TRACK STATS.

Monaco report: Dibaba makes history

20 Jul 2015

The Herculis Diamond League meeting that took place this Friday in Monaco did not disappoint athletics fans. It tallied up a world record, seven world leading marks and six meeting records. But these statistics don’t even do justice to some performances we saw on Friday.

For example, Asbel Kiprop’s stunning 3:26.69 in the 1500m is just 0.69 off Hicham El Guerrouj’s world record and the fifth fastest time all-time, making Kiprop the third fastest runner in this event ever behind El Guerrouj and Bernard Lagat.

Joe Kovacs in the shot put produced the best throw in the world since 2004.

Behind Dibaba’s 1500m world record of 3:50.07, there was a national record and the European U23 record of 3:56.05 by the Netherlands’ Sifan Hassan, as well as the American record of 3:56.29 by Shannon Rowbury.

But Genzebe Dibaba legitimately stole the show. After trying to break the 5000m world record earlier this year with little luck, she broke the 1500m world record at second try.

On July 8th in Barcelona, Genzebe ran the fastest time in the world since 1997—3:54.11, but it still was almost four seconds off the record (3:50.46). In Monaco, Dibaba didn’t leave the record a chance. Let’s look at her 100m splits from both races compiled by Pierre-Jean Vazel and see where she improved between two races.

Dibaba’s 100m splits: Monaco v Barcelona

The answer is simple—a much faster finish! Even though she once again was pretty much running solo, she seemed to find a different gear. In Monaco, Dibaba was running on average 0.78 sec faster per every 100m between 800m and 1300m marks. And she ran a 2:01.7 for the last 800m, which would have on its own made her the eighth fastest Ethiopian woman in the 800m ever.

But the most exciting thing about that race for the fans of athletics was that Dibaba broke the long-standing record of China’s Yunxia Qu, that hasn’t been approached by anyone in the 90s and 00s, except for a number of other Chinese ladies. The closest “shot” in the last 20 years belonged to Russia’s Yuliya Chizhenko, who in 2006 ran 3:55.68—2.27% slower than Qu’s record.

That achievement, along with 8:06.11 in the 3000m and 29:31.78 by Junxia Wang, set in 1993, was considered pretty much unattainable. The validity (ie “cleanliness”) of these Chinese marks has been questioned by many, as well.

What about other track and field world records? Let’s look at all Olympic events and find out which ones are the least challenged these days. To measure this, let’s calculate the difference between the record and it’s top challenger within the last 10 years. Here is the top-10 for outdoor marks:

Percentage differences between WR and best recent performance

Most of these marks were set in the field events (notably, throws) back in the 80s. Even Ostapchuk’s mark in the shot put was in the same year (2012) that she failed a drugs test. The results in these events are on a different level. Mind you, Jan Zelezny, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Natalia Lisovskaya were dominating even back the day, while, for example, Mike Powell and Gabriele Reinsch did have close competition, that wasn’t letting them rest on their laurels. The good thing is that Zelezny, Joyner-Kersee and Yuriy Sedykh are still involved in the sport, coaching and mentoring the current generation of athletes.

But what is on the other side of the spectrum—which are the most challenged world records these days?

Just this season Asbel Kiprop and Almaz Ayana had very close shots on the 1500m and 5000m records, respectively. In Monaco, Kiprop was just 0.33% off, while Ayana was only 0.2% slower than Tirunesh Dibaba’s best mark back in May in Shanghai.

Yohan Blake in 2011 was 0.07 sec or 0.36% off Usain Bolt’s 200m world record of 19.19, however Bolt remains the main challenger of his own mark with a goal to run a sub-19 in 2016.

And the “winner” is Kenya’s Brimin Kipruto, who in 2011 was just 0.01 sec away from the 3000m steeplechase world record of 7:53.63, set by Saif Saaeed Shaheen.

An honorable mention goes to the men’s high jump. 2cm between Mutaz Barshim’s 2.43m and Javier Sotomayor is not as small of a difference as it appears to be—almost 1%, but the number of the athletes, who are ready to give the record a shot is arguably bigger than in any other event: Barshim, Bohdan Bondarenko, Ivan Ukhov, Erik Kynard, Derek Drouin, Andriy Protsenko. Suspense is in the air, let’s wait.

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