FROM THE EDITOR — The Return Of The Rankings

LAST JANUARY’S COLUMN, titled What? There’s No 2020 World Rankings?! was one of the most depressing I’ve ever had to write.

That offering began, “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…

“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…”

So, prepare to like-away, as we’re back in the World Rankings business. Plus the Athletes Of The Year business. Not to mention Performances Of The Year.

Our World Rankings have in recent years been joined by WA’s world rankings (we were here first, we get capital letters, they don’t!).

When asked what the difference is between the two sets of ratings my first words are always that it needs to be understood that the two methodologies are trying to achieve dissimilar goals. We’re happy with our goal and I’m sure WA is happy with its.

WA is seeking to create an ongoing set of rankings that will give a “current” standing at any point in the year. The T&FN Rankings, on the other hand, are calendar-year based, meaning that we only do a single compilation. Therefore, the only point of overlap occurs late in the year.

I do take issue with some of the WA methodology, most notably its downgrading of the value of the NCAA Championships, indoors and out, as detailed in my April ’21 column. Having the WA scores available to serve as an aid in qualifying for big championships, however, is certainly superior to relying on a single mark from a list. But for year-end fan enjoyment, which has long been our only goal, we’ll stick with what we do.

Our World Rankings for the Olympic year, I think, have a bit of a different feel, harkening back a bit to the days before there was a real pro circuit. Specifically, with the pandemic wreaking its havoc on travel schedules, there were — or at least seemed to be — far fewer high-end head-to-heads at major invitationals.

As a result, our traditional tripartite system for analyzing seasons — honors won, win-loss record, sequence of marks — seemed skewed more towards the last of those, which we consider to be the lowest in importance.

Similarly our longstanding Rankings guidelines have always stressed that no one meet is the be-all, end-all, even the Olympics. That too may have skewed a bit this year, with more decisions being based on the Games than usual.

The Annual Voting Conundrums

This year’s AOY/POY voting was fascinating for both sexes. But as is frequently the case, I failed to march in step with our international panel, joining them in just 1 of 4 instances admittedly significantly swayed by the high-tech shoes factor.

I came out on the right side of things only on Ryan Crouser as men’s AOY. What did surprise me was the ease with which he won over Karsten Warholm. I figured it might split out about 50-50 with the win going either way. But the voters obviously joined me in loving his unparalleled consistency as he became the event’s first undefeated No. 1 since John Godina in ’98.

I was wrong on men’s POY, sticking with Crouser and his no-shoe-aid WR. Warholm, remember, said in the wake of his Tokyo WR, “Hopefully somebody is doing the research and hopefully World Athletics are there to protect both athletes and the audience. People sitting at home, I don’t want them to feel like they’ve been fooled or tricked. I want there to be credibility.”

Although there’s no shoe factor with Crouser, I must admit there are times when I wonder if the new interpretation of back-of-the ring foot placement isn’t effectively giving him a bit larger circle to work with than his predecessors had.

Super-shoes also played a role in my women’s choices, where I wasn’t in the majority when I voted for Yulimar Rojas and then for her WR. While she might have received a bit of aid on her way down the TJ runway, I just didn’t see her assistance being comparable to what AOY Elaine Thompson-Herah received in her dashing, or POY Sydney McLaughlin in her hurdling.

And just like that, 2021 is behind us. Bring on ‘22! ◻︎