Kaliese Spencer at the 2014 IAAF Diamond League final in Brussels (© Gladys von der Laage)
Statisticians Mirko Jalava and A Lennart Julin look back on the best hurdles performances of the year.
Men’s 110m hurdles
France’s Pascal Martinot-Lagarde was arguably the most consistent high-level 110m hurdler during the 2014 season, and this showed with the fact that he won the Diamond Race, but he was far from perfect.
The 23-year-old was the favourite for the 60m hurdles at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Sopot, but finished a close second to USA’s Omo Osaghae. In his last race before the European Championships in August, Martinot-Lagarde ran an impressive 12.95 national record when winning at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco but a commanding presence in the heats and semifinals was not enough and he finished in third place in 13.29 for a disappointing bronze medal.
Jamaica’s Hansle Parchment was an early world leader with a season debut 13.14 in Des Moines at the Drake Relays. After that, the 24-year-old faded a bit before flying to a surprising 12.94 national record in Paris at the IAAF Diamond League meeting there but then injury cut his season short.
Russia’s Sergey Shubenkov didn’t quite improve upon reach the 13.09 national record he set in the 2012 European Championships semifinals in Helsinki, but otherwise his season was a success.
The 24-year-old won at the European Team Championships in the German city of Braunschweig and then added a second successive European title in Zurich before capping his summer campaign with an IAAF Continental Cup victory in Marrakech in September.
Ronnie Ash recorded his first sub-13 clocking with 12.99 in the US Championships semifinals and 23-year-old Cuban Orlando Ortega took a leap towards the top with several fast races, bringing his personal best down to 13.01 in Monaco.
Men’s 400m hurdles
Javier Culson returned to the top of the 400m hurdles after a more discreet 2013 season. The 30-year-old Puerto Rican ran 11 races during the summer winning six of them and finished in the top three in the rest.
Culson ran the 2014 world-leading time of 48.03 at the IAAF Diamond League meetting New York in June but it was extraordinary as this was the first season in 39 years with no results under 48 seconds.
There are a total of 309 results under 48.00, but that tally was not added to in 2014.
South Africa’s Cornel Fredericks, 24, won the IAAF Diamond League final in Zurich in a 48.25 season’s best and won all the big meets during the season: the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, before further wins at the African Championships and then the IAAF Continental Cup, both in in Marrakech.
USA’s Michael Tinsley won three Diamond League meetings in Shanghai, Paris and Stockholm, and was good enough to take the Diamond Race, while Switzerland’s Kariem Hussein emerged as the surprise European champion before the home crowd in Zurich.
The 25-year-old Hussein was not considered one of the top athlete in this event before this season, having run a personal best 49.61 in 2012, but quickly lowered that to 49.33 in his second race of the summer in Regensburg, Germany, in June.
However, the biggest leap for Hussein came late at the season.
Firstly, he won the European title in 48.96, then finished fourth at the IAAF Diamond League final in same stadium in 48.70, and then finally clocked 48.47 for the second place at the IAAF Continental Cup, all personal bests.
Women’s 100m hurdles
This has been a strong US event for some years now but their domination reached a new level in 2014 with American hurdlers claiming seven of top 10 and 14 of top 20 slots. A situation which makes the US Championships perhaps most competitive meet of the whole year!
With no major international championship berths at stake this year, some of the top US runners gave their national championships a miss although still four of the 2014 world top five did run in Sacramento with 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson out-dipping Queen Harrison for the title.
Current Olympic champion Sally Pearson, just like in 2013, struggled unsuccessfully to find her top form that made her the undisputed number one in the world a couple years ago. Her fastest time during the northern hemisphere season was 12.67 to be compared with her 12.28 of 2011 and 12.35 of 2012.
Also struggling during the main part of this summer was 2013 world champion Brianna Rollins who mostly finished her races in the 12.70s.
The main competitive international championships this year were the Commonwealths and the Europeans.
In Glasgow, Pearson triumphed over Great Britain’s Tiffany Porter who made up for that defeat by taking the gold in Zurich, coming home 0.03 ahead of France’s Cindy Billaud.
However, overall Harper-Nelson must be ranked number one on the strength of her winning the US title, four IAAF Diamond League races including the final in Zurich as well as the IAAF Continental Cup. She also ran four times below 12.55 while nobody else did it more than once.
Women’s 400m hurdles
Despite the outstanding performer of 2013, Zuzana Hejnova, missing most of the year due to injury the event still had a clear number one in the shape of Diamond Race winner Kaliese Spencer.
The Jamaican won all her races except the IAAF Diamond League opener in Doha where she was upstaged by Bahrain’s unheralded Kemi Adekoya.
Time-wise Spencer was also completely outstanding dipping under 54 seconds four times and under 54.30 eight times, compared to one and two respectively for everyone else combined. The only other sub-54 hurdler was Kori Carter with her 53.84 at the US Championships, but her best after that was merely 55.94.
The top US performer during the summer was actually Georgeanne Moline, who finished second to Spencer in two IAAF Diamond League races, Rome and Monaco.
However, Great Britain’s Eilidh Child was the most consistent challenger to Spencer during the main part of the summer.
Child had seven races between 54.39 and 54.89, including the win at the Europeans, and took second places behind Spencer at the Commonwealth Games and IAAF Continental Cup.
Find of the year was 21-year-old Adekoya who lacked previous international experience but who still proved her win in Doha was no fluke by dipping under 55 seconds on three other occasions, finishing third at the Continental Cup and winning at the Asian Games.
Hejnova was not the only one missing of the 2013 top contenders: Moscow silver medallist Dalilah Mohamed ran just a couple of 58s in May and multiple sub-54-runner Perry Shakes-Drayton didn’t compete at all.
Mirko Jalava (men’s events) and A Lennart Julin (women’s events) for the IAAF