Monte CarloIn the third installment of their eight-part 2011 ‘End of Season’ review, Statisticians A. Lennart Julin (SWE) and Mirko Jalava (FIN) take an in-depth look at the JUMPS.
- Men's Jumps -
Although reigning World Champion Yaroslav Rybakov competed sparingly (he didn’t even use his wild card in Daegu) and although Ivan Ukhov once more was unable to reproduce his indoor form (3x2.38m!) outdoors (2.34m top mark) Russia remained very much the dominant nation in this event. The world list provides ample illustration with three of the top four being Russians.
But the undisputed No 1 – both statistically and merit-wise – individually was not a Russian but rather USA’s Jesse Williams who at age 27 and six years after joining the international scene had found a new level and consistency in his jumping. He didn’t win everything but had eight meets at 2.32m+ including the world leading mark 2.37m in the US trials.
And even more significant: Williams “ruled” the World Championships final from start to finish: He kept a clean sheet all the way up to 2.35m – which turned out to be the winning height – while all the other competitors had failures here and there. If Williams’ win was expected by many the names of the other two medallists probably weren’t foreseen by many.
Silver medallist Aleksey Dmitrik was – despite winning the Russian Championships/Trials – generally seen as the weakest link in the Russian team with the other two being the top-2 from the Europeans in 2010, Aleksandr Shustov and Ivan Ukhov! In that meet Dmitrik had finished seventh in what was his only previous start in an international championship outdoors.
His place on the team was questioned by many when the Olympic champion Andrey Silnov – who had finished a non-qualifying fourth in the Russian Championships with 2.34m – in a most impressive fashion won the last Samsung Diamond League before Daegu clearing 2.36m in London. Parallels were drawn with 2008 when an originally not nominated Silnov, thanks to a similar win in London, was put on the Russian team and took the gold! But this time no change in the team was made – and as said Dmitrik turned out the strongest link in the Russian team!
But the real sensation in Daegu was bronze medallist Trevor Barry who very few had seen or even heard of. With a PB of 2.29m and no experience competing against the best in the world only family and Bahaman enthusiasts could have expected him to even advance from the qualification. But Barry did that and in the final he even passed at the PB height of 2.29m – to clear 2.32m on first attempt! The really big breakthrough for Barry – despite being the oldest jumper in the Daegu final!
However, Barry and fellow Bahamian Donald Thomas are exceptions to the “rule” that top high jumpers establish themselves among the senior elite already in their teens. Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim fits that pattern perfectly. At 19 last year he cleared 2.31m and won the World junior title and this year he improved his NR to 2.35m and on many occasions demonstrated potential to go even higher. Barshim very much looks like the best bet for the world’s next 2.40m jumper – and it might happen quite soon!
Another name with a possible exciting future is 23-year-old Dimitrios Hondrokoukis of Greece who came into 2011 with a four-year-old PB of 2.24m. He competed rather sparingly during the summer but with great quality and consistency: 2.31m in Geneva, 2.28m in Prague, 2.32m European Team Champs (1st League) all in June, then 2.31m in qualification and 2.32m in final (5th) at Worlds before winning the Diamond League final in 2.32m!
As for the standards in the event they seem to have now been stuck at the same level for over a quarter of century (i.e. since the mid-1980’s) with 2.30m-2.31m for a place in the top-25 and 2.23m-2.24m for the top-100.
2011 seemed to be a rather mediocre year for the Pole Vault during most of the outdoor season with performances at 5.80m+ few and far between. Only Renaud Lavillenie of France showed any kind of consistency at that level as his main rival during recent years, Australia’s Steve Hooker, struggled with injuries and only had two meets (5.45m and 5.60m) coming into the World Championships.
The strongest challenger to Lavillenie instead was Malte Mohr who had very firmly established himself as the clear No 1 on the always very competitive German vaulting scene. Looking at the Samsung Diamond League both Lavillenie and Mohr contested all six meets before Daegu compiling 4-1-X-1-1-1 and 1-2-X-2-4-2 records, the X’s coming in the atrocious New York weather.
Height-wise Lavillenie had four DL’s at 5.73m-5.90m and Mohr four at 5.72m-5.81m, underlining that they were the top favourites for the World Championships. In Daegu the qualification seemed to confirm that this was some kind of off year for the event with a mere 5.50m being sufficient to reach the final. But Lavillenie and Mohr were of course among those that breezed through the preliminary round by clearing 5.65m.
Everything seemed set for a quite lucklustre final with the hope for a quality winning height resting solely upon Lavillenie. But then something very strange happened and when the final could be summarised it certainly turned out to be classified as among the very best ever with only Atlanta ‘96 (3x5.92m + 3x5.86m), Edmonton ’01 (6.05m + 5x5.85m) and Sydney ’00 (4x5.90m) showing comparable quality concerning “top depth”.
What caused this sudden and complete change of face for the event on the evening of 29 August is not possible to say but there certainly was a collective “rise to the occasion”: 14 cleared 5.65m and after 5.75m with the bar raised to 5.85m there still remained seven jumpers in the competition – out of which five went on to try 5.90m! When the dust had settled the top-7 had four PBs, two “non-square meet” PBs and only Lavillenie failed to get some kind of PB.
So the favourite had to settle for a bronze and the co-favourite Mohr for a fifth place despite both clearing 5.85m. The top-2 positions instead went to Poland’s Pawel Wojciechowski and Cuba’s Lazaro Borges. The winner had come to Daegu with a very mixed seasonal record (e.g. lost five of eight meets on home soil!) and very nearly went out already in the qualification just scraping by in a tie for 12th place after managing only 5.50m (failing at 5.60m). But in the final he was a completely different athlete: 5.50m, 5.65m and 5.75m at first attempts, one failure at 5.85m before passing until 5.90m which he cleared on his second and last attempt.
Borges showed great tenacity making both 5.75m (PB tied) and 5.90m on 3rd and last attempts. But his 5.90m clearance was even more impressive than Wojciechowski’s and although they both failed thrice at 5.95m the height didn’t appear to be out of reach for anyone of them.
So in the end the 2011 season still turned out quite OK for the Pole Vault, especially if one takes into account that the top-7 in the World Championships were all born between 1986 and 1989, i.e. they are between 22 and 25 years old. But if one looks a little bit deeper in the lists 2011 really was a quite mediocre year: The number of 5.70m and 5.60m jumpers compared to the previous pre-Olympic year (2009) had gone down from 38 and 65 all the way to 22 and 47 this year.
One important explanation is the regress of the USA. In 2007 they hade five over 5.80m, four more over 5.70m and six additional over 5.60m for a total of 15 at 5.60m+. In 2011 the corresponding numbers were 1, 3, 2 fore a total of 6! When people like Hartwig, Mack, Hysong, Stevenson et al left the scene there was no new generation ready to fill their places. How could this happen given the very strong US tradition in this event?
Typically the average age of the US trio competing in Daegu was 32 years with the top man placing equal ninth. Russia is another previous top nation that seems to be struggling now (12th place for only finalist) while Poland got 1-4-7 from a trio vaulters aged between 22 and 25 -something that elicited memories from their “good old days” some three decades ago with Slusarski, Kozakiewicz et al.
Statistically this has been one of the most stable events over the last decades with some 20 jumpers at 8.20m+ and some 60 over 8.00m year in and year out. In 2011 the specific numbers were 21 and 72 respectively. But those kinds of quantitative statistics do not give the complete picture of an event and this year the consistently outstanding jumpers were missing.
Multiple gold medallist Dwight Phillips did get another global title – his fifth – in Daegu. But the World Championships – where he lead the qualification with 8.32m and won the final 8.45m - was his only meet showing traditional Phillips-excellence. Hampered by injuries he came into Daegu with an 8.07m yearly best and afterwards his top mark was 8.05m. So his triumph there seems to have mainly been an illustration of his absolutely exceptional ability to rise to the occasion at major championships.
Phillips was not the only established top jumper that due to injury woes only was able to show glimpses of previous top ability. Olympic gold – Irving Saladino – and silver – Godfrey Mokoena – medallists both competed sparingly and despite yearly bests of 8.40m and 8.31w/8.25m they were both eliminated in the qualification in Daegu.
Even worse was the situation for 2010 World indoor champion Fabrice Lapierre who surpassed the 8m-line in only one of his nine competitions this year and 2007 silver medallist Andrew Howe had to restrict himself to competing in the sprints.
Not even year list leader Mitchell Watt of Australia – who won three Samsung Diamond League meets with marks between 8.44m and 8.54m – was hampered by an injury (heel) during the summer. The man with the most spectacular “lift” in the event usually got his top mark in the first or second round and both in Stockholm (WL 8.54m) and London (8.44m) he as a precaution took only three of his six attempts.
Watt turned 23 this autumn and is very much a jumper for the future as he didn’t seriously pursue a career in athletics until two years ago. Daegu bronze medallist Ngoni Makusha of Zimbabwe placed fourth already in Beijing in 2008 but has otherwise so far mainly restricted himself to the US collegiate season. With his eligibility now expired he could instead focus on the international summer scene and brings absolutely exciting speed (collegiate 100m champion in 9.89!).
Among those born in the 1990s fresh out of the junior ranks Russia’s Aleksandr Menkov appears to be the most accomplished competitor at this stage demonstrating a consistency and ability to handle the championships beyond his nominal age.
But it should always remembered that the Long Jump is the most diverse of all athletics events with jumpers from “all corners of the world” belonging to the world’s elite. In Daegu e.g. there were ten different nations represented among the twelve finalists. And of those ten nations you had four from Europe (RUS, GER, POR, GBR), three from Africa (ZIM, MAR, RSA) and one each from America (USA), Asia (KOR) and Oceania (AUS) – only Antarctica was left out ....
That this geographical diversity in Daegu was no odd coincidence is illustrated by the 2011 world list where no less than 16 different nations have at least one jumper among the top-20! The Long Jump is definitely the most universal/global (in the true meaning of the words) of all events with no nation or region dominating.
This was the summer when most experts expected to see the third 18m-jumper in history in Teddy Tamgho of France. His 2010 had included a 17.90m World Indoor record (World Indoors in Doha) and a 17.98m outdoors in the New York Samsung Diamond League, and this winter he had three new World indoor record installments: 17.91m followed by 17.92m (twice!) at the Europeans. Tamgho’s first 18 metres appeared inevitably imminent.
That was a feeling that was enhanced after his 17.91m world lead at the Lausanne stop of the Samsung Diamond League. But just two weeks later “destiny” struck in the form of a career threatening ankle injury in the qualification at the European U23’s. So rather than pursuing the 18m-barrier Tamgho had to have an operation (repairing/strengthening the fractured bone with a couple of screws) that he could only hope would make it possible for him to return to the sport in the future.
Now in December reports indicated that the operation appeared to have been a complete success and that Tamgho expected to soon be able to end the rehab and start serious training. Whether he will be able to get back to full strength – and how long time it will take – still remains to be seen. With the extreme mechanical demands on the legs and feet that is very much part of triple jumping a major ankle injury is always serious indeed.
But hopefully Tamgho will be able to come back at full force and – perhaps already next year – resume challenging that 18-metres mark. He is after all still just 22 years old. He will, however, not be alone in that pursuit as 2011 was the year when Christian Taylor of the USA – even one year younger than Tamgho – came tantalizingly close to becoming the third 18m-jumper with his gold winning 17.96m at the World Championships.
Taylor is still quite inexperienced when it concerns jumping really far: He has – counting indoors and also wind-aided marks – only nine meets beyond 17.00m with just three over 17.50m. He still lacks the technical consistency but when it clicks – like in the winning jump in Daegu – he demonstrated truly exciting potential. In those jumps Taylor resembled Mike Conley (18.17w/17.87m some two decades ago) in the ability to keep the momentum through all three phases of the jumps. Like Conley, Taylor is more of a “floater” than a “bouncer” when jumping.
With Tamgho’s season cut short and Taylor competing sparingly on the international stage the main man during the summer season was 32-year-old Phillips Idowu, the reigning World and European champion. He showed consistency at the 17.50m level and his form at the World Championships was impressive producing the by far best series (six legal jumps at 17.38m-17.77m) of the competition. He had five jumps longer than Taylor’s second best (17.40m) but that still only was good for silver as the US jumper had that super 17.96m on top!
But Taylor still was super-consistent when compared to Ukraine’s Sheryf El-Sheryf. The latter is fourth on the 2011 World list with his 17.72m set when winning the European U23’s in Ostrava. However, El-Sheryf’s second best mark this year – and so far in his career – stands at 16.93m! At the other end of the consistency spectrum one finds Cuba’s No 1 Alexis Copello. Competing four times indoors and 14 times outdoors between January and October and in 13 countries on three continents Copello averaged 17.16m!
Two jumpers that have had more than their fair share of injuries in recent years are the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Champions Christian Olsson and Nelson Évora. Olsson still compiled the Samsung Diamond League record of 2-2-6-5 and was sixth in Daegu just behind Évora who began his season as a 16.50m jumper and didn’t find his 17m form until the second half of August.
Whether these two “veterans” can climb back to the 17.50m+ level of consistency necessary to challenge for the medals in the London Olympics remains to be seen. It is probably much more likely that someone like Will Claye (USA) – who took the Daegu bronze with 17.50m at age 20 – will have established himself in that territory by then.
The general standards of the event in 2011 were quite normal. The number at 17.00m+ e.g. was 27 as compared to 25 last year and 30 the previous pre-Olympic year (2007).
- Women’s Jumps -
It was an interesting year in the women’s jumps with some of the old favourites standing their ground and some others having to step aside for new names to rise to the top. The biggest changes came in the High Jump and Pole Vault. Russian Anna Chicherova took a deciding step forward after having finished in the silver medal position at the 2007 and 2009 World Championships by winning the world title in style in Daegu. In the Pole Vault there was more than one unlucky jumper with both American Jenn Suhr and World record holder from Russia, Yelena Isinbayeva, fighting against injuries. In the end both failed and could not achieve full fitness prior to Daegu and it was time for Brazilian Fabiana Murer to be crowned World Champion outdoors too after taking the title indoors in 2010. In the Long Jump there was only one favourite during the season with reigning World Champion Brittney Reese jumping a good 7.19m personal best at the US Champs. But the rest of the season was not at this kind of level for any jumper with the standard of results going down significantly. Reese did overcome some problems in Daegu however and did retain her World title for a second straight gold at the World Championships. In the Triple Jump competition was very even and also not at a very high level with no jumper able to beat the 15-metre line during the 2011 season. There was however a new champion crowned with 28-year-old Olga Saladuha of Ukraine getting closest to her own level and winning a tight World Championships final in Daegu.
Two metres seemed to be a tough standard in the women’s High Jump early in the season. Croatian Blanka Vlašic, who had won the two previous World Championships in 2007 and 2009, was not her usual self before Daegu and could only clear 2.00m exactly once before the World Championships and had some difficult competitions like in Lausanne at the end of June where she finished in sixth place with a 1.90m clearance. Much of these problems were caused by injury to her left leg, but some other top jumpers had similar problems.
Italy’s 33-year-old Antonietta Di Martino, the Osaka 2007 silver medallist, had jumped 2.04m indoors in the winter, but then suffered an injury which almost prevented her from competing in Daegu. Di Martino competed only twice outdoors before the World Championships winning the Spanish championships as a guest in August with a 2.00m leap. Both of these injury-hit athletes did incredibly well in Daegu overcoming the problems and won a medal, but the brightest one belong to someone else.
Twenty-nine year-old Anna Chicherova is no stranger to the medal podium. She had finished in the runner-up position at the 2007 (joint silver with Di Martino) and 2009 World Championships and won the bronze at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Chicherova missed the whole of the 2010 season because of pregnancy and the birth of her first child September 2010. The Russian started her campaign in May with a good 1.96m win in her first competition since the break and later timed her form perfectly. She cleared two metres for the first time this season at the National Championships in late July in Cheboksary, the last meet before the World Championships. And of course she really did not just clear 2.00m, which she cleared with her first attempt winning the national title. Instead the Russian went on to tie her 2008 personal best 2.04m and then cleared a Russian record 2.07m with her third attempt for a world leader and joint third place in the world all-time list with Lyudmila Andonova (BUL) behind World record holder Stefka Kostadinova (BUL 2.09m 1987) and Vlašic (2.08m 2009).
In Daegu competition was fierce, but Chicherova in her own class cleared both 2.00m and 2.03m with her first attempt for the win. Vlašic also cleared 2.03m, a season’s best, but had already fallen behind at 2.00m, which she made with her second attempt. Di Martino equalled her season’s best for the third place at 2.00m and was really close to go over 2.03m too.
Russia is the best country in this event with 17 athletes in the world top 100. United States is second with 12 and Ukraine third at nine.
After some very good performances indoors, expectations were high for the Pole Vault, but injuries ruined the outdoor season for more than one vaulter. American Jenn Suhr was thought to be the number one athlete this year, but after a good 4.86m American record indoors injuries forced the 29-year-old to the sidelines during the summer. She did clear a world leading 4.91m in a small meet in Rochester, New York in late July, but clearly was not her best before Daegu and finished in fourth place there only ending up with a 4.70m clearance.
Yelena Isinbayeva also completed her comeback after taking the 2010 outdoor season off, but things didn’t exactly go as planned for the most decorated female pole vaulter of all time. The two-time Olympic and World Championships gold medallist was in good form indoors clearing 4.85m in Donetsk in February, where she also made her latest tries at a World indoor record. But then injury came and the Russian could not handle the setback. For a long time it was unclear if she could even make it to Daegu, but a season start in the middle of July in Heusden (4.60m) and then a Samsung Diamond League win in Stockholm a couple of weeks later (4.76m) were enough to convince her to compete at the World Championships. But it was not to be for her either with the world record holder not looking like a five-metre jumper and finishing in sixth place in Daegu.
Elsewhere the results were coming in slow too as 4.75m remained the world leader until mid-July when German Martina Strutz set a national record 4.78m and then right before Daegu Jenn Suhr cleared 4.79m in London. In terms of earlier results during the season, the Daegu final was actually a good one. 30-year-old Brazilian Fabiana Murer crowned a career which has been steadily on the rise with an outdoor World title in addition to her 2010 World Indoor Championships gold. Murer equalled her own South American record from 2010 winning with a 4.85m clearance in Daegu with Strutz in second place with a German record 4.80m, her second of the 2011 season. In third place, 31-year-old Russian Svetlana Feofanova returned to the World Championships medal podium after a four-year break. The veteran, who won her first major medal in Edmonton 2001 with a silver and won the world title in Paris two years later, cleared a season’s best 4.75m for the bronze.
The United States heads this event with 22 athletes in the world top 100. Germany has 13 for second and Russia nine for third.
While the women’s Long Jump looked quite good in terms of results in the middle of the season, something happened as the results declined later in the season with the World Championships final being a low standard one. The reigning World champion, American Brittney Reese, set up some high expectations with a great 7.19m personal best winning the US title in Eugene in June. The runner-up in Eugene wasn’t bad either, 26-year-old Janay DeLoach, who came really close to seven metres setting a 6.97m personal best.
Elsewhere two Russians managed their first ever seven metres jumps with 20-year-old Darya Klishina winning the European U23 Championships in Ostrava with 7.05m and then a real surprise name, Olga Zaytseva, captured the Russian title with her first try jumping 7.01m in Cheboksary in July. The 27-year-old Zaytseva is a real interesting name as she used to be a sprinter, mainly a 400m runner, but decided to change to Long Jump. And the St. Petersburg native was not just any runner, she was the bronze medallist at the 2006 European Championships in Gothenburg and also won the gold in the 4x400m relay there.
Twenty-five year-old Veranika Shutkova of Belarus also added her ingredients to the long jump season. She was the early world leader with a 6.95m personal best in May, but with Shutkova fading during the rest of the season, another Belarusian, Nastassia Mironchyk-Ivanova, was in the spotlight in Daegu. She too reached a personal best 6.85m this season, but one of her jumps at the World Championships created a lot of talk. She thought she had jumped enough to get a medal, maybe even the gold, but her extremely long hair made a mark in the sand and the 22-year-old ended up out of the medals in fourth place with a 6.74m result.
The final in Daegu was very tight although Reese did win in it with her first jump of 6.82m, also her only good jump in the competition. The others did not warm up nearly as quickly, but finally Olga Kucherenko (RUS) jumped 6.77m in round four to take the silver and Latvian Ineta Radevica overtook Mironchyk-Ivanova with her last jump to win the bronze with 6.76m.
Russia heads this event with 18 athletes in the world top 100. The United States has 15 for the second place and Germany seven for third.
For the women’s Triple Jump 2011 marked a dramatic step down in the standard of results at the top. For the first time in nine years the world leader was under 15 metres, the first time since 2002. To make it even worse, this was the first time ever the world leading mark has not been 15 metres or more during a year with a worldwide major championships - Olympics or World Championships - including 1993 when the event was brought to the World Championships programme in Stuttgart.
Maybe because of the lower level at the world top, the competition was very tight during the season. With the athletes heading to Daegu, the top four jumpers were within just three centimetres with two of them in the joint world lead. Twenty-seven year-old Yargelis Savigne was one of these two having jumped 14.99m at the Paris Samsung Diamond League meeting at the start of July. The Cuban was looking to score her third successive World title having won the previous two versions of the World Championships in 2007 and 2009.
There was also a very exciting new name at the top of this event with 27-year-old Colombian Caterina Ibargüen rising to a new level in 2011. The multi-talented athlete, who has scored 5742 points in the Heptathlon and holds national records in High Jump (1.93m in 2005) and Long Jump (6.63m in 2011), started the season with a 14.29m personal best and national record. But it was clear from the start of the year that the record would not stay even near that result. Ibargüen beat the national record in seven competitions during the season and was in good form in Europe too setting her first South American record in Castres, France, in July with 14.66m. A 14.83m third place finish and another AR and then a 14.99m equalling the world leader back home in Bogotá, her last meet before Daegu made her a clear medal favourite.
Everything was set up for the athletes to go a step forward and over the 15m line at the World Championships, but it didn’t happen. Savigne was not up to it this time and had to retire from the competition because of an injury after just three rounds and finished in sixth place. The competition was not a very dramatic one as the win was decided in round one. Maybe a bit surprisingly 28-year-old Ukrainian Olga Saladuha, the 2010 European Champion, jumped 14.94m with her first attempt to capture her first ever major championships medal, a golden one. 2010 World Indoor Champion, Olga Rypakova from Kazakhstan, overcame a slow start to the season jumping 14.89m in round five for the silver. Ibargüen did not disappoint in her first big meet as a favourite taking home the bronze medal with a 14.84m jump in round five.
Russia is the best country in this event with 14 athletes in the world top 100. Cuba and Ukraine are tied for the second place with seven each.
Note: This year Julin covers the men's side of the action and Jalava the women's.