Our 2018 review series continues with statisticians A Lennart Julin and Mirko Jalava looking back at the sprints.
USA’s Christian Coleman started the indoor season in a flash, clocking 6.37 in Clemson in January in his first 60m final of the year. It wasn’t ratified, despite being 0.02 faster than compatriot Maurice Greene’s 6.39 world indoor record from 1998, but the 22-year-old made sure this didn’t matter just a month later.
The quadruple NCAA champion and world 100m silver medallist ran a world indoor record of 6.34 to win the US indoor title in the altitude of Albuquerque before winning the world indoor title in 6.37 in Birmingham in March.
A hamstring injury in May hampered Coleman’s outdoor campaign. Following a wind-aided 9.84 second-place finish in Eugene and a 10.06 fourth-place finish in Rome at the end of May, he was out of action for six weeks. He returned in mid-July to win in Rabat in 9.98 and in Birmingham one month later in 9.94 before capping his season with a world-leading 9.79 to win the IAAF Diamond League final in Brussels.
The 2018 indoor season was the best ever for the event. China’s Su Bingtian set an Asian record of 6.42 in Birmingham for the silver medal and USA’s Ronnie Baker took the bronze in 6.44 having already run 6.40 at the US Indoor Championships behind Coleman. Baker and Su now sit at third and fifth respectively on the world all-time list.
Outdoors, 29-year-old Su equalled the Asian record of 9.91 in Madrid and Paris before winning the Asian Games in 9.92 and finishing second at the IAAF Continental Cup. 24-year-old Baker ran a PB of 9.87 in Chorzów a week before Brussels, where he clocked 9.93 for the second place behind Coleman. Britain’s Zharnel Hughes clocked a 9.91 personal best in Kingston in June before winning the European title in Berlin in August.
At the start of the year, USA’s Elijah Hall won the NCAA indoor 200m title in 20.02, the second-fastest indoor performance of all time behind Frank Fredericks’ world indoor record of 19.92, set in Liévin in 1996. The 24-year-old won the Texas Relays in an outdoor PB of 20.11, but then focused on the 100m for most of the outdoor season.
The outdoor season was a strong one too with 23 sub-20-second performances spread out among 14 different athletes.
USA’s Noah Lyles was the best 200m runner of the season. He won all five of his races at the distance, all of them in the IAAF Diamond League, and was incredibly consistent. His ‘slowest’ time was his season opener of 19.83 in Doha and he then went on to produce four sub-19.7 clockings, topped by a 19.65 win in Monaco.
The 21-year-old is yet to compete at a major senior championships, but this year he successfully defended his IAAF Diamond League 200m title and won the 100m at the Continental Cup.
Clarence Munyai was the second-fastest athlete of 2018, clocking a South African 200m record of 19.69 in April, but that was his only sub-20 second race as injury prevented him from competing beyond April.
World 400m silver medallist Steven Gardiner set a Bahamian record of 19.75 in Coral Gables in April while Turkey’s world champion Ramil Guliyev won the European title in 19.76, the second-fastest time ever by a European athlete.
Other notable performances came from Jamaica’s Akeem Bloomfield, who ran a 19.81 personal best in London, and USA’s Michael Norman, who clocked a 19.84 PB in Paris.
Michael Norman was the clear No.1 at 400m. He set a world indoor record of 44.52 at the NCAA Indoor Championships in just his second competition of the year. Outdoors the 20-year-old clocked 44.40 in May before winning the NCAA title in Eugene in a world-leading 43.61, his last 400m race of the year, to move to sixth on the world all-time list.
Another athlete finished within 44 seconds in that historic NCAA Championships final. Jamaica’s Akeem Bloomfield, who also went sub-20 in the 200m this season, finished second in 43.94 to become the 18th member of the sub-44-second club.
Steven Gardiner was the second-fastest 400m runner of 2018, setting a Bahamian record of 43.87 to win in Doha.
Qatar’s Abdalelah Haroun was one of the most consistent runners of the season. He ran a 44.07 national record in London in July, won the Asian Games in 44.89 in Jakarta in August and finished his season with a 44.72 win at the IAAF Continental Cup Ostrava 2018.
Despite being only the eighth fastest during the season, Fred Kerley won the IAAF Diamond League title in Zurich, having set a season’s best of 44.33 in Rome.
For many years this event has been dominated by US and Jamaican athletes. In the 12-year period between 2006 and 2017, athletes from those two nations alone have occupied 74% of the top five places on the yearly world lists.
In recent years, however, the rest of the world has made inroads. In 2018 there were six other nations represented in the top 10, while the top US runner was equal third and the leading Jamaican sixth.
Double Olympic champion Elaine Thompson was forced to cut her season short due to persistent achilles problems, while two-time Olympic 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce returned from maternity leave in 2017.
The world lead of 10.85 was shared by Ivory Coast’s Marie-Josée Ta Lou and Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith. The Ivorian ran her best time of the year in Doha in early May and then competed extensively all through the Continental Cup in early September, losing only once. Asher-Smith hit peak form perfectly at the European Championships to blow away all opposition with a windless 10.85.
USA’s world champion Tori Bowie picked up an injury in late May, while English Gardner returned to action in August from a year-long injury break. Along with the undefeated Aleia Hobbs – five meets sub-11 – coming out of the collegiate ranks, the ‘Empire’ could strike back in 2018.
Jamaica’s Thompson and Fraser-Pryce also have every ambition of returning to the top, while exceptional talent Briana Williams – double world U20 champion at age 16 – appears to be on a steep trajectory towards sub-11 territory.
Despite the absence of an outstanding dominant star sprinter in the event, 2018 ended up being a record year for depth with 21 women running faster than 22.50.
Dina Asher-Smith produced the best 200m performance of the year with her 21.89 run at the European Championships where she ran a blistering bend and kept the momentum all the way. She produced several other times of 22.40 or faster but was beaten in four international races, including at the Commonwealth Games.
Olympic 400m champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo was the event’s outstanding performer. The Bahamian, taking time off from the 400m, raced more frequently at this distance and was undefeated, compiling six of the top 10 times in world, winning at four IAAF Diamond League meetings and at the Continental Cup.
Two-time world champion Dafne Schippers struggled with consistency this year and had to be content with runner-up finishes at the European Championships, IAAF Diamond League final and the Continental Cup.
Allyson Felix, Tori Bowie and Elaine Thompson sat out most of the season, but the 200m welcomed two newcomers to the international scene: Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson and USA’s Gabby Thomas.
At age 24, world and Olympic 400m bronze medallist Jackson dropped her specialist event and immediately became a factor at 200m, lowering her PB by almost half a second to 22.05 to win at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris. She also took Commonwealth silver in 22.18.
Thomas, 21, showed her potential with 22.38 indoors and reduced her outdoor PB to 22.19 to finish second – ahead of Jackson, Asher-Smith and Schippers – at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in London, the most competitive 200m of the year.
Jamaica’s 16-year-old Briana Williams produced a surprise at the World U20 Championships when she blew away the 200m field with 22.50, putting her on the brink of the senior elite.
After a breakthrough season in 2017 in which she took the world silver medal and clocked a sub-50-second PB while still an U20 athlete, Bahrain’s Salwa Eid Naser demonstrated year-long consistency to emerge as the IAAF Diamond League champion.
The 20-year-old achieved three sub-50-second mark in June, two in July, one in August and one in September. She won 10 of her 11 meetings, setting a PB and Asian record of 49.08 in Monaco in her only defeat of the year as she pushed Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo to 10th place on the world all-time list with 48.97.
Miller-Uibo focused mainly on the 200m this year and ran the 400m just three times. Before winning in Monaco, she won in Eugene (49.52) and Szekesfehervar (49.53).
USA’s world champion Phyllis Francis and compatriot Jessica Beard were Naser’s main opponents in the IAAF Diamond League. 0.23 was the closest Francis got to Naser, setting a season’s best of 50.07 in Stockholm.
Top US runners statistically, however, were Shakima Wimbley and Lynna Irby who took the national and collegiate titles respectively in 49.52 and 49.80. Irby limited herself to the collegiate season, while Wimbley competed during the European summer but didn’t manage to get within a second of her PB.
Hurdles specialist Sydney McLaughlin underlined her potential on the flat. She ran a world U20 indoor record (pending ratification) of 50.36 at the start of the year and then clocked 50.07 in her only outdoor 400m race of 2018.
Mirko Jalava (men’s events) and A Lennart Julin (women’s events) for the IAAF