IT WOULD BE GREAT if track & field could sell itself on competition alone, but the coin of the realm has long been World Records and the relative infrequency of those in recent years has helped consign our sport to secondary status in the sporting pantheon. Having said that, the Teens provided many new highs. Let’s recap the absolute standards, chronologically, set in mainstream events (i.e., OG/WC contested, plus the mile, but not including mixed-sex 4×4) from 2010 through 2019. Fittingly, the only two recordsetters from the first year both went on to become our Athlete Of The Decade winners.
2010: Anita Włodarczyk 256-11 (78.30)
Bydgoszcz, Poland, June 06—On her third throw the 24-year-old Pole added almost a foot to the hammer WR she had set at the previous summer’s World Championships.
David Rudisha 1:41.09
Berlin, Germany, August 22—The Athlete Of The Year to be stopped Wilson Kipketer’s 1:41.11 just 2 days shy of its 13th birthday. Rudisha ran his halves in 49.1 and 52.0. “I feel there is still some room to improve my time but I have no hurry, you know,” the 21-year-old Kenyan said. He hurried nonetheless, as it turned out
Rieti, Italy, August 27—Not afraid of a heavy workload, Rudisha had gone from Berlin to the first DL Final (August 25) and won that title in 1:43.50. Two days later it was on to what we called Rieti’s “perplexingly fast” track. He went out in 48.9, 0.2 faster than in Berlin and finished off with a 52.1. “I felt strong in both runs,” he said.
2011: Vera Sokolova 1:25:08
Sochi, Russia, February 26—Walking in the national walking championships, Sokolova covered 20K in 1:25:08. She would go on to earn a doping suspension 4 years later.
Betty Heidler 260-7 (79.42)
Halle, Germany, May 21—Włodarczyk’s hammer standard lasted less than a year as Heidler, 27, became the first German to set a WR in more than two decades. “I hadn’t thought about the World Record beforehand,” she said. “I flirted with the idea a bit about the German Record, but I can’t believe I’ve gone close to the magic barrier of 80m.”
Daegu, South Korea, September 04—Nesta Carter, Michael Frater, & Yohan Blake handled the first three legs as Usain Bolt got some measure of payback for his infamous false start in the 100 with yet another WR. The old WR was Jamaica’s 37.31 from the ’09 World Champs.
Patrick Makau 2:03:38
Berlin, Germany, September 25—Germans may not have set many WRs of late, but the capital city’s 26-mile route did. Makau, a 26-year-old Kenyan, beat the previous WR holder, Haile Gebrselassie, in the process of getting his. “By the time I had dropped Haile, then I tried to break the World Record,” he said. “When you are running by yourself it is a very nice moment because you can control the pace and you don’t have any pressure.”
2012: Ashton Eaton 9039
Eugene, Oregon, June 22-23—The local favorite added 13 points to the decathlon WR despite fighting first-day rain. “Everybody loves life and I think that’s why we love the decathlon,” he said. “It seems like a whole life—even though I’m just 24.”
London, England, August 09—In what we selected as our Men’s Performance Of The Decade, Rudisha got his third WR, splitting 49.28/51.63. “It was the most extraordinary piece of running I have probably ever seen,” said former WR holder Seb Coe. Your editor had the honor of being on the PA for the race and almost a decade later I still get the proverbial chills thinking about a consummate display of front-running.
Yelena Lashmanova 1:25:02
London, August 11—Just 20, the young Russian upset favored Olga Kaniskina with a strong second half. Unfortunately, like Sokolova before her, a doping DQ was in her future.
United States 40.82
London, August 11—The American foursome of Tianna Bartoletta, Allyson Felix, Bianca Knight & Carmelita Jeter destroyed East Germany’s ancient standard, set in ’85. Admitted Jeter, “I did look over at the clock, and as I’m running I’m looking over at the clock and I’m seeing this time that’s like 37, 38, 39, and then in my heart I said, ‘We just did it!’”
London, August 11—The climactic event of the Games featured the same Caribbean quartet as Daegu, with Bolt blowing away from U.S. anchor Ryan Bailey. Blake told reporters, “We dropped from space like Mr. Bean. We are not human. I am from Mars. What I mean is we are not normal,” he clarified. “36.84 is not normal. We are flying.” Bolt, rolling his eyes, added, “I said to Yohan, ‘You need to stop talking like that. Somebody’s going to put you in a straitjacket one day.’”
Aries Merritt 12.80
Brussels, Belgium, September 07— “I always felt I could set a record,” said the 27-year-old Georgia native after etching his name into the books. “But just destroying it like that—I never imagined it would happen that way.”
2013: Wilson Kipsang 2:03:23
Berlin, September 29—The famed German speedway did it again, leading the 31-year-old Kenyan to say, “I’m the man now.” Well, for a while, at least. At this writing it’s now only performance No. 18 on the all-time list. It was the only WR of the year, man or woman.
2014: Renaud Lavillenie 20-2½ (6.16)
Donets’k, Ukraine, February 15—The 27-year-old Frenchman took down Sergey Bubka’s iconic record just shy of its 21st birthday. “I will need time to get back down on Earth,” he said after using the Bubka-sponsored meet to become just the second 20-footer. “It was a mythical record; I knew I had the potential to try it. But I beat it so early, that’s something else.”
Yohann Diniz 3:32:33
Zürich, Switzerland, August 15—The European Championships highlighted the heel-and-toe skills of the 36-year-old Frenchman, who took more than 2:00 off the previous best.
Anita Włodarczyk 261-1 (79.58)
Berlin, August 31—“A hammer thrower getting a standing ovation, that’s crazy,” said the 29-year-old Pole after reclaiming her WR from Heidler, who was a distant 2nd here.
Dennis Kimetto 2:02:57
Berlin, September 28— “I was expecting to win today, but I was not sure about the record,” said the 30-year-old Kenyan, who became the first under the 2:03 barrier. “2:02 is an amazing time.”
2015: Diniz 1:16:36, Yusuke Suzuki
In a busy 7-day span, Diniz (Arles, France, March 08) added the 20K mark to his 50K ownership, only to see Suzuki (Nomi, Japan, March 15) take almost a half-minute off it a week later.
Hong Liu 1:24:38
La Coruña, Spain, June 06—The 28-year-old Chinese vet not only took down Lashmanova’s recognized WR, but also a never-ratified 1:24:47.
Genzebe Dibaba 3:50.07
Fontvieille, Monaco, July 17—Genzebe Dibaba saw the clock ticking over to 2:50 as the bell sounded for the final lap of the 1500 and knew she had a chance of breaking an all-time best—one of the many suspicious Chinese marks from ’93—that many had considered untouchable. Having covered the final 800 in 2:01.7 and the last lap in 59.78, she crossed the line in 3:50.07. “I knew from the beginning that I could break the record and I feel like I can still improve,” said the 24-year-old Ethiopian.
Włodarczyk 266-0 (81.08)
Cetniewo, Poland, August 01—Finally broaching the 80m barrier she had long been chasing, the AOD said just a week shy of her 30th birthday, “I was waiting for this moment so long.”
Ashton Eaton 9045
Beijing, China, August 28-29—After taking a year off from the decathlon, Eaton returned with a new all-time high at the World Championships. “When I got here and I was in a room getting ready to go out for the 100m, then I realized how much I missed it,” he said.
2016: Keni Harrison 12.20
London, July 22—“Only the record will make up for missing out on Rio,” the 23-year-old American hurdler told a press conference the day before the Müller Anniversary Games. Mission accomplished as she took down Yordanka Donkova’s standard from ’88.
Almaz Ayana 29:17.45
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 12—In a stunning bit of negative-splitting (14:47.1/14:30.4), the 24-year-old Ethiopian broke another of the thought-to-be-unbreakable Chinese standards. Responding to a charge that she was using illegal substances she said, “My doping is my training, my doping is Jesus. Otherwise nothing. I am crystal clean.”
Wayde van Niekerk 43.03
Rio, August 14—Just one quick circuit of the track and the 24-year-old South African had replaced the legendary Michael Johnson. And from lane 8, no less. “I feel so motivated and inspired to do more,” he said. “I have a sense this is only the beginning.” Unfortunately, Mr. Injury was looming.
Włodarczyk 269-11 (82.29) & 272-3 (82.98)
Rio, August 15 & Warsaw, Poland, August 28—WRs 4 & 5 for our Athlete Of The Decade came two weeks apart, the first claiming Olympic gold.
Ruth Jebet 8:52.78
St.-Denis, France, August 27—After narrowly missing the WR twice earlier in the year, the 19-year-old Kenyan-turned-Bahraini took almost 6 seconds off the old best. “I was not expecting such a big difference with the record,” she said.
2017: Inês Henriques 4:08:26 & 4:05:56
Porto de Mós, Portugal, January 15 & London, August 13—As the IAAF added the longest walk to its roster, the 36/37-year-old Portuguese perambulator was first onto the WR list, the second mark winning WC gold. This was the only record of the year, man or woman.
2018: Rui Liang 4:04:36
Taicang, China, May 05—The 23-year-old Chinese used the World Team Championships to cut short Henriques’ reign atop the all-time list.
Beatrice Chepkoech 8:44.32
Fontvieille, July 20—”I was thinking maybe I can break 8:50 but not at all was I dreaming about 8:44,” said the 27-year-old Kenyan after utterly destroying Jebet’s old standard. “This time still could be improved, I’m sure. Maybe my next target could be to run under 8:40.”
Kevin Mayer 9126
Talence, France, September 15-16—The 26-year-old French star bounced back from a debacle at the European Championships in administering a solid smack to Eaton’s WR. “We live for moments like this, that are simply incredible,” he said. “I couldn’t cry. I don’t have any more tears left because I was crying so much before the 1500.”
Eliud Kipchoge 2:01:39
Berlin, September 16—“I remember last year when I started the season we had planned for history in Berlin where someone had first run 2:02, 2:03, and 2:04,” said the 33-year-old Kenyan after his first WR in the event, “so we joked about making history by running 2:01.” Done.
2019: Hong Liu 3:59:15
Huangshan, China, March 09—Quite the debut at the longer walk distance, as the 50K’s 4-hour barrier was broken for the first time, and by an athlete in a comeback after two years on maternity leave.
Sifan Hassan 4:12.33
Fontvieille, July 12—A mile in metric Monaco? Why not. After her new standard, the 26-year-old Dutch star said of her 60.2 final lap, “When I crossed the line I was so surprised. After you run a last 400 like that, and set a World Record, it gives me so much confidence.”
Dalilah Muhammad 52.20 & 52.16
Des Moines, Iowa, July 28 & Doha, Qatar, October 04—The 29-year-old U.S. vet used the big stages of the USATF and World Championships to twice lower the 400H best. “I did not expect to break the World Record today,” she said after the second record. “I was definitely just trying to win that race.”
Brigid Kosgei 2:14:04
Chicago, Illinois, October 13—PRing by more than 4 minutes—and yes, wearing Vaporflys—the 25-year-old Kenyan consigned Paula Radcliffe’s mark to history’s dust bin. Although there’s no doubting Kosgei’s credentials, the question will always remain: how much of it was the shoes?
Bring on the ’20s! ◻︎