As the announcement of the 2014 World Athletes of the Year draws closer, we take a closer look at the three athletes shortlisted for the men’s award.
Mutaz Essa Barshim
In many ways, 2014 will be remembered as the year of the high jump. In a season which saw unprecedented depth from the world’s best high jumpers, Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim was the best of them all.
In March, Barshim won his first major senior title by taking the gold medal at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Sopot.
During the IAAF Diamond League series, Barshim had several tussles with world champion Bogdan Bondarenko and Olympic champion Ivan Ukhov. In Rome, their first three-way clash of the year, Barshim came out on top, winning with a PB of 2.41m to equal the Diamond League record.
In another exciting dual against Bondarenko one week later in New York, the Ukrainian won on count-back as both athletes cleared 2.42m.
But Barshim saved his best leap for the last competition of the IAAF Diamond League series, winning in Brussels with a world-leading 2.43m to once again break his own Asian record. The victory also meant that Barshim won the Diamond Race for 2014.
Only one man – world record-holder Javier Sotomayor – has ever jumped higher than Barshim.
When Dennis Kimetto pulled out of the Boston Marathon in April with a hamstring injury, distance-running fans pondered whether the Kenyan would be able to salvage anything from the 2014 season.
But he did much more than just that.
Returning to the German capital, the scene of his first ever marathon in 2012 when he recorded the fastest debut of all time with 2:04:16, Kimetto lined up for the Berlin Marathon in September having regained his fitness.
The opening pace was fast, but it only got quicker and the lead pack reached half way in 1:01:45. It was clear that the world record was under threat.
Kimetto then covered the 10km section between 25km and 35km in a staggering 28:39, putting him comfortably inside world record pace. He maintained his form to the end, crossing the line in 2:02:57 to take 26 seconds off Wilson Kipsang’s world record.
It was just the fourth marathon to date that Kimetto has completed, having won all but one of those. As the only man to have broken 2:03 for the classic distance, followers of the sport are now keen to see just how much quicker Kimetto can go as he gains more marathon experience.
Records are made to be broken, but even the most optimistic athletics fan would have said that Sergey Bubka’s pole vault world record was safe for another decade or so.
Renaud Lavillenie knew better.
The Olympic champion began the year in incredible form, setting French records of 6.04m and 6.08m before the end of January.
Then in February, somewhat audaciously at Bubka’s own ‘Pole Vault Stars’ meeting in Donetsk, Lavillenie broke the pole vault world record with a perfect first-time clearance of 6.16m. Bubka’s record was no more.
When attempting to go even higher with the bar set at 6.21m, Lavillenie picked up a minor injury which delayed the start of his outdoor campaign, but he soon picked up where he left off.
He successfully defended his European title, and then won the Continental Cup. He also put together a string of victories at IAAF Diamond League meetings, becoming the only athlete in history to win a fifth Diamond Race title in any event.
Of his 22 competitions in 2014, indoors and outdoors, Lavillenie’s only blemish came when he failed to clear a height in Stockholm; an outstanding record in an event that is known for its unpredictability.