24 October, 2013

On stagnant records and a crazy proposal

Do you remember the 80s? Year in, year out, one could expect a dozen men's world records and even more of them for women. Things became more tame in the 90s (except for some chinese women fireworks) and the the 00s brought everything almost to a standstill. In the last ten years we have had as many new records as in a single year a quarter century before. Here is a list of the various events and the year where the standing record was established.

Event Men Women
100 m 2009 1988
200 m 2009 1988
400 m 1999 1985
800 m 2012 1983
1500 m 1998 1993
5000 m 2004 2008
10000 m 2005 1993
Half Marathon 2010 2003
Marathon 2013 2003
3000 m st 2004 2008
110 m hd 2012 1988
400 m hd 1992 2003
4x100 m 2012 2012
4x400 m 1993 1988
High jump 1993 1987
Pole vault 1994 2009
Long jump 1991 1988
Triple jump 1995 1995
Shot put 1990 1987
Discus throw 1986 1988
Hammer throw 1986 2011
Javelin throw 1996 2008
Decathlon 2012 1988

(I do not mention the walk events: one day I will write an entry on the matter). While the situation is not so bad for men, thanks to such talented athletes as Bolt, Rudisha, Bekele, Merritt and the decathletes it becomes catastrophic for women. If one discards the new and relatively new events the only recent world record is that of the 4x100 m! What is happening here? The answer is simple: anti-doping. At a certain point the international instances decided that they would seriously test for doping in and out of competition. That was the end of the avalanche of women's records. (I know that I am being unfair: the record explosion in the 80s was not only due to doping but also to the new synthetic surfaces and improved equipment, let alone the more scientific methods of preparation, but doping is the thing that changed since). 

So here is a crazy proposal of mine. Let us proceed to a tabula rasa. Discard all records prior to some recent date, say 2010. Let us start afresh.

Rollins and Pearson, to my eyes the best high-hurdlers ever

(I know that what I propose is unthinkable for the IAAF, but who cares, this is a blog not anything official). Here is the list of the records if we did what I suggest.

Event Men Women
100 m U. Bolt 9.63 C. Jeter & S.A. Fraser 10.70
200 m Y. Blake 19.26 A. Felix 21.69
400 m L. Merritt 43.74 A. Krivoshapka 49.16
800 m D. Rudisha 1:40.91 M. Savinova 1:55.87
1500 m A. Kiprop 3:27.72 M. Selsouli 3:56.15
5000 m D. Gebremeskel 12:46.81 V. Cheruiyot 14:20.87
10000 m K. Bekele 26:43.16 M. Defar 30:08.06
Half Marathon Z. Tadese 58.23 P. Jeptoo 1:05:45
Marathon W. Kipsang 2:03:23 L. Shobukhova 2:18:20
3000 m st B. Kipruto 7:53.64 Y. Zaripova 9:05.02
110 m hd A. Merritt 12.80 B. Rollins 12.28
400 m hd B. Jackson 47.32 L. Demus 52.47
4x100 m Jamaica 36.84 USA 40.82
4x400 m Bahamas 2:56.72 USA 3:16.87
High Jump B. Bondarenko 2.41 A. Chicherova 2.07
Pole Vault R. Lavillenie 6.02 J. Suhr 4.91
Long Jump A. Menkov 8.56 B. Reese 7.25
Triple Jump T. Tamgho 18.04 O. Rypakova 15.25
Shot Put C. Cantwell 22.41 V. Adams 21.24
Discus Throw P. Malachowski 71.84 S. Perkovic 69.11
Hammer Throw K. Pars 82.40 B. Heidler 79.42
Javelin Throw A. Thorkildsen 90.61 M. Abakumova 71.99
Decathlon A. Eaton 9039 J. Ennis 6955

There are plenty of new names, some of them unexpected.  The big surprise comes when one compares the "since 2010 records" with the standing world records. Blake instead of Bolt on 200 m, no sign of Dibaba, no mention of Isinbayeva. Just for the fun of it. When I was looking for the best, post-2010, women discus performance I had to triple-check: S. Perkovic is number 286 in the all-time list!


  1. Boris, that's an interesting idea to start the records over but it might not be fair to drug-free athletes who set records before then. No one knows for sure who's using except the person him/herself and possibly their coach/supplier. I see too many excellent records omitted by starting over in 2010. I prefer if one has to start over to use the year 1995 and then we can add the following records--I especially wouldn't want to leave out Zelezny's 98.48 JT nor Edwards' 18.29 TJ--these are exceptional records. I'm only suggesting the men's WR as a starting point--the women's records is a different issue. Starting then at 1995 (drug-testing was moving along pretty well by then) here would be my suggestions if you want a new starting point: 100 9.58 Bolt; 200 19.19 Bolt; 400 43.18 Johnson; 800 1:40.91 Rudisha; 1500 3:26 El Guerrouj; mile 3:43.13 El Guerrouj; 5000 12:37.35 K. Bekele; 10000 26:17.53 Bekele; MA 2:03:23 Kipsang; 110H 12.80 Merritt; 47.25 Bronson; ST 7:53.63 Shaheen; HJ 2.41 Bondarenko: PV 6.05 Bubka; LJ 8.75 Phillips; TJ 18.29 Edwards; SP 22.54 Cantwell; DT 73.88 Alekna; HT 84.86 Murofushi; JT 98.48 Zelezny and DE 9029 Eaton.

  2. Nice proposal but would still leave out a few - no one has ever (that I know of) mentioned Mike Powell as a drug cheat but his record gets thrown out?

    1. It's not abouit leaving anybody out on suspicion. The idea is more of doing a tabula rasa and start afresh.
      Moreover I intend, in a future post, to write about larger take-off boards and precise measurements.