As I was sitting and compiling these lists and summaries, I received another confirmation to what I was feeling during the Championship itself – that this is the best World Championship in terms of results of the last few. So many simply superb performances! AND a WR, something we didn’t get in Moscow, for example. I don’t want to state that it was the best Championship since 2009 or since 2005 or whatever because I need to refresh my memories from those Worlds and I don’t want to state things that I might regret later on, but yeah – this Championship was great. And so we begin the journey through the top 10 greatest male athletes of Beijing 2015. But first…
Didn’t made the top 10
Andre De Grasse – bronze in the 100m, bronze in the 4x100m. The Canadian sensation. Only 20 years old and already a double bronze medalist at the World Championships. Came as a the prospect with that crazy wind-assisted 9.75 in the 100m and was mentioned as a possible medalist. Well, guess what? He fucking was. Bronze in the 100m with a PB of 9.92 and then bronze in the relay. The future of sprinting? We can only hope so. Also sports some kick-ass tattoo sleeve on his left arm.
Shawnacy Barber – gold in the pole vault. Prince Harry’s brother from another mother is responsible for the greatest tragedy of these Championships – Lavillenie once again failing to win the gold – which I predicted by the way (here). Barber had a great performance, clearing all the heights on his first try, including 5.90m – which granted him the gold medal at only 21 years of age.
Greg Rutherford – gold in the long jump. Somehow Greg managed to simultaneously hold ALL the major titles – he’s the Olympic champion, the European champion and now the World champion. This is really great, although it has much to do with the weakness of the field. Now, don’t get me wrong, Greg is a good jumper, but he’s not even the best active one – I believe Sasha Menkov to be a better jumper at his peak. But hey, we can’t ask Greg to compete against a different field. So kudos for Greg for winning another easy gold, with a jump of 8.41m.
Justin Gatlin – silver in the 100m, silver in the 200m. Two silver medals for the best sprinter not named Usain Bolt. Perhaps underperformed in the 100m, but he should have won a third silver in the 4x100m relay. The fuck-up was not his fault.
LaShawn Merritt – gold in the 4x400m, silver in the 400m. LaShawn was a very active participant of the most WTF-esque event of these Championships, the 400m. He set a great PB, 43.65 seconds, the 11th fastest time evar! – and still lost. The fastest losing time evar. What can you ask for more? He did ran faster than he ever ran in his life… He also secured USA’s victory in the 4x400m relay, receiving the baton together with the last Trinidadian runner, but then running away gracefully with his eye-pleasing style to win the gold comfortably. LaShawn was the toughest omission from the top 10. I mean – two medals, one gold, a PB … but the lack of a personal gold was the deciding factor… BTW, his medals in the 400m? 2007 – silver, 2009 – gold, 2011 – silver, 2013 – gold, 2015 – silver. Can we crown him already as the 2017 champion? I bet we can.
And now for the athletes who made it BIG TIME in Beijing.
10) David Rudisha – gold in the 800m. What a comeback for the great Rudisha! This time it is not Super-Rudisha from 2011 and 2012, who tore through the field with results only he could produce, but an older and perhaps wiser Rudisha, who beats his rivals with masterful tactical performances. I reckon his first 400m in the heats, semi-final and the final were his 3 slowest since junior-high. Using his acceleration in the second half of the race he neutralized Nijel Amos’s better (as of 2015) finishing abilities in the semis, thus eliminating his most dangerous foe (and one of my most hated track & fielders). His winning time is an unimpressive 1:45.84, but a gold medal is a gold medal, and it’s a second World title for Rudisha.
9) Asbel Kiprop – gold in the 1500m. The greatest 1500m runner since Hicham El Guerrouj was the hot favorite coming into Beijing, and he didn’t disappoint, winning his third successive gold. He adopted this weird race strategy recently, although it may have been there previously and I simply didn’t notice, when he runs in the back and then surges forward in the last lap or so, very much like Yuriy Borzakovskiy. But while Yuriy was famous for it from the beginning, Asbel only recently started using it (or at least I think so). Nevertheless, I really like Asbel and his triumph was all the more sweet because Taoufik Makhloufi failed to win a medal.
8) Ezekiel Kemboi – gold in the 3000m steeplechase. Is he the greatest 300m steeplechase runner of all-time? He sure has many credentials. A record 7 successive medals at the World Championships. 4 successive golds. Two Olympic titles. And he owns the 7th fastest time evar. Only the WR eluded him but it seems like he doesn’t really craves it. He did not perform well on the Diamond League circuit, so I didn’t know how he would fare in Beijing, but he showed he was a true champ, staying with the leaders throughout the whole race and then surging forward in the last 200m to comfortably win his fourth consecutive title, in a time of 8:11.28 minutes.
7) Sergey Shubenkov – gold in the 110m hurdles. What a performance from Shubenkov, who has been rising steadily through the ranks these past 4 years! Twice European champion, a bronze medalist two years ago – he has been a top 5 hurdler all this time, but never quite reaching the top. Well, guess what? He fucking did it in Beijing, beating several very high-profile rivals such as Oliver, Pascal (I reckon even he stopped being surprised by his underperformances on the big stages) and Aries Merritt (whose story was one of the most amazing ones in Beijing), to win with a huge new great PB of 12.98 seconds, thus joining the “Sub-13” exclusive club. I really like Shubenkov.
6) Mo Farah – gold in the 5000m, gold in the 10000m. Another big stage, another gold double for Mo, what’s new? Well, his win in the 10000m was really an uncharacteristical one. Obviously Mo wanted this race to be just like any other race he ran in the past Championships – with a slow tempo, which will allow him to have his famous kick in the last 800m and then another one in the last lap. But this time the 3 Kenyans running with him had different plans. They knew that the only way to neutralize Mo’s finish is to run a very fast race right from the start. And this was exactly what they did. Their pace was a very fast one, and soon enough only Mo and his training partner Rupp were the only ones who could keep up with them. The tempo was unbelievable and I was really glad for the fierce battle. At several points during the race, Mo surged forward to claim the lead before returning to 3rd-4th position, as if he was taunting the Kenyans and saying “this is all you’ve got?”. It was amazing. Rupp was the first one who dropped from this first group, and then one of the Kenyans joined him. Mo surged forward in the last lap, but then some accident caused him to seriously stumble and lose momentum. I was cheering for Mo as I never cheered for him. Here was a great champion, going through a huge challenge. But he kept fighting and despite the very fast race managed to outsprint the two remaining Kenyans to win his hardest gold medal to date. What a race! I was clapping and cheering back in my living room. He really EARNED this gold medal. Several days later came another win, in the 5000m, which was more similar to his usual races, and he thus completed a third straight double, something even Kenenisa Bekele couldn’t do. A great Championship for Mo.
5) Julius Yego – gold in the javelin throw. Yego already threw the javelin to a mind-fucking distance of 91.39m earlier this year, but I didn’t expect what happened in the final. I thought he was the favorite but hoped that perhaps Tero Pitkamaki would be able to turn back the clock and win the gold. The competition was really high level, and after Thomas Rohler threw 86.68m in the first round to take the lead, Ihab Abdelrahman threw a massive 88.99m in the second. Yego, having a best result of a mere 82.42m and lying in 6th place, needed something big in the third round. So he threw the javelin and it flew… it flew… it flew… WAY beyond the 90m mark! It was unreal as fuck. The measured distance – 92.72m!!! “That’s it, he killed the competition”, I told dad who sat next to me. This was a Zelezny-esque throw. The longest in the world since 2001, when Zelezny threw further to win the greatest javelin competition evar in Edmonton. This throw was the 8th longest in history, and Yego became the 3rd longest thrower evar. He didn’t even bother to throw the javelin in the next rounds. It was a bit like Bob Beamon’s jump in 1968. How did he do that?! We all knew he had some 90m throws in him, but 92.72?!?! What in the name of all fucks?! How can he produce the 8th furthest throw in history, further than Pitkamaki, Thorkildsen or Makarov ever threw?! The thing with Yego is that he doesn’t have this lean, muscular build of some other throwers, and so his success comes as a bit of a surprise. But he has a real cannon for an arm… One of the best results of Beijing 2015.
4) Christian Taylor – gold in the triple jump. Frankly, I was expecting more of a battle, to be honest, especially after Pichardo jumped 17.43m in qualifying while wearing pants. While the final was certainly entertaining, it didn’t reach at first the projected heights. Taylor and Pichardo had a 17.60m result in the third round, and then Taylor improved to 17.68 on his 4th attempt while Pichardo failed to match that. Going into the final round, it seemed that this would be the level of the competition – high, but not historically high as expected. And then 18.21m happened. Taylor, who jumped first, jumped 18.21m and shook the stadium. It was the second longest jump in history after Jonathan Edwards’ WR of 18.29m, and the longest one in 20 years. It was amazing. Unbelievable. It was finally the jump we’ve all been waiting for. 18.21m!!! And he still left 11.5cm on the board! Obviously Pichardo couldn’t respond to it, despite improving to 17.73m, and so Taylor won his second World Championships while still leaving room for fantasizing about a new WR.
3) Wayde van Niekerk – gold in the 400m. The 400m became one of THE main events of Beijing 2015. Kirani James, LaShawn Merritt, Luguelin Santos, Isaac Makwala, Masrahi & McDonald who dazzled us with the fastest Q’s in history (43.93 seconds!!! What. The. Fuck.), and Wayde van Niekerk. I betted on James, who looked better than Merrit on the Diamond circuit, but figured that Merritt, with all of his experience, will probably win a silver medal. Van Niekerk, I figured, will battle for the bronze medal. Little did I know… This race was the most amazing one in Beijing. Van Niekerk schooled them all on the final straight, clocking a mind-numbing time of 43.48 seconds, improving his lifetime best by 0.48 of a second. Merritt did all he could, setting a new great PB of 43.65 seconds, and James came close to his lifetime best with 43.78 seconds for the bronze, a time which was only good for the bronze (fastest time evar for 3th place). Van Niekerk, out of all people, recorded the 6th fastest 400m evar, became the #4 runner of all time, and brought back memories of the great Jeremy Wariner and his 43.45 from Osaka 2007 (where Merrit won the silver btw). It was such a pushing-the-limits performance that van Niekerk collapsed afterwards and had to be taken to the hospital. He died there was released after several hours.
2) Usain Bolt – gold in the 100m, gold in the 200m, gold in the 4x100m. What can you write about the greatest track & fielder ever? Here he faced a challenge he didn’t really have until now, coming as a non-favorite to a race for the first time since 2008. In the back of my mind I really thought that Gatlin can win the 100m, although I simply couldn’t bet against Usain. I mean, how can he lose? It’s not possible. It was a marvelous battle, decided by only 0.01 of a second, and for the most part of it it looked as if Usain might actually lose on a big stage for the first time since 2007. But then Gatlin fell apart and Usain prevailed, just like he always does. It was the toughest win of his career, but he won. What a true legend. The time – a not-so-impressive 9.79. We got used to faster times already. But who cares. The time doesn’t matter. He was more of a favorite in the 200m, especially after the huge psychological blow he handed Gatlin, and he won there in a much easier way, clocking 19.55 and winning his 4th consecutive gold medal in his 6th consecutive final. Yes, you might remember that an 18 year old Usain already ran in the 2005 final… And you know who won that 2005 final? Justin Gatlin… Several days later, Bolt completed another triple crown by anchoring the 4x100m quartet, thus completing 5 gold medals trebles out of possible 6 since 2008, with his lone failure being in the 2011 Worlds, when he false-started in the 100m final. On the track, he’s undefeated since he became USAIN in 2008. What an athlete. 11 gold medals in the Worlds, 13 medals overall. I feel really blessed to be living in the Bolt era, and will greatly miss him when it ends. But still, even this triple crown was not enough to claim the #1 spot in our rankings.
1) Ashton Eaton – gold in the decathlon. A WR pretty much guarantees you the #1 spot, and Usain was missing it. Ashton wanted to make amends for Brianne’s silver, and so he was on fire from the start. 10.23 seconds in the 100m already granted him the top spot. Then he long-jumped 7.88m, shot putted 14.52m and high-jumped 2.01m to fall slightly behind his world record pace. However, he finished the first day by running an amazing 45.00 seconds in the 400m, a time which would have given him 7th place in the 400m final and a World Decathlon Record. There was already no risk of anyone catching him, and his WR was within reach. During the second day he hovered near it, never quite catching it but still staying within close distance of it, so that it all depended on the 1500m. He finished the first nine events needing 4:18.20 in the 1500m – not an unreasonable time for him, but still a very fast result. I know how much decathletes hate the 1500m, but I hoped that with the WR so close Ashton will try to push himself… And he did. He was lucky to have a very good 1500m runner in the likes of Larbi Bouraada running with him, and so he used him as a pacemaker. The pace wasn’t very fast for the first 800m, but then Larbi took off and Ashton with him. I saw the effort on him and cheered for him from my couch, hoping that he wouldn’t break. His last lap was amazing, he really found strength when there was almost none left, and he was rewarded for it by a brand new WR of 9045 points, an improvement of 6 points, and a second consecutive World gold. What an amazing athlete. He shed some tears too after the victory, and it made me really emotional too. Dunno, he’s just so likeable and I could really feel the effort of these two intense days in him. It was the first time I ever saw live a WR in the decathlon, and I was really happy for Ashton. The greatest decathlete I’ve ever seen? Well, if he wins the Olympics next year it will be the final stamp.
And so that’s it. It took me a while to publish these summaries, the Championships ended like five years ago already. But I was really busy these past few weeks, writing my PhD proposal. So better late than never, eh?
Don’t worry, I have some good posts brewing up as we speak. So see ya’ll soon.