The track & field rankings of Rio 2016 provided more of a challenge than the swimming ones. The number of medals is irrelevant, because how can you compare a sprinter who can win 3 medals to a pole vaulter who is restricted to winning a single medal? I decided to try and compare the relative greatness of the athletes’ performances. Yeah, I know, it’s ambiguous as fuck, but still – subjective rankings are fun to do. Much more than objective ones.
So let’s do a male top 10 and a female top 10 of the track & field athletes that impressed me the most in Rio.
First, a brief look on those poor chaps who didn’t make it to the top 10, although they were awesome in their own right.
- Kerron Clement – gold in the 400m Hurdles (47.73 seconds). Finally, the dude made it! I mean, word, he is a two time world champion and a silver medalist from Beijing 2008, but still – ever since he burst onto the scene I thought he can be the next Felix Sanchez. But in order to do that he had to become an Olympic champion. At the age of 30 he finally made it. However, his winning time was the slowest since Los Angeles 1984.
- Christian Taylor – gold in the Triple Jump (17.86m). Another dominant display from Taylor. His winning jump is the 29th best result evar. AND Will Claye really challenged him with that 17.76m jump. But to be in the top 10 you have to do something special. Taylor simply killed all opposition with his opening effort.
- Christoph Harting – gold in Discus Throw (68.37m). A great story. I bet Malachowski really hates the Harting family now. Also won the gold with his final throw, but the result is good but not great, despite being a PB.
- Taoufik Makhloufi – silver in the 800m (1:42.61 minutes), silver in the 1,500m (3:50.11 minutes). In fact I considered putting him in the top 10, but then decided against it. The silver in the 800m is understandable – he set a PB in that race. But the silver in the 1,500m represents a loss of the gold medal. It is his own fault that he only won the silver. Such a slow pace, yeezus! In the final 100m I was sure the victory is his but he managed to lose it to Centrowitz. No, Makhloufi’s two medals are a huge achievement but it is his 1,500m performance that rules him out of the top 10.
- Derek Drouin – gold in the High Jump (2.38m). The toughest omission from the top 10. A great display by Drouin, and a respectable result as well, AND on his first try! However, I dunno, the competition lacked real drama and good results. It is quite possible I’m still under the impression of the 2013 World Championships…
And now, without Freddy Adu, please welcome…
10) Andre De Grasse – silver in the 200m (20.02 seconds), bronze in the 100m (9.91 seconds), bronze in the 4x100m Relay (37.64 seconds). The only guy in the top 10 who did not win a gold medal. He made up for it by earning a handful of medals in three sprint events and by looking as the next big thing in sprint. This is the second big championship in a row that he delivers big time, after Beijing 2015. Despite his PB’s not being the best among the sprinters not named Usain, he has this ability to shine on the biggest stages, winning medals ahead of bigger names with better times, and this is what really matters. I really like this kid.
9) Thomas Röhler – gold in the Javelin Throw (90.30m). Superb performance by Rohler, who finally lives up to his huge potential. He trailed Julius Yego until the 5th round of throws, but then threw this 90.30. It’s too bad Yego couldn’t fight back properly, with his injury and all (which we didn’t get to see on Israeli TV and so I have no clue what happened there).
8) David Rudisha – gold in the 800m (1:42.15 minutes). I was anxious before the 800m final: I thought it will be between Rudisha and Makhloufi and that the Algerian has better skillz at this point in time. But the race turned out to be somewhat weird. In a turn of events that I’m 95% sure was planned in advance, Alfred Kipketer sacrificed himself by acting as a pacemaker for Rudisha and running at a blistering pace for the first lap – 49.3 seconds! This was done to disarm Makhloufi of his murderous sprinting abilities at the finish, and hey – it worked! Rudisha showed he is still the BOSS (do not confuse it with Bosse, who keeps underperforming in big events, just like his unofficial twin Pascal Martinot-Lagarde). His result was also extremely fast thanks to the pace set by Kipketer – 18th best all-time.
7) Ashton Eaton – gold in the Decathlon (8,893 points). One of my favorite track & fielders! No WR but he did equal the OR, which was really weird. I mean, to get the same EXACT amount of points as Sebrle did in Athens? Whoa. His serie of performances was good and solid, yet it did not include any mind-fucking results such as his 45.00 seconds in the 400m from Beijing 2015. He also experienced some strong and unexpected competition from Kevin Mayer, but still – he won it and became the 3rd man evar to defend his Decathlon Olympic title.
6) Conseslus Kipruto – gold in the 300m Steeplechase (8:03.28 minutes). The king is dead, long live the king! Despite Ezekiel Kemboi’s invincibility in big events since 2009, I was betting on Conseslus to take this one, seeing as his form has been superb so far in 2016. And indeed, the final was HIS show despite some vintage performance from Kemboi (so sad he got DQ’d). A gold medal for the 21 year-old youngster and a new OR to boot.
5) Thiago Braz da Silva – gold in the Pole Vault (6.03m). The biggest surprise in the Olympic track and field events. Who would have betted on da Silva to win gold ahead of Lavillenie before the Olympics? Well, there might have been a few people, due to him having a PB of 5.93m. But after Renaud cleared 5.98m in the final on his FIRST attempt??? I bet even his mom thought Renaud is the Olympic champion at that point. The Brazilian crowd’s behavior aside, da Silva is a worthy champion. He brought his A-Game to the Olympics, improved his PB by 10cm, set a new OR, and became the 7th best vaulter of all-time. The feels were strong for Renaud, my brother from another mother, but I also applauded da Silva for his awesome performance.
4) Ryan Crouser – gold in the Shot Put (22.52m). God damn it shot put, get your shit together. We only just got used to Joe Kovacs and now another putter comes along and steals his thunder to become #1 in the world? Crowser made his intentions clear in the qualifying round, with a 21.59m effort. In the final he proceeded to improve his pre-Rio PB of 22.11m (in itself an amazing result) three fucking times! 22.22m in the 2nd round, 22.26m in the 3rd round, and then all hell broke loose with a 22.52m throw in the 5th round, the 11th best result evar and a new OR! The previous OR, by GDR’s Ulf Timmermann, stood for almost 30 years. I was shocked. And the best part? Crowser is only 23 years old! Can he threaten Randy Barnes’ WR in the future???
3) Mo Farah – gold in the 5,000m (13:03.30 minutes), gold in the 10,000m (27:05.17 minutes). Farah now owns an achievement that such greats as Haile Gebrselassie and Kenenisa Bekele do not have – he has TWICE won the Olympic long-distance double, 5000/10000, something only Lasse Viren did, back in the good old 70’s. His two victories were not without drama, as he fell, actually fell, in the 10,000m final, but recovered fast enough, and stumbled after a collision in the 5,000m heats. His victories were not easy at all, and I even doubted them for several moments. They were not the archetypical Farah races, as other runners almost matched the blistering pace of his final laps. But hey, Mo is a true winner, a real champ, a real “muzhik” as we say in Russian. He did the Olympic double-double after completing it in the Worlds last year. What is left for him? I dunno. He already cemented his place in the history of distance running. Not the greatest distance runner of all-time (Gary Lineker are you for real?) but definitely somewhere near the top.
2) Wayde van Niekerk – gold in the 400m (43.03 seconds). WOW. THE result of Rio 2016 among the male track & fielders. I mean – we all knew van Niekerk is THE MAN, but his run at the Worlds last year (43.48) seemed like the run of a lifetime. I mean, the dude died after he ran it. I was sure he can run faster than 44 seconds, perhaps even get close to THAT result, but to shed another 40-something hundredths of a second for the second year in a row?! To do the unthinkable and break Michael Johnson’s WR (43.18), which stood for 17 years?! Get the fuck outta here… Perhaps the fact that he ran in the 8th lane helped him, because he didn’t see his competitors and thus had to simply run his best. I don’t know. What I do know is that van Niekerk is da real MVP. If I need to single out the greatest single-event performance of male track & fielders in Rio, Wayde would be ranked first. He broke the WR not by 0.01 or so, he improved it more than Michael Johnson himself improved Butch Reynolds’ WR when he set HIS WR back in Seville 1999. And this time he didn’t even die on the track after the race!
1) Usain Bolt – gold in the 100m (9.81 seconds), gold in the 200m (19.78 seconds), gold in the 4x100m Relay (37.27 seconds). Mo did the double-double? Usain did the triple-triple! No other sprinter in history won all three events TWO Olympics in a row. Usain now won it THREE Olympics in a row. Yes, the caps are necessary. What is left to say or write about this phenomenon? Unlike last year in Beijing, here I was confident in his chances before the 100m final, because he simply looked superb in the semis, way better than Gatlin. The 200m was also not a difficult win, although the time disappointed a bit, after he already clocked a 19.78 in the semis. I blame the shitty weather. He also ran the anchor leg on the Jamaican team that recorded the 4th fastest time evar in the 4x100m. And the dude turned 30 years old a few days ago. Time does not go easy on sprinters, but Usain is such a freak even Chronos bows before him.
And here’s a fun fact: 37.40. Those four digits were etched in my brain for my whole childhood and through my army service. It was the long-standing mythical WR for the 4x100m men’s relay race, set by the USA team at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 and repeated a year after that at the World Championships in Stuttgart. No team managed to run faster for 16 years. However, since Usain became the Usain we know, i.e. in Beijing 2008, the Jamaican team ran faster than 37.40 AT EVERY FUCKING MAJOR CHAMPIONSHIP. 3 Olympics, 4 Worlds. And each time faster than this legendary WR. WOW. I’m sad to know that we probably won’t see Usain in Tokyo, but he is definitely staying until the Worlds next year in London. So we haven’t seen the last of him yet.