Well, the World Championships is over, what a bummer. But the summaries are just starting! There was too much action to use the format we implemented for the Swimming World Championships, i.e. to give out bronze, silver and gold medals for each sex. So, we’ll use a different tactic and single out the top 10 of the Championships (well, my top 10. I guess the objective top 10 will look somewhat different. But fuck the objective top 10), as well as mentioning several other great performers who didn’t make the cut.
Before we get down to the individual athletes, a word about the general medals standings: USA finished only 3rd in the gold medals standings, with 6, after both Jamaica and Kenya, who had 7. What a disaster! They had several huge fuck-ups here and despite finishing with the largest amount of medals overall (18), I reckon they won’t be satisfied with the way they performed here. Kudos for Kenya for winning 7 gold medals and 16 overall, and also good performance by the Polish athletes (3 gold medals, 8 overall), and the Canadians (2 gold medals, 8 overall).
Russia was the major disappointment. After 7 gold medals and 17 in total in the previous edition, they only managed to win 2 golds and 4 medals overall. A terrible haul for a nation who was used to be an athletic juggernaut. Many, MANY Russian athletes of the highest caliber were caught with performance enhancing drugs in recent years, so perhaps this too has something to do with their decline.
And now, without Freddy Adu, let’s get down to the heroes of the Championships. We’ll start with the women.
Didn’t made the top 10
Hanna Knyazyeva-Minenko – silver in the triple jump. Well, obviously not one of the objective main athletes of Beijing 2015, but for me she’s in the top 3. A new PB and a new NR of 14.78m for Israel’s greatest athlete today. We waited 14 years since our last medal in the Athletics World Championships (Averbukh in the pole vault), and Hanna was kind enough to end this drought. An extremely likeable girl, who came through when it mattered. Amazing.
Maryna Arzamasava – gold in the 800m. A great win thanks to an awesome finish, and ahead of the hot favorite Sum. Her time in the final was good but not great, 1:58.03 minutes. In the semi-finals she set a PB of 1:57.54 minutes.
Caterine Ibarguen – gold in the triple jump. Another powerful performance by the greatest triple jumper of the last 3 years. Her winning distance wasn’t all that great, 14.90m, but she still won a second consecutive world gold and a third consecutive medal. BTW, did you know she competed in two previous editions of the World Championships and in the Athens Olympics – in the high jump?! What about that, huh? Her PB there wasn’t great, 1.93m. It’s good that she switched to triple jump, isn’t it? Well, not so good for her fellow triple jumpers.
Zuzana Hejnova – gold in the 400m hurdles. Damn, did she return to her best form at the right time or what? I didn’t doubt her win for a second, and she made it look easy. 53.50 seconds is 0.67 of a second off her gold-winning time from two years ago, but it is still the WL. A second consecutive gold for the mighty Zuzana! The best and the most consistent 400m hurdler today, male or female.
Yarisley Silva – gold in the pole vault. Why she isn’t in the top 10? She definitely has a case and she was the most difficult omission. One of the best and the most consistent female pole vaulters in recent years (and one of only three women in history to vault over 4.90m), she won the gold with a great jump of 4.90m, continuing her success in recent years – she won a silver in the 2012 Olympics, a bronze in Moscow 2013 and a gold medal in the World Indoor Championships last year.
And now for the athletes who made it BIG TIME in Beijing.
10) Denia Caballero – gold in the discus throw. Got the nod to the top 10 over her compatriot due to hers being the somewhat more surprising win. I must say that for me she really came out of nowhere, despite having a great PB of 70.65m. I really don’t know how come I didn’t know her. And she did beat Sandra Perkovic, the Olympic and World champion! Her winning distance was very nice, I like – 69.28m. A great gold for Denia, who also possessed an awesome throwing style, just like the second Cuban – Yaime Perez, who finished 4th.
9) Jessica Ennis-Hill – gold in the heptathlon. This is how you make a fucking comeback! Brianne Theisen-Eaton was the prohibitive favorite, but Jessica showed right from the start that she means business, running the 100m hurdles in 12.91 seconds. She then jumped 1.86m in the high jump to take the lead and never relinquish it until the end. Her greatest moment was in the final event, the 800m, when she knew that she already won the gold but she also wanted to win the heat, and so, despite not having any real reason to do that, she surged forward in the final straight to win the heat ahead of Theisen-Eaton. That was a moment of a true champion, which is THE definition of Jessica. She is only 9th because she was still very far off her PB, winning with a result of 6669 points.
8) Blanka Vlasic – silver in the high jump. Blanka is my favorite high jumper, but coming to Beijing with a SB of 1.97m, I thought it would be really great if she manages to win a medal. But she outdid herself, cleared 1.99m and 2.01m on her first try, and if it wasn’t for that one stupid failure at 1.92m she would have tied Kuchina for the gold. Still, watching her shedding tears after she fouled out at 2.03m was perhaps the most emotional moment for me in these Championships. I felt her. I thought that she’s crying because of all those last years of injuries and failures, and now she finally returned to the big stage and won the silver at the World Championships and she was so overwhelmed with emotion… My eyes went wet as well, although to quote Ian Thorpe – no liquid has left them. Blanka is still young, she’s 31 years old despite the impression that she’s been around forever. Well, I have a whole Hall Of Fame induction for her, so let’s not waste space here. Anna Chicherova, Blanka’s most fearsome rival for the “Greatest Female High Jumper Since Stefka Kostadinova” title (Bergqvist is number three after those two), is not here too because unlike Blanka, she was the strongest favorite for the gold medal, coming with a SB of 2.03m. I like Anna as well, and she won her fifth consecutive World Championships medal in Beijing, but Blanka gets the nod over both her and the champion Kuchina.
7) Genzebe Dibaba – gold in the 1500m, bronze in the 5000m. Should have been ranked higher… Going into the last day, I was sure she’s going to win a second gold medal and storm her way into the top 3. But it was not meant to be. Awesome and very smart performance in the 1500m, though, with a tactic first half and a dazzling last 800m (1:57.3!!!). Underperformed in the 5000m and should have at least won the silver there – she ran on autopilot after Ayana tore away and didn’t notice Teferi chasing her until it was too late, but still – two medals at these distances at a World Championships is great, and I’m certain she’ll be wiser next year in Rio.
6) Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce – gold in the 100m, gold in the 4x100m. The queen of the 100m, what can you say… She has been Female Usain Bolt of the 100m since 2008, winning gold medals everywhere – Beijing 2008, Berlin 2009, London 2012, Moscow 2013, Beijing 2015. Her only failure – Daegu 2011, the same as Bolt. Coincidence? I think not! 10.76 seconds in the 100m final, a time which could have been faster has she not started celebrating before the finish line. I reckon she could have run 10.72, just around her PB. She is consistently hovering in the 10.70’s, the only female sprinter I’ve seen doing that in the past 15 years. Her winning time was still in the top 30 of all-time, and in fact she owns 7 results in the top 30, which is the most after Marion Jones’ 10, and we all know Marion Jones… So far the always-lovely Shelly-Ann – this little ball of power and speed – hasn’t had any real threat to her reign. But perhaps with the ascend of Schippers we will have some interesting 100m final in Rio… She also anchored the Jamaican quartet for the second fastest time evar in the 4x100m relay to make it two golds here and 7 overall in the World Championships.
5) Almaz Ayana – gold in the 5000m. I must admit, even though she had the better SB and having seen her run in the Diamond League this year, I still considered Genzebe a favorite in the 5000m. Little did I know… The first two kilometers were really slow, but then Ayana took off. Very few runners could keep up with her dazzling speed, and soon only Genzebe remained. But then Ayana shook her off too, before storming towards the finish. Her last 3 kilometers took an astonishing 8:19.91 minutes, a time which would have been ranked 7th all-time in the 3000m!!! This was Ledecky-esque performance… Her final time – an amazing 14:26.83, obviously a new CR, and the 19th fastest time evar. Not a PB for her, but still – a great performance for the bronze medalist from Moscow, which could have gotten very close to the WR if the first two kilometers weren’t so damn slow…
4) Tianna Bartoletta – gold in the long jump. Tianna is here not because of her amazing result (which it wasn’t), but because of the way she won. The female long jump was really high-level in Beijing, with three jumpers jumping further than 7m. Ivana Spanovic, a.k.a. track & field’s Kim Kardashian, set the bar really high with a new PB of 7.01m on her first try. Bartoletta responded with a 6.95m jump on her second try. But then Shara Proctor of Team GB jumped to 7.07m on HER third try, thus relegating Tianna to third place. All three continued to jump around 7m, but without changing their positions. Then, on her last try, with a very-good-but-still-not-enough series of jumps (6.95, 6.87, 6.62, 6.94), Tianna flew to 7.14m to set a new PB and to win the gold medal like a true champ. What an amazing victory! To outdo yourself on your last attempt! Of course, there is always the possibility that she was just building up tension and was in charge this whole time, intentionally producing weaker jumps on her first 5 tries… A great win for Tianna, who wins her second World title, 10 fucking years since her first.
3) Anita Wlodarczyk – gold in the hammer throw. Queen of the hammer, she is. She was the hot favorite coming into the Championships, throwing the hammer 4 meters further than anyone else this year, and setting a new WR (her 5th) less than a month ago. The only question was – could she set a new WR in Beijing? Well, she came pretty damn close… She started with a mediocre throw of 74.40m (which would have still won her the silver!) and was relegated to second place when Zhang threw 75.92m in the second round. But then she took off, improving her result in three successive rounds – 78.52, 80.27 and then 80.85, a mere 23cm short of her WR! The latter two throws also broke the CR, held by the doping-aided Tatyana Lysenko. While she didn’t manage to set a new WR (just a matter of time in my opinion), she still had an amazing series, and 4 of her legal 5 throws could have easily won the title. She beat second place by over 4.5 meters to add a second gold and a third World medal overall to her resume. Anyone wants to bet against her in Rio?…
2) Allyson Felix – gold in the 400m, silver in the 4x100m, silver in the 4x400m. The most successful female athlete of Beijing 2015 in terms of total medals. Her first glorious moment came in the 400m. For years I’ve been hearing that Allyson has the potential to be a great 400m runner. But so far she concentrated on the 200m. The only time she tried 400m at a major championship she won silver in Daegu 2011, losing to Montsho by 0.03 of a second. But then it was a part of a 200/400 double. Here she concentrated on the 400m alone, and it paid off. She looked great in the heats and in the semis, running a great effortless 49.89. In the final she was unstoppable, winning easily with a new PB – a 49.26! The 74th fastest time evar. With some more practice I reckon in Rio she could become just the second active female athlete to run a sub-49, joining Sanya Richards-Ross. So an easy win for Allyson here. She also did her part for the USA’s 4x100m quartet, which was no match for the Jamaican girls, but her greatest moment came in the longer relay. Allyson was USA’s third runner, and she received the baton 2 seconds after the Jamaicans’ third runner. At the end of her leg she handed the baton to Francena McCorory WITH AN ADVANTAGE OF HALF A SECOND!!! And Jamaica’s third runner wasn’t me! It was fucking Stephenie Ann McPherson (another favorite of mine, btw), 5th in the individual 400m final! I mean – WHAT?! Felix simply flew, there’s no other way to describe it. She burned the track. It was amazing watching her run, she has such a beautiful style. Watching the relay live I knew she was running fast. But I didn’t knew exactly how fast. Later I read that her split time was a truly mind-fucking 47.72 seconds, third fastest in history and the fastest I have ever seen in my life. Wow. It would have been so poetic if she singlehandedly would have won USA the gold medal, but it wasn’t meant to be. McCorory literally died in the last few meters of the race, allowing Novlene Williams-Mills of Jamaica to pass her. I think Allyson should have gotten an individual gold medal for her effort in the relay, it was so heartbreaking… She is perhaps the greatest relay runner I have ever seen. But still – a great haul to improve her position on the all-time medals’ list (which we will cover some time later on).
1) Dafne Schippers – gold in the 200m, silver in the 100m. Dafne is first because of the sheer WTF-ness factor of her performances. While Felix’s win in the 400m was impressive, it was expected, and the time was good but not all-time great. Dafne, on the other hand… First, in the 100m, she beat several favorites to win the silver behind Shelly-Ann, with a new great PB of 10.81 seconds. Her race was remarkable also for the fact that she started closing in on Shelly-Ann as the race progressed, and while it’s true that Shelly-Ann slowed down a bit before the finish, the question marks remained as to what Dafne can do in the 200m. She came to Beijing with a PB of 22.03 seconds, and didn’t have to push herself to the limit in the heats and the semis, clocking a mediocre 22.36. I thought that she’s the hot favorite for the gold and that perhaps she can run something close to 21.90, which would be a great result. Well, in the final Dafne faced some tough and unexpected competition from Elaine Thompson, who led right from the start. Dafne was gaining on her but was still behind with 30m to go, 20m to go, 10m to go… Only in the last few meters did she pass her to win the title, with a truly mind-fucking time of 21.63 seconds. The fourth fastest time evar!!! Only Florence Griffith-Joyner and Marion Jones had ever run faster. It was the fastest time in 17 years. Not even the likes of Allyson Felix and Veronica Campbell-Brown ran such a fast 200m. It was a really unexpected result, and considering the fact that Dafne is still only 23 years old, it’s scary to think about the possibility that she can perhaps run even faster in the near future… Dafne, you da real MVP! She also helped the Dutch quartet set a new NR in the 4×100 relay heats to qualify for the final, where they were then disqualified while not really being in medals contention.
So, this concludes our summary of the best female track & fielders in Beijing. Next up – ze men!