Christian Taylor in the triple jump at the IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015 (© Getty Images)
Statisticians A Lennart Julin and Mirko Jalava look back on the best jumps performances of the year.
Men’s high jump
With the flood of 2.40m-plus jumps in 2014, expectations for 2015 were running high. Coming into 2015, the general opinion was that this was the year that Javier Sotomayor’s 2.45m world record from 1993 would be toppled.
But it survived, and compared to 2014 – when six different jumpers compiled a total of sixteen 2.40m-plus clearances – 2-40m or better was cleared on just three occasions and by just one jumper, Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim.
At the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015, 2.34m was sufficient to give Derek Drouin – who also won the Pan American Games title – the win after a jump-off win.
So what has gone wrong this year?
The answer is possibly that jumping 2.40m-plus heights is very stressful mechanically on the body. History supports this contention as 2.40m has been a rarity for almost everybody, with Sotomayor the exception and unique in his consistency at that kind of heights.
Last year, Barshim and Bohdan Bondarenko managed to reach a similar consistency.
However, in 2015 Bondarenko was continuously bothered by his take-off foot and Barshim appeared hampered in various ways after his world-leading 2.41m at the IAAF Diamond League in Eugene in late May.
Of course, there were jumpers that raised their game in 2015.
Most prominently among them was China’s Zhang Guowei, who lifted his best to 2.38m and tied for second place at the world championships.
Men’s pole vault
Renaud Lavillenie has been dominating this event for many years now. Proof is provided by the IAAF Diamond League where he has been the overall winner every year since its inception in 2010. This year he cleared a world-leading 6.05m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene.
As far as championships go, Lavillenie has picked up multiple European titles, both indoors and outdoors, but on the global level he has been less successful. He is the reigning Olympic champion but his four world championships outdoors have resulted in one silver and three bronzes.
The most recent of those medals came in Beijing where he found himself out gunned by Canada’s Shawn Barber and 2013 world champion Raphael Holzdeppe.
The 21-year-old Barber was very much the revelation of the year coming into 2015 with a best of 5.75m. He opened indoors in early January with 5.87m and never looked back.
Especially remarkable was Barber’s ability to maintain that form throughout the year despite competing on average almost once a week until mid-September; of his 31 meets he cleared at least 5.90m in seven of them, from February until September, and at least 5.80m in no less than 19!
The only thing missing for Barber was the mark beginning with that magic digit: six.
Men’s long jump
The long jump is the most global event in the sense that all corners of the earth have competitive athletes. In the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015, the qualification rounds saw all six official IAAF Area Associations represented among the top 15.
Individually, Greg Rutherford once more proved that the championship title often goes to the most consistent jumper rather than to the one topping the statistics.
In 2012, Rutherford won the Olympics, last year the European and the Commonwealth titles and now he – by a convincing 17cm winning margin – acquired his first world title and, later in the season, the Diamond Race.
Rutherford’s extraordinary ability to perform whenever the stakes are the highest is poignantly illustrated by a list of his six best marks in 2015: 8.41m (world championships final), 8.35m (IAAF Diamond League in Birmingham), 8.34m (IAAF Diamond League, Stockholm), 8.32m (IAAF Diamond League, Zurich), 8.25m (IAAF Diamond League, Oslo), 8.25m (world championships qualification).
Beijing bronze medallist and local hero Wang Jianan – then still only 18 – is 10 years younger than Rutherford but already appears to possess the same quality of getting the big jumps on the big occasions.
Last year, Wang was only two centimetres off what was then his best of 8.10m when becoming an emphatic winner of the world junior title and this year his top three performances, albeit all on home soil, were: 8.25m (IAAF Diamond League, Shanghai), 8.18m (world championships final), 8.12m (world championships qualification).
US jumper Jeff Henderson, who was to finish a disappointing ninth in Beijing, had the year’s best jump when he flew out to 8.52m (and also had a windy 8.54m effort) to with the Pan American Games title.
Men’s triple jump
In the summer of 2015, Cuba’s Pedro Pablo Pichardo and USA’s Christian Taylor brought a definite buzz to the triple jump every time they met.
The IAAF Diamond League opener in Doha on 15 May set the stage. Pichardo bounded to 18.06m – to become the number three jumper of all-time – in the third round but was almost passed when Taylor. on his last attempt, improved 18.04m. It was the first time ever that someone had gone beyond 18 metres and finished second.
Before their next meeting. Pichardo leapt 18.08m at home in Havana, 17.96m in the IAAF Diamond League in Rome and 17.56m (with a strong headwind) in New York while Taylor had 17.52m in Ostrava, in dreadful weather, and 17.40m in the IAAF Diamond League in Birmingham.
In Lausanne, Pichardo took the lead with 17.99m but Taylor, who is renowned for his late round jumps, concluded with 18.02m and 18.06m.
Not surprisingly, expectations were high for the world championships.
Initially, they traded efforts about half-a-metre below the expected 18-metre jumps. Going into the final round, Taylor was leading 17.68m to Pichardo’s 17.60m.
However, once more Taylor had saved his best for last and he flew out to 18.21m, just eight centimetres behind Jonathan Edwards’ world record that had turned 20 a few weeks earlier!
Women’s high jump
None of the top athletes in this event had a particularly impressive season before Beijing. The 2011 world champion and 2013 bronze medallist Anna Chicherova cleared a world-leading 2.03m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Lausanne in July and won the Russian Championships with 2.00m in August, but only competed three times in addition to these two competitions and with less impressive results.
Fellow Russian Mariya Kuchina competed in a massive 18 finals, indoors and outdoors, in 2015 before the world championships, equalling her outdoor best 2.00m, but the 22-year-old had an up-and-down season with the level of results changing from one competition to another.
Croatia’s Blanka Vlasic, the winner of the 2007 and 2009 world championships, jumped 1.97m twice in early June, but then decided to give some minor injuries time to heal and did not do any more competitions before Beijing.
However, despite expectations being dulled, Beijing turned out to be a great competition.
Six athletes cleared 1.99 and the medals were decided in the next height, 2.01m.
Kuchina and Vlasic cleared with their first attempts, before the pair failed at 2.03m, but with the latter having failed once at 1.92m, this gave Kuchina her first outdoor world title and with a personal best.
The 2012 Olympic champion Chicherova won her second straight bronze medal. Kuchina finished her season with four more wins after Beijing including another 2.01m result at the IAAF Diamond League final in Brussels.
Women’s pole vault
Yarisley Silva got off to a slow start in 2015, but once she found the groove, there was no stopping her, starting at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris in July with a 4.73m clearance.
Her last competitions before Beijing included a 4.85m world-leading win at the Pan American Games in Toronto and then a 4.81m victory in Stockholm. Her penultimate competition before Beijing was another world-leading mark and national record of 4.91m in the German town of Beckum.
The 2011 world champion Fabiana Murer won the IAAF Diamond League meetings in June with 4.72m in Birmingham and 4.80m in New York and the 34-year-old Brazilian then finished second behind Silva in Toronto with another 4.80m clearance.
Other pre-Beijing medal favourites included Greece’s Nikoleta Kiriakopoulou, who won in Paris in July with a 4.83m national record. The reigning 2012 Olympic champion Jenn Suhr didn’t compete too many times, but she did win the US trials with what was then a world-leading 4.82m.
The Beijing competition was decided at 4.90m, with three athletes still jumping. Murer was leading until this point, but Silva changed all this with a third attempt clearance at 4.90m to clinch her first world outdoor title, to add to the 2014 world indoor title.
Murer took home the silver medal after clearing a 4.85m South American record and Kiriakopoulou got the bronze, her first major championships medal ever, and later took the Diamond Race after winning at the IAAF Diamond League final in Zurich.
Women’s long jump
Tianna Bartoletta returned to the top of the long jump lists last summer.
Now 30, she won the 2005 world title in Helsinki as a teenager and the American also won the 2006 world indoor title, but mainly concentrated on sprinting events after that until last year.
In 2015, she was at the top from the start, winning early in Doha in May with a world-leading 6.99m. She then added another win in the IAAF Diamond League, this time in Eugene jumping a wind-assisted 7.11m and then won the US title with 7.12m, a world-leading and personal best distance.
Compatriot Brittney Reese, who had won the last three world titles from 2009-13, had problems before Beijing, but still reached a season’s best of 6.97m at the US trials. However, the 29-year-old failed to qualify for the final and missed on an opportunity to win a historical fourth straight title.
Indoor world leader Christabel Nettey matched her indoor mark of 6.99m in Eugene and after wins in New York and at the Pan American Games, the Canadian was one of the medal favourites in Beijing.
The 2013 world championships bronze medallist Ivana Spanovic won at the European Indoor Championships with a 6.98m national indoor record and the Serbian showed she was rounding into form by winning her last meeting before the world championships, in Monaco, where she jumped a 6.87m season’s best.
Great Britain’s Shara Proctor was also expected to be in the mix after she won in London with a 6.98m national record.
In the Beijing final, the 27-year-old Proctor was also the surprise leader after five rounds having jumped another national record of 7.07m but when Bartoletta exploded to 7.14m. another world-leading mark and personal best, she clinched her second world title 10 years and 18 days after her first.
Spanovic won her second successive bronze with her national record of 7.01m with her last jump while Nettey was fourth with 6.95m.
The Serbian then extended her national record when she won at the IAAF Diamond League final in Zurich with 7.02m, although Bartoletta triumphed in the season-long Diamond Race.
Women’s triple jump
Like usual during the last few seasons, the women’s triple jump was all about Caterine Ibarguen.
The 31-year-old Colombian continued where she left in 2014 and won all of her nine finals of the season. Ibarguen’s last loss dates back to the London 2012 Olympic Games, where she took the silver medal, and since that meet she has won 30 straight finals; including, of course, the last two world titles.
Ibarguen’s season she started with 14.87m in the Jamaican capital Kingston in May.
A 15.18m wind-assisted victory, and a 14.88m wind-legal world leader in Eugene were followed by wins Oslo, Paris, the Pan American Games and Stockholm, before the Colombian won another world title in Beijing.
She took the lead in the second round with 14.90m, which was enough for the win. Hanna Minenko set an Israeli national record of 14.78m for the silver and Kazakhstan’s 2012 Olympic champion Rypakova, who handed Ibarguen her last defeat, won the bronze with a season’s best of 14.77m.
Having won all six of the Diamond League outings, Ibarguen was a comfortable winner of the Diamond Race.
A Lennart Julin (men’s events) and Mirko Jalava (women’s events) for the IAAF