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News28 Dec 2010


2010 End of Year Reviews – Middle Distances

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David Rudisha crosses in world record of 1:41.01 in Rieti (© Victah Sailer)

In the penultimate installment of their annual review, statisticians A. Lennart Julin (SWE) and Mirko Jalava (FIN) continue their look back at the past season with an overview of the Middle Distances.

MEN –

Men’s middle distance running in 2010 was all about Kenyan David Rudisha and his sensational 800m races. While 1500m runners just barely made it under 3:30, Rudisha hit new heights during the season. Starting with a fast 1:43.15 in Melbourne back in March, the 21-year-old first broke the African record before breaking the World record twice within just one week. Abubaker Kaki (SUD) ran 1:42.23 behind Rudisha in Oslo and in any other year this result would have been the talk of the season, but not the year of Rudisha. In the 1500m fellow Kenyan Asbel Kiprop had the best record with five wins in key competitions, although his fastest time was only 3:31.78.

800m -

Rudisha had established himself as a threat to the 800m world record of 1:41.11, held by Denmark’s Wilson Kipketer from 1997, in Rieti last year when he lowered the African record to 1:42.01. The 2006 World Junior champion from Beijing has yet to accomplish something big in major championships although he has won the African title in 2008 and 2010. In Berlin at the 2009 World Championships Rudisha did not make to the final after placing third in his semifinal.

But his actions during an unbeaten 2010 campaign suggest this might not be the case after 2011, so dominant was Rudisha this season. He won all of his 12 finals and two semifinals and two heats as well. His win streak is now at 16 dating back to August 2009 and the Zürich Weltklasse meeting. The Kenyan ran his first really fast race - 1:42.04 - in Oslo in June and then went on to crush his own African record with a 1:41.51 win in Heusden in July. A super fast championships winning time of 1:42.84 brought him his second African title in the altitude of Nairobi at the end of July before he finally broke the World record in Berlin at the end August with a 1:41.09 run. But that record didn’t last long. Just a week later Rudisha again bettered the WR, this time his own with a 1:41.01 win in Rieti, exactly one second faster than his pre-2010 personal best set at the same venue in 2009.

Another 21-year-old, Abubaker Kaki of Sudan, had a balanced season winning the World indoor title and setting a fast 1:42.23 national record in Oslo behind Rudisha. World Indoor silver medallist Boaz Lalang, also from Kenya, set a 1:42.95 personal best in Rieti behind Rudisha and reigning World Champion Mbulaeni Mulaudzi ran 1:43.29 in Monaco, but none of these came anywhere near challenging Rudisha, who was miles ahead of the others in 2010.

Kenya and United States share the honours on top of this event with each having 20 athletes in the world top 100. Spain is third with seven.

1500m –

The 1500m this season wasn’t like others seen before with dominant runners at the top in every race. Instead winners changed from one big meet to another while the 3:30 barrier was only broken in one race by two runners - Kenyan Silas Kiplagat for a world leading 3:29.27 and Moroccan Amine Laalou by 3:29.53 in Monaco in July.

Kenyan Asbel Kiprop emerged as the best 1500m runner of the season following an unconvincing early season with a win at the Kenyan championships and then at the African Championships as well. Kiprop continued with good wins in Brussels and Rieti, where he set a season’s best 3:31.78, but then faded to sixth place at the Continental Cup in Split.

Kiplagat also had a good season and might be a name to remember in 2011. He was second behind Kiprop at the Kenyan nationals before getting the world leader in Monaco. Another fast win in Berlin in 3:30.61 and later the Commonwealth title in Delhi capped his season nicely.

Amine Laalou was second at the African Champs before a notable win at the Continental Cup.

Kenya easily topped this event with 26 athletes in the world top 100. USA had 12 for second and Morocco eight for third.

WOMEN -

800m -

The 800m seems to have developed into an event where world leaders come "out of nowhere" but only manage to stay on top for one year each. In 2007 the 800m was completely dominated by Janeth Jepkosgei, who in 2008 was replaced in this position by an even stronger Pamela Jelimo who in 2009 had to surrender the No. 1 status to Caster Semenya.

No such sensational newcomer in 2010 but still it was not Semenya who remained on top. After returning to competition midway through the main part of the season, the South African proved quite competitive but still didn't appear to be anywhere near her form of 2009.

Actually there was no athlete dominating the event this summer. Typically the Diamond League races saw four different winners: Jepkosgei took victories in Shanghai and Brussels, Russian Mariya Savinova in Eugene and London, American Alysia Johnson in Monaco, and Moroccan Halima Hachlaf in Rome.

Looking at the consistency criteria, Jepkosgei, Savinova and Johnson together with Kenia Sinclair (JAM) and the British duo of Jennifer Meadows and Jemma Simpson were the only to be categorised as consistent sub-2:00 performers in 2010 with all of them having between six and eight such races during the summer.

Hachlaf's win in Rome in 1:58.40 was the major surprise of the year as it was her debut on the international circuit and as her previous PB was 2:00.14. But she was not able to build upon that breakthrough performance like Jepkosgei in 2007 or Jelimo in 2008 to take over as the World No. 1 of the year. That distinction merit-wise instead belonged to either Savinova, who also took the World indoor title, or Jepskosgei.

And as for the title "Revelation of 2010" Hachlaf has strong opposition from Tintu Luka of India who showed exciting potential when, without the slightest hesitation, went on an offensive in her debut on the "Tour" in Brussels. She ended up 8th there in 2:00.79 but took another second and half off her PB when finishing 5th in 1:59.17 after another daring run at the Continental Cup.

1500m -

When Nancy Langat won the Olympic 1500m title in Beijing 2008 it was considered a major upset, but after 2010 she has retroactively proven her world-leading ability. Although she still is lacking a sub-4:00-time her blistering finish has made her a consummate winner in head-to-head situations. This year she won four (New York, Stockholm, London and Zurich) out of her five (3rd in Lausanne) Diamond League races plus the Kenyan, African and Commonwealth titles.

In direct clashes with her two main opponents, Russian Anna Alminova and Gelete Burka of Ethiopia, she recorded 2-0 and 5-2 respectively. Alminova owned the outstanding time of the year through her impressive 3:57.65 recorded in the Paris DL where she alone followed the very fast pace set and still had the strength to defend her big lead of almost two seconds to the finish. At the European Championships, however, her aggressive sub-4:00 pace tactic backfired as she seemed to run out of gas in the finishing straight and faded to 6th place.

That title instead went to home runner Nuria Fernández who just like bronze medallist Natalia Rodriguez chose to stay away completely from the international scene with both of running just three 1500m races apiece - all on Spanish soil - during the whole summer.

Very active on the global scene were as usual Maryam Jamal of Bahrain and Burka, however Jamal was not running well this summer. She finished in lowly positions 10-9-8-13-14 in times between 4:03 and 4:15 in her first five races! But then at the very end of season she suddenly bounced back to the form we have been used to from previous years when she won at Rieti in 3:58.93, a time which brought her the No. 2 position on the 2010 world list.

Burka as well seemed to be lacking somewhat this summer although she was consistent around 4:02 and usually finished in the top-3 in the major races (4 out of 6 Diamond League plus African Championships) with the win in 3:59.28 in Lausanne (the only major race Langat lost!) as her top achievement.

Burka and Jamal were both born in Ethiopia and it seems that the future at this distance also belongs to runners from that nation. Because the two major newcomers to the upper echelons this summer were Mimi Belete (now representing Bahrain) and Abeba Arigawi.

Belete started the year with a 4:04 PB and with a place in the Berlin semi-finals as her foremost merit. This summer she had four major international races at 4:00-4:02 finishing 3rd in the Stockholm DL and 2nd in Rieti.

Arigawi is a perhaps even more exciting prospect for the future: At age 20 a complete newcomer to the event (previously specialising in the 800m) she displayed a remarkably smooth and relaxed running style perfectly suited for the distance. She recorded 4:01 twice and probably it was only her lack of experience that prevented her from achieving top-3 finishes in her two DL appearances.

And to the bright Ethiopian future in the event should of course be added Kalkedan Gezahegn who still only 18 took an emphatic win at the World Indoors in Doha in March, but who then missed the outdoor season due to injury.
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