News31 Dec 2014

2014 end-of-year reviews – middle distance


Silas Kiplagat winning the 1500m in the rain at the 2014 IAAF Diamond League meeting in Glasgow (© Victah Sailor)

Statisticians Mirko Jalava and A Lennart Julin look back at the best long-distance running performances of the year.

Men’s 800m

One two-lap race stood out over the others this season. The IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco produced the five fastest times of the year as winner Nijel Amos clocked a world-leading 1:42.45.

The 20-year-old from Botswana won all the big races of the season, taking victories at the IAAF Diamond League meetings in Eugene and Zurich as well as second-place finishes in Doha and Paris. The Olympic silver medallist won seven of his 10 finals in 2014, including the Commonwealth title in Glasgow and the African title and a win at the Continental Cup, both in Marrakech.

Young Frenchman Pierre-Ambroise Bosse made big progress with a 1:42.53 French record in Monaco for second place. But other than that result, his season was relatively disappointing as he finished only fourth at the European Team Championships and eighth at the European Championships in Zurich.

World champion Mohamed Aman was third in Monaco in a season’s best of 1:42.83. The 20-year-old Ethiopian was clearly the No.2 runner in the event this season. After winning the world indoor title in Sopot, he finished second behind Amos at the African Championships and the Continental Cup in Marrakech and recorded IAAF Diamond League wins in Doha and Rome.

Men’s 1500m

Monaco was also the place for the fastest 1500m race of the season and it produced the top seven marks on the 2014 world list.

Silas Kiplagat, the winner of this race in a world-leading 3:27.64, was also the outstanding performer in the event this season. The 25-year-old Kenyan didn’t qualify for the final in Sopot at the World Indoor Championships, but after that he had an impressive outdoor season. Three IAAF Diamond League wins and four second places was an impressive showing, but Kiplagat didn’t compete in any major championships during the season.

Ayanleh Souleiman finished only fourth in Monaco with a 3:29.58 national record, but he crossed the line first on all major occasions during the season. The 21-year-old from Djibouti won the world indoor title in Sopot and then went on to add the African title and Continental Cup wins in Marrakech. Souleiman was also victorious in two IAAF Diamond League meetings, both in the mile, and finished second twice.

Asbel Kiprop, winner of the past two world titles, was second in three important races. His season’s best of 3:28.45 came in Monaco where he finished behind Kiplagat, and the 25-year-old Kenyan was also second at the African Championships and Continental Cup.

Third in Monaco was 19-year-old Ronald Kwemoi, also from Kenya, in a world junior record of 3:28.81, lowering Cornelius Chirchir’s 3:30.24 by a big margin of 1.43 seconds. Chirchir’s mark had stood for one day short of 10 years, since 19 July 2002 and was also run in Monaco.

Women’s 800m

Kenya’s Eunice Sum rose to the world-leading position in 2013 and she was also the main player in the 800m this year.

Sum won the first four IAAF Diamond League events plus the Commonwealth Games, the African Championships and the Continental Cup. She had nine races faster than 1:59.5 while nobody else managed more than four.

Behind Sum, the picture was all but clear-cut with a group of runners taking turns at beating each other. The fastest race of the year came in mid-July in Monaco where former world youth and junior champion Ajee Wilson won in a world-leading 1:57.67 just ahead of Sum. But after that, Wilson never ran faster than 2:00.

Strongest in the last part of the IAAF Diamond League season were Britain’s Lynsey Sharp, who finished first in Birmingham and second in Brussels, and USA’s Brenda Martinez, who was third in Birmingham and first in Brussels. Before those races, Sharp had won silver at both the Commonwealth Games and European Championships, using a Rudisha-esque front-running tactic in the latter before being reeled in by Marina Arzamasova.

This season also saw the rise of unheralded Ugandan Winnie Nanyondo, who lowered her PB by some four seconds down to a national record of 1:58.63. But sadly, fellow young African talents Fantu Magiso of Ethiopia and Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi were missing this year.

There was another significant breakthrough, though. Cuban teenager Sahily Diago ran 1:58.14 and 1:57.74 in Havana in May. But after finishing second to Sum in Rome and beating the rest of the world’s best 800m runners, Diago picked up an injury and was unable to return to sub-two-minute form, settling for the silver medal at the World Junior Championships.

Women’s 1500m

In 2013 the 1500m belonged to Sweden’s Abeba Aregawi who won all her races both indoors and outdoors. She continued her winning ways through the start of 2014, winning the world indoor title by more than six seconds and her first race of the outdoor season in Shanghai.

But nothing lasts forever and in Eugene two weeks later she lost to Kenya’s Hellen Obiri; not because Aregawi had a bad race, but because Obiri had raised her game to run 3:57.05. More significantly, though, it showed that Aregawi was vulnerable.

In Aregawi’s next outing in New York two weeks later, she had to dig deep to catch the fearless newcomer Dawit Seyaum – then still only 17 – who didn’t succumb until the closing metres. Seyaum, who just one week earlier had clocked a national junior record of 3:59.53 in Marrakech, looks very much like Ethiopia’s next great athlete in this event.

From July onwards, Aregawi – clearly hampered by a leg injury – didn’t win another race. The No. 1 position was instead assumed by Netherland’s Sifan Hassan who won in Paris in a world-leading 3:57.00, and then in Glasgow and at the European Championships.

But finishing the year on top was USA’s Jennifer Simpson who triumphed both in Stockholm and in Zurich. Simpson’s trademark is her competitive consistency; she is always there when it really matters.

In terms of standards, the 1500m was an event on the rise in 2014. The fifth-place mark of 3:58.01 on the world list was the fastest since 1997.

Mirko Jalava (men’s events) and A Lennart Julin (women’s events) for the IAAF