Joanna Hayes celebrates winning the 100m Hurdles (Getty Images) © Copyright
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2004 – Hurdles Review

The respected track and field statisticians, A. Lennart Julin and Mirko Jalava continue their end of season review, with the 2004 competitive highlights of the hurdling disciplines – Part five of eight.

MEN - Hurdles

110m Hurdles
A changing of the guard? Although the average age of the top-10 in the world list was still 27 years, the Olympics provided indications that a new generation is indeed ready to take over the event. The most prominent in that generation is of course 21-year-old Liu Xiang who - when he stormed to the Olympic gold medal - added a share of the World senior record (12.91) to the World junior record (13.12) he got two years ago.

But still there was a runner of the same age even quicker than Liu in the 1st round (13.18 vs 13.27), in the quarter-finals (13.23 vs 13.26) and in the semi-finals (13.06 vs 13.18) in Athens: Ladji Doucouré, who however had to be content with 13.76 and an 8th place in the Olympic final after losing momentum and balance due to hitting a hurdle.

Looking at the general standards it was one of the very best years ever with 15 at sub-13.30 and 30 at sub-13.40. Something that was also reflected in Athens where the first Olympic semi-final probably was the best semi ever, as a 13.30 proved insufficient to advance Duane Ross to the final!

Despite these signs of a new generation on its way to the top it would be foolish to consider experienced runners such as Allen Johnson and Anier Garcia as being over the hill. Johnson had another consistent year with numerous races at 13.10-level and his two encounters with Liu ended with a narrow loss in Osaka in May and an even narrower win in Rome in July.

The Sydney champion Garcia has had many injury problems in recent years and began his year with a series of (for him) mediocre races at the 13.60/13.70-level. But he improved during the summer coming into Athens with a 13.34 yearly best. A mark he then surpassed in all four rounds in the Olympics ending up with a bronze medal for his 13.20 in the final.

110m H - IAAF WORLD RANKINGS - as of 13 Dec 2004  
Position - Name - DOB - Country - Points

1. Allen JOHNSON  71 USA 1418
2. Xiang LIU  83 CHN 1396
3. Maurice WIGNALL  76 JAM 1366
4. Terrence TRAMMELL  78 USA 1358
5. Stanislavs OLIJARS  79 LAT 1352
6. Ron BRAMLETT  79 USA 1304
7. Duane ROSS  72 USA 1302
7. Charles ALLEN  77 CAN 1302

400m Hurdles
Felix Sanchez having dominated the event and won all his races since July 2001 got what he had been working towards ever since Sydney: the Olympic gold medal. Sanchez also won the four pre-Olympic TDK Golden League meets and even though his win streak was ended (by injury) in Brussels, Sanchez was very much the undisputed No. 1 for another year.

Behind Sanchez, however, the picture was almost as fuzzy as in the 800m with “everybody beating everybody else” within a group of some 15 runners. This is also demonstrated by the fact that behind Sanchez (47.63) and the two Americans James Carter (47.68) and Bershawn Jackson (47.86), there were no fewer than 11 athletes crammed into less than a quarter of a second between 48.00 and 48.23. (Actually Carter and Jackson could be said to belong to the same group, as their respective second best times were right there: 48.06 and 48.08).

This depth marked a distinct improvement over recent years. The 48.23 which as said gave 14th on the year list would have ranked 5th last year, 8th in 2002, 9th in 2001 and 8th in 2000. So perhaps we are in for a broader push into sub-48 territory in upcoming years which would be logical as just three (the number this year) is the lowest for an Olympic year since 1984.

As for a push into the exclusive sub-47 territory (only visited once: by Kevin Young in 1992!) that doesn’t appear to be in the cards for the next years. Of course Sanchez is the logical candidate but perhaps the best bet is someone who is still hungry for real success. Perhaps it will be someone like Bershawn Jackson, who just missed out at the US Olympic trials but who looked capable of running low-47 any day if he just could avoid making technical errors.

400m H - IAAF WORLD RANKINGS - as of 13 Dec 2004  
Position - Name - DOB - Country - Points
1. Felix SÁNCHEZ  77 DOM 1405
2. Bayano KAMANI  80 PAN 1353
3. Naman KEITA  78 FRA 1346
4. James CARTER  78 USA 1345
5. Danny MCFARLANE  72 JAM 1343
6. Kemel THOMPSON  74 JAM 1325
7. Christopher RAWLINSON  72 GBR 1324
8. Bershawn JACKSON  83 USA 1320


WOMEN - Hurdles

100m Hurdles
Perdita Felicien (CAN) was a surprise winner in the 2003 World Championships in the 100m Hurdles, but she started 2004 from a very different starting point. The 24-year-old Canadian proved up to the task as she grabbed another gold medal, this time from the Budapest World Indoor Championships 60m Hurdles, winning with a national record of 7.75. Although Felicien was not unbeaten before Athens, her form was very firm as her last loss before Athens was in Bergen on 11 June. She broke the Canadian record in Eugene in June hurdling to 12.46, but the Olympic final proved to be too big this time as she crashed into the first hurdle and could not finish the race. But it was not easy for other favourites either, US champion Gail Devers (USA) could not finish her heat and Delloreen Ennis-London (JAM) was left out of the final finishing fifth in her semi-final.

However, despite these facts the winner in the final, Joanna Hayes (USA), recorded a huge personal best of 12.37, bettering the 12.48 set in the semi-finals. Hayes, who also was fourth in the World Indoors in Budapest, went on to win her three remaining competitions in Moscow, Berlin and the World Athletics Final in Monaco finishing her season in style. The 27-year-old American is also fast over the 400m Hurdles, her season’s best (only race) was 55.74, and she has a personal best of 54.57 from 1999.

The depth continued to get better, this season there were a total of 50 athletes under 13 seconds, 2003 had 47, there were 40 in 2002, 34 in 2001 and 47 in the previous Olympic season of 2000. USA is the absolute number one country in this event with 36 athletes in the world top 100, Jamaica has nine and France seven.

100m H - IAAF WORLD RANKINGS - as of 13 Dec 2004  
Position - Name - DOB - Country - Points
1. Joanna HAYES  76 USA 1380
2. Perdita FELICIEN  80 CAN 1371
3. Olena KRASOVSKA  76 UKR 1337
4. Glory ALOZIE  77 ESP 1331
5. Lacena GOLDING−CLARKE  75 JAM 1327
6. Delloreen ENNIS−LONDON  75 JAM 1324
7. Melissa MORRISON  71 USA 1320
8. Gail DEVERS  66 USA 1314

400m Hurdles
With inexperienced Americans topping the world lists before the Olympics, there were no true favourites this time. 2003 World champion Jana Pittman (AUS) was suffering from an injury prior to the Athens Games and her participation was uncertain until the last moment. Pittman came to Athens, but could only manage to finish fifth in the Olympic final.

World record holder Yuliya Pechonkina (RUS) did not come to Athens with the fastest time, but was very convincing in the heats and semi-finals recording season’s bests of 53.57 and 53.31 respectively. But for the Russian it was the same story as at the 2003 Paris World Championships. Despite running a fast early part of the race she faded again, this time all the way to eighth and last place in the final with 55.79.

One of the most spectacular stories in the Olympics was Fani Halkia’s immediate rise to the world top and an Olympic gold medal too. Halkia came to the Olympics having not competed for seven weeks since her national record of 53.99 in Iraklio in early July. But her form was firm, she won her heat with another national record of 53.85, and then bettered that result by a huge margin of 1.08 seconds in the semi-final, winning her heat with a world leading 52.77. After this there was only one possible winner in the final and she did not fail. Her winning time of 52.82 was only a little behind that of her semi-final.

As usual in an Olympic season, the overall quality went up again, there were a total of 49 athletes under 56 seconds, with 33 in 2003, 26 in 2002, 33 in 2001 and 43 in 2000. USA had 22 athletes in the world top-100, Russia was second with 14. China and Jamaica were tied for third at six.

400m H - IAAF WORLD RANKINGS - as of 13 Dec 2004  
Position - Name - DOB - Country - Points

2. Sandra CUMMINGS−GLOVER  68 USA 1350
3. Ionela TIRLEA−MANOLACHE  76 ROM 1348
3. Fani CHALKIA  79 GRE 1348
5. Jana PITTMAN  82 AUS 1341
6. Yuliya NOSOVA−PECHONKINA  78 RUS 1328
7. Brenda TAYLOR  79 USA 1311
8. Yekaterina BIKERT  80 RUS 1292