Shot put winner Valerie Adams at the 2014 IAAF World Indoor Championships in Sopot (© Getty Images)
Statisticians Mirko Jalava and A Lennart Julin look back on the best throwing performances of the year.
Men’s shot put
The 25-year-old US shot putter Joe Kovacs became the latest addition to the 22-metre club with a world-leading 22.03m toss to win at the US Championships in July, but the arguable number one athlete in the event this year is someone who is still not yet a member of this club.
David Storl, the winner of the past two world titles, had a breathtaking season with 22 wins out of 28 competitions, indoors and out. The 24-year-old German came close to the 22-metre line with a 21.97m personal best at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in London in July and had several important wins during the season.
Ryan Whiting, who was impressive during the indoor season, handed Storl one of his losses at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Sopot, Poland, back in March. The 28-year-old US athlete won with 22.05m and earlier won the US Indoor Championships with a world-leading indoor mark of 22.23m.
Storl, who finished second in Sopot with 21.79m, went on to win his second successive European title in Zurich with 21.41m before adding an impressive 21.55m win at the IAAF Continental Cup at the end of the season.
Reese Hoffa won 10 of his 17 meetings and the 37-year-old only once finished outside the top three. Hoffa’s best result of 21.88m came at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Zurich.
O’Dayne Richards made good progress during the season. The 25-year-old Jamaican didn’t make the World Indoor final, but after his first ever 21-metre throw in Kingston in May, when he reached 21.11m, he found the big throws at the right times.
At the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, his fourth effort of 21.61m was a national record and brought him the title. He went on to finish second at the Continental Cup behind Storl with 21.10m.
Robert Harting might not have ripped his jersey apart following his second successive European title, but otherwise it was business as usual for the German.
The 30-year-old soldier suffered his only defeat (in addition to an unusual indoor meeting loss in March) in his second outdoor outing of the season in May in Halle, where Poland’s Piotr Malachowski won with a world-leading 69.28m against Harting’s 68.28m.
After that, the German scored 12 straight wins, including another European title in Zurich to make it 13 wins in 14 meets in 2014 with his season’s best of 68.47m coming at the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Hengelo in June.
Malachowski produced the world-leading mark early in the season but had no answer to Harting during the rest of the summer. The 2010 European champion was left out of the medals this time with a fourth-place finish in Zurich at the European Championships.
Gerd Kanter was only ninth on the 2014 world list but, like usual, there were a few athletes ahead of him who were also capable of duplicating their best results on the big occasion.
The 35-year-old Estonian got better towards the end of the season and got his best result in his last competition of the year, on home soil in Pärnu, with a 66.28m toss. Kanter also grabbed his third European silver medal in Zurich in addition to his second places in 2006 and 2012.
There was a surprise early season world leader, and new 80-metre club member, with Egypt’s Mostafa Hicham Al-Gamal throwing 81.27m for an African record in Cairo back in March.
The 26-year-old had a little trouble getting into the groove in Europe later, but found his rhythm again in August winning the African Championships in Marrakech with 79.09m and later placing second at the IAAF Continental Cup in the same stadium with 78.89m.
However, Krisztian Pars was again the top thrower in the world.
The 32-year-old Hungarian won his second straight European title with an 82.69m personal best in Zurich in August. Overall, Pars competed 21 times during the season winning 16 competitions including, at various times, four world-leading performances.
Pawel Fajdek started the season with plenty of throws at 78-79 metres, but the Pole hit his first world-leading mark with a personal best of 82.37m in Velenje in July. The 25-year-old then finished a close second behind Pars in Zurich with 82.05m before smashing the Polish record with a 83.48m effort in Warsaw in August at the Kamila Skolimowska Memorial meeting.
The fourth athlete over the 80-metre line in 2014 was three-time Asian Games winner Dilshod Nazarov from Tajikistan with 80.62m in Ostrava in June.
It was an unusual season in this event with plenty of unexpected things happening.
Firstly, the consensus number one thrower of the season only placed seventh in the 2014 world list. Tero Pitkamaki was sixth in his season’s opener in Shanghai, but after that the Finn placed in the top three in the rest of his 12 meetings during the season. The 31-year-old threw a 86.63m season’s best at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris and won a bronze medal at the European Championships.
The furthest throw of the season came in the first IAAF Diamond League meeting of the season in Shanghai and in the first round as well.
Egypt’s Ihab Abdelrahman El Sayed, coached by a Finn, Petteri Piironen, hit the jackpot with his first throw of 89.21m, eclipsing Marius Corbett’s African record of 88.75m from 1998. The 25-year-old made a massive improvement of more than five metres to his previous personal best.
Abdelrahman’s rest of the season did not continue as smoothly, but he did get back to form in July with an 87.10m win against Pitkämäki in Paris. After finishing with a silver medal at the African Championships behind Kenya’s Julius Yego, he came back to win at the IAAF Continental Cup with 85.44m.
Yego also won the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow while Antti Ruuskanen surprised everyone at the European Championships in Zurich.
The 30-year-old Finn unleashed an 88.01m personal best for the win and added another victory in Stockholm with 87.24m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting there.
Germany’s Thomas Röhler did not succeed at the Europeans, but won at the IAAF Diamond League final in Zurich with an impressive personal best of 87.63m.
Czech Republic’s world champion Vítezslav Vesely’s season was far from perfect, but he still came up with the silver medal at the European Championships.
But there was one more surprise to come late in the season
In the South Korean city of Inchon, at the Asian Games, 29-year-old Zhao Qinggang entered the competition with an 81.18m season’s best but broke the Chinese record twice with 85.29m and 86.50m before an extraordinary 89.15m Asian record with his last throw, only six centimetres adrift from Abdelrahman El Sayed’s world-leading mark.
Women’s shot put
Despite returning from a couple of operations in the autumn of 2013 and some new injury problems, this was another great year in the ‘Valerie Adams Era’ which saw her being crowned as the female World Athlete of the Year.
Even though she was not able to uphold her 20-metre-plus streak, which had dated back to August 2010, the affable New Zealander did manage to keep her multiple-year winning streak intact and her victories included wins at the IAAF World Indoor Championships, the Commonwealth Games and in the Diamond Race.
Just as clear-cut as number two was Germany’s Christina Schwanitz who won all her competitions except the five – the World Indoor Championships and four IAAF Diamond League meetings – where she faced Adams.
Schwanitz, who won the IAAF Continental Cup when Adams was a last-minute withdrawal due to injury, was also the only one besides Adams to go beyond 20 metres.
Eight more putters surpassed 19 metres during 2014 but only three of those could be classified as consistent at that level: USA’s Michelle Carter, China’s Gong Lijiao and Russia’s Yevgeniya Kolodko.
Newcomers over 19 metres this year were Hungary’s Anita Marton, USA’s Felisha Johnson and Belarus’ Alyona Dubitskaya who all are 24-25 years old and who have been gradually improving over the years.
With the exception of super-talents like Adams who reached 19 metres before turning 20, this is an event where you clearly need time to achieve great distances so it is no coincidence that the top three of 2014 this year turned 30 (Adams) or 29 (Schwanitz and Carter).
Consequently, we will have to be patient about progress of teenage talents like China’s 2011 world youth champion and 2014 world junior champion Guo Tianqian and Turkey’s 2013 world youth champion Emel Dereli who both have just started to throw about 18 metres.
Sandra Perkovic has dominated this event for the past three years and in 2014 she was throwing better than ever, finally surpassing the 70-metre barrier; not just once, but three times.
Her top mark of 71.08m came at the European Championships and was the longest throw in the world since 1992. Even more impressive was that Perkovic achieved it in Zurich, inside a stadium in a championship setting.
Despite her dominance, Perkovic did not manage to stay undefeated again. In 2012, she had one loss to Dani Samuels; in 2013, one to Gia Lewis-Smallwood; and in 2014, one to Lewis-Smallwood at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Glasgow and one to both Lewis-Smallwood and Samuels at the IAAF Continental Cup.
The story of Lewis-Smallwood’s rise to the world elite is one of the most remarkable. While both Perkovic, European champion at 20, and Samuels, world champion at 21, had early successes, the US thrower is the archetypal late bloomer.
She was almost 30 before she reached 60 metres, had to wait two more years to get on the US national team and then another two years before she reached an international championship final.
This year at age 34, she set a US record of 69.17m and won at the IAAF Continental Cup.
Behind the quite distinct top three, it seems that Germany and Cuba are providing the prospects for the future.
Leading that group of throwers born in the 1990s is Germany’s 2012 world junior shot put champion Shanice Craft, who demonstrated consistency around 64 metres throughout the whole summer and who performed well in the major events.
World records are nowadays few and far between in stadium events, so when Anita Wlodarczyk sent her hammer flying out to 79.58m at the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Berlin on 31 August, it certainly was one of the highlights of the year.
Except for a loss to previous record-holder Betty Heidler in her seasonal opener in Ostrava, Wlodarczyk ruled the event.
She won her other six competitions and her shortest mark of the year, 75.21m, was surpassed by only five others. Inevitably, Wlodarczyk won the IAAF Hammer Challenge handily with Heidler in second.
Except for Wlodarczyk’s exploits, 2014 was a fairly quiet year for the hammer.
Russia’s Tatyana Lysenko, who took the 2013 world title, ended her season early after just a few meetings where she had been throwing some ten metres below her previous level and later announced she was pregnant.
Heidler was the only serious challenger to Wlodarczyk but the German once more was lacking consistency on the big occasion and had to be content with fifth place at the Europeans.
One of the most interesting recent trends in the women’s hammer world is the ever-stronger presence of the North American throwers. This year, Canada’s Sultana Frizell is in fourth place on the world list with her area record of 75.73m and, behind her, there are two US women in the top 10.
World record-holder Barbora Spotakova stayed away from the event, apart from one end-of-season outing, in 2013 to become a mother but still immediately reclaimed the number one position in the world.
The only small blemish in her 2014 record was second place in the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Birmingham where she was surprised by Canada’s inspired Liz Gleadle.
Otherwise, it was Spotakova all the way from the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rome, which she won by more than three metres, in early June on to the Europeans in August and then to the IAAF Diamond League final in Brussels, which she also won by more than three metres before finishing off her season with a win at the IAAF Continental Cup in September.
However, Spotakova might find it tougher next year when her two previous main rivals – Russia’s Mariya Abakumova and Germany’s Christina Obergföll – are scheduled to return after taking 2014 off to start their own families.
Also likely to be reckoned with even more next year are Australia’s Kim Mickle and South Africa’s Sunette Viljoen, who had the Commonwealth Games and the African Championships as main priorities.
Mickle won in Glasgow ahead of Viljoen and the latter then took her continental title in Marrakech.
Currently the top echelon in the event consists of throwers close to, or already in, their 30s, so an obvious question is: “Are there any new challengers on the horizon?”
On the brink in 2014 were two 23-year-olds: Serbia’s Tatjana Jelaca who was a surprise second at the Europeans, and Ukraine’s Hanna Hatsko-Fedusova who raised her best by almost six metres to 67.29m.
Mirko Jalava (men’s events) and A Lennart Julin (women’s events) for the IAAF