News29 Dec 2013

2013 end-of-year reviews – hurdles


Sally Pearson and Brianna Rollins in the womens 100m Hurdles Final at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Moscow 2013 (© Getty Images)

Statisticians A Lennart Julin and Mirko Jalava look back on the best hurdles performances of the year with Julin covering the men’s events and Jalava the women’s.

Men’s 110m hurdles

One of the strongest memories of 2012 was Aries Merritt’s outstanding season, culminating in the fabulous world record of 12.80 in Brussels. But nothing is forever in sports and nagging injury problems relegated Merritt to a more discreet role as illustrated by his sixth-place finish at the IAAF World Championships.

But Merritt also learned that it is possible to reclaim the top position after injury hampered years. The superman of 2010, David Oliver now returned to the top at age 31 to get his much deserved first global title.

Oliver’s win was emphatic, finishing 0.13 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Ryan Wilson, who also told the story of perseverance. At age 32, it wasn’t just Wilson’s first global medal, it was also his first ever global championship appearance.

So unlucky athletes born in the 1990s like Jamaica’s Hansle Parchment (No.2 on the world list with 13.05 before getting injured in June), France’s Pascal Martinot-Lagarde (beat Oliver at the Diamond League meeting Paris but went out in the heats in Moscow) and Cuba’s Orlando Ortega (No.3 on the world list with 13.08 but also missed out in the Moscow heats) should not panic. Their best years are most likely still to come.

The same could be said for Russia’s Sergey Shubenkov who showed consistency at the 13.20 level and who already at age 22 added a world bronze to his previous European titles. And for Barbadian Ryan Brathwaite who at age 21 was a sensational world champion in 2009 and who after some years of struggling now returned to form with Diamond League wins in New York and Birmingham.

Men’s 400m hurdles

All’s well that ends well. That summarises the season of Trinidad’s Jehue Gordon.

In his nine meetings before mid-July he had been stuck at the 49.5 level and at his three IAAF Diamond League races he had been sixth, fourth and sixth. But in Monaco, his last tune-up before the IAAF World Championships, he was suddenly a winner, running 48.00.

From then on Gordon was the No.1, defeating Olympic silver medallist Michael Tinsley 47.69 vs 47.70 in the Moscow final and winning the Diamond League final in Brussels. Four years after his sensational fourth-place finish in Berlin at the age of 17, Gordon had finally arrived.

On the other hand, the most consistent runner on the international circuit for the last few years – Javier Culson of Puerto Rico – is still looking for that ultimate confirmation at a championship after two silvers and a bronze between 2009 and 2012. Despite going to Moscow with five top-three Diamond League finishes from earlier in the summer, Culson had to be content with sixth place in Moscow.

Felix Sanchez, whose surprise victory at the 2012 Olympics was one of the most emotional moments of the Games, could not quite perform the same kind of magic in Moscow, but still he finished a very creditable fifth, just 0.17 from a medal.

The find of the year was Serbia’s Emir Bekric who came into 2013 with a PB of 49.21 which he gradually lowered to 49.15, 48.83 (Mediterranean Games), 48.76 (European Under-23 Championships), 48.36 (World Championships semi-final) and finally 48.05 in the World Championships final to become an untipped bronze medallist.

Women’s 100m hurdles

Australia’s Sally Pearson was the best 100m hurdler in the world for two seasons, having won the 2011 world title in Daegu and the London 2012 Olympics.

But all that quickly changed in 2013 with USA’s 22-year-old collegian Brianna Rollins taking charge of the sprint hurdles. A 7.78 60m hurdles opener, a personal best and world indoor leader, in January underlined the capabilities of the Clemson athlete and she didn't disappoint outdoors either.

Rollins, who had not competed in major championships before Moscow, won each and every one of her 26 hurdle starts indoors and outdoors combined including heats and semi-finals. She also won eight other races in flat sprint events, going undefeated for the entire year.

She won the NCAA titles indoors and outdoors, clocking her first big personal best of 12.39 in the NCAA final in Eugene in June. That was just a glimpse of what she would go on to do in Des Moines at the US Championships as she ran a wind-aided heat of 12.33, a wind-assisted semi-final of 12.30 and an American record of 12.26 in the final for her first US title.

Her 12.26 performance is only five hundredths of a second behind Yordanka Donkova’s 25-year-old world record of 12.21 and gives her the equal third place on the world all-time list.

Many thought Rollins might not be able to handle the pressure at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow. In one way that was the case, but she was just too good to lose in the final, even with the most horrible start possible.

With Rollins last out of the blocks, Pearson led most of the race before Rollins snatched the world title in 12.44 against the Australian’s 12.50.

Rollins has now won 35 straight races with her last loss coming in June 2012 at the US Olympic Trials.

Women’s 400m hurdles

It has been a while since one athlete has this clearly mastered both women’s hurdle events, but it happened this year with Brianna Rollins commanding the 100m hurdles and Czech Republic’s Zuzana Hejnova unbeaten in the 400m hurdles.

Since dipping under 60 seconds for the first time in 2002, the 26-year-old has progressed steadily, so it was not a big surprise that she stepped up to the top of the world in 2013.

Hejnova won the bronze at the Olympics in London 2012 and has held the Czech record since June 2006, lowering it by exactly three seconds down to 52.83, her 11th national record, in the Moscow final.

Including heats and rounds, she won all of her 13 races of the season, setting three national records in the process. She won a total of seven IAAF Diamond League meetings and was absolutely dominant in Moscow, winning by a huge margin of 1.26 seconds ahead of USA’s Dalilah Muhammad, who grabbed the silver medal in her first major senior championships, having won the world youth title in 2007.

A Lennart Julin and Mirko Jalava for the IAAF