… ◻︎