Renaud Lavillenie clearing a world record of 6.16m at the 2014 Pole Vault Stars meeting in Donetsk (© Valeriy Bilokryl / Jean-Pierre Durand)
Statisticians Mirko Jalava and A Lennart Julin look back on the best jumps performances of the year.
Men’s high jump
This year was easily the best season in modern athletics history for this event, the only thing missing was a world record.
Mutaz Essa Barshim ended the season as the world leader with a 2.43m Asian record in Brussels at the IAAF Diamond League final. The 23-year-old Qatari set a total of three Asian outdoor records and one indoors, clearing 2.38m when winning the world indoor title in Sopot.
Barshim won 10 out of his 15 competitions during the season but, in most people’s opinion, the number one jumper was still Bogdan Bondarenko. The 25-year-old from Ukraine passed the indoor season and went on to win 10 out of his 13 starts, jumping at least 2.40m on five occasions while Barshim did it four times.
Bondarenko also won the European Championships and the IAAF Continental Cup, while Barshim retained his Asian Games title from 2010.
In addition to the top duo, there were four more athletes over 2.40m during the year, three coming outdoors. Before 2014, only two athletes had cleared this height during the same outdoor season. To give more perspective, there are only 14 athletes in the history over 2.40m and six of them cleared that height in 2014.
Russia’s Ivan Ukhov equalled the European record of 2.42m indoors in Prague in February and also cleared 2.41m outdoors in Doha for a total of four competitions at 2.40m or better during the season.
Canada’s Derek Drouin equalled the North American record with a 2.40m clearance in Des Moines in April, Ukraine’s Andrey Protsenko jumped the same height at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Lausanne in July and Russia’s Aleksey Dmitrik was the sixth man over 2.40m, indoors in Arnstadt in February.
Men’s pole vault
An era came to a close in February with Renaud Lavillenie finally beating Sergey Bubka’s world records with a 6.16m clearance indoors in Donetsk.
The 28-year-old Frenchman first beat six metres in 2009 and has had several attempts at the world record before finally succeeding in Bubka’s home city at a meeting promoted by the man himself.
Bubka had held the world record since August 31, 1984, when he cleared 5.94m in Rome and the Ukrainian held on to the record for almost 30 years.
The Frenchman had an almost perfect season with 22 wins in 23 starts, with the only failure coming in Stockholm in August, where he couldn’t clear his opening height. He added a third straight European gold in Zurich to his collection and also won the Continental Cup in Marrakech as well as six Diamond League meets.
Otherwise, only six athletes cleared 5.80m during the season with the number two outdoor best at 5.83m, from USA’s Mark Hollis, which is the worst second best result in the world list in 31 years, since 1983, when Thierry Vigneron was the world leader with 5.83m and fellow Frenchman Pierre Quinon second with 5.82m!
Men’s long jump
Five athletes reached 8.30m but only a handful of them were consistent during the season.
Greg Rutherford opened his season in style in the US in April with a 8.51m national record and world leader, which stood until the end of the season.
The 28-year-old Briton had a good season winning the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in July and then the European Championships in Zurich in August, but didn’t get near his record during the rest of the season.
USA's Jeffery Henderson was the most consistent jumper in 2014. The 25-year-old won three IAAF Diamond League meets and the US Championships, and also set a 8.43m personal best in that competition with the addition of a windy 8.52m.
China’s Li Jinzhe narrowly lost the IAAF World Indoor Championships title when Brazil’s Mauro da Silva jumped 8.28m for the gold with his last attempt. The 25-year-old had led that competition with a 8.23m indoor personal best prior to last round Li got the national record outdoors jumping 8.47m in Bad Langensalza, Germany, in July and also won the Asian Games in September.
Greece’s Louis Tsatoumas jumped 8.25m in 2014, his best since 2011 and won the silver medal at the European Championships behind Rutherford.
Germany’s Christian Reif added two centimetres personal best on home soil in Weinheim in May, with a leap of 8.49m, but was unable to perform at the same level later in the season, only finishing eighth at the European Championships.
Men’s triple jump
This event did not reach the same levels it had done in the previous few season. Yes, there were a couple of good results, with Cuba’s Pedro Pablo Pichardo jumping a 17.76m in February, which remained the best mark in the world in 2014, and USA’s Will Claye jumped a 17.75m personal best to win at the US Championships, but the level of competition overall in the IAAF Diamond League meetings was relatively modest.
France’s Benjamin Compaore was the number one jumper of the 2014 season in many people’s eyes, producing the two best results of his career when it mattered. The 27-year-old won the European Championships with a 17.46m personal best before finishing in second place at the same Letzigrund stadium at the IAAF Diamond League final with 17.45m, losing out to Christian Taylor’s 17.51m, a season’s best for the American.
The Strasbourg athlete then continued with another big win at the IAAF Continental Cup in Marrakech with a second round effort of 17.48m for another personal best, while a surprisingly strong Godrey Mokoena set a South African record of 17.35m for the second place.
Mokoena, now 29, had only come back to the elite level in triple jumping at the beginning of August, when he jumped 17.20m for the Commonwealth title in Glasgow, his first 17-metre jump since April 2005. He then went on to win the African title with a 17.03m result in August before his feat in the same stadium in at the IAAF Continental Cup the following month.
Taylor, the reigning Olympic champion in this event, had en eventful season.
Before any jumping, he set a 400m personal best 45.17 in April and then was a part of the USA’s IAAF World Relays 4x400m winning team. In addition to his season’s best 17.51m in Zurich, he also won the IAAF Diamond League meet in Glasgow in July and placed second in three more Diamond League competitions, which was good enough to win him the Diamond Race.
Women’s high jump
Three of the four podium athletes from the 2013 World Championships took 2014 more-or-less off.
Moscow champion Svetlana Shkolina didn’t compete at all while Brigetta Barrett and Anna Chicherova had to cut their seasons short due to injury. Only Spanish veteran Ruth Beitia carried on and also peaked perfectly to grab the European title with a 2.01m clearance.
However, overall this year belonged not to Beitia but to Russia’s 21-years old Mariya Kuchina who has long been recognised as a great talent after her performances in the junior ranks but who still was a newcomer on the global senior stage.
Kuchina won all her five indoor meets, including a tie for first at the IAAF World Indoor Championships and outdoors won eight of her 11 meetings, only once finishing outside the top two, and recording seven meetings at 1.97m-2.00m.
The second best season belonged to Ana Simic who at age 24 emerged out of the shadow of fellow Croatian, Blanka Vlasic. Simic finished 1-5-3-3-3-3-2 in the IAAF Diamond League, added a bronze medal at the European Championships and a second place at the IAAF Continental Cup. The only thing missing was an elusive two-metre jump.
Vlasic had another year struggling to return to her ‘two-metre-machine’ form. She opened her summer well, including winning the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris at 2.00m; but, just like in 2013, she had to give the major championship in August a miss.
Women’s pole vault
In July 2005, Yelena Isinbayeva became the first woman to clear 5.00m but although that happened almost a decade ago, when the event was regarded as still very young, no one else has yet managed that feat outdoors and progress seems to have levelled off.
A comparison between the outdoor year lists for 2006 and 2014 (years in a similar position in the championship cycle) shows almost identical performances e.g. fifth place: 4.70m/4.70m, 10th place: 4.62m/4.65m, and 25th place 4.50m/4.50m.
Consequently, the women’s pole vault now should be viewed as a fully mature event and even though the 2013 world champion Isinbayeva took maternity leave in 2014, it was still her generation in the driver’s seat thanks to Brazil’s 33-year-old Fabiana Murer and USA’s 32-year-old Jenn Suhr.
Murer won four of the IAAF Diamond League events and the Diamond Race while Suhr collected three second places, a third and a fourth; but Murer’s world lead of 4.80m, cleared in rom New York, was the lowest since 2002.
From the new generation born in the 1990s, Greece’s Ekaterini Stefanidi demonstrated the greatest improvement and was consistently in the 4.55m-4.70m range throughout the summer.
Stefanidi won the world youth title at the age of 15 in 2005 but didn’t find success at senior level until this year. She was also very close to taking the European title but, at the very last moment, Russia’s Anzhelika Sidorova moved from fourth to first with her third-attempt clearnace at 4.65m.
Russia had the winner also at the IAAF World Junior Championships where Alayna Lutkovskaya, who is still only 18, was the class act in what was also a very strong field.
Women’s long jump
Before she had turned 21, Tianna Madison (now Bartoletta) was the reigning world champion both outdoors and indoors but then injuries made her disappear from the international scene only to re-emerge in 2012 - as a brilliant sprinter.
However, in 2014 she returned to the long jump and immediately reclaimed a position at the top.
Bartoletta actually produced the only seven-metre jump of the year, 7.02m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Oslo, but had four more meets beyond 6.90m and won the Diamond Race.
However, she was hard pressed right to the end in the Diamond Race by Serbia’s Ivana Spanovic who ended up scoring the same 16 points only to loose on the tie-break rule of the number of wins: two v three.
France’s Eloyse Lesueur was the third main contender in this event and actually had a positive win-loss record against both Bartoletta and Spanovic.
Highlights for Lesueur were the wins at the Europeans, with Spanovic second, and at the IAAF Continental Cup, with Spanovic second again and Bartoletta third. Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare who won the event’s Diamond League opener in Shanghai but after that competed only in the sprints.
For multiple world and Olympic champion Brittney Reese, 2014 was a year of technical transition with a new run-up. Also having a year of transition was Russia’s Darya Klishina, who moved to the US and started working with a new coach.
Reese and Klishina were expectedly somewhat inconsistent in 2014 but could be, once again, forces to be reckoned with in the coming year
Also watch out for Malaika Mihambo. Tthe 20-year-old German won the European Team Championships ahead of Lesueur. Great Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson, the IAAF World Indoor Championships silver medallist, is more focussed on multi-events but is still an outstanding long jumper.
Women’s triple jump
Making the triple jump her priority in 2011 has been a decision Caterine Ibarguen certainly isn’t regretting.
In 2011, the Colombian won 11 out of 13 meetings; in 2012, she was 7-for-10; in 2013 and 2014 she made it 9-for-9 and then 11-for-11. In these 43 competitions, she has only had five losses, the last one being at the London 2012 Olympics Games where she got the silver medal.
Despite this competitive success, going beyond 15 metres had eluded Ibarguen until the last round of the IAAF Diamond League in Monaco this summer.
She had numerous marks in the high 14s, but her best had stood at 14.99m since August 2011. However, on her last jump in Monaco, everything clicked and she bounded all the way to 15.31m.
It’s a distance previously surpassed by only four athletes and last it happened was six years ago. However, a 32cm improvement isn’t easy to follow up and in her remaining meets she was back to the high 14s, although that was still was good enough to win two more IAAF Diamond League meeting, the IAAF Continental Cup and the Central American and Caribbean Games title.
The only other athlete consistently jumping beyond 14.50m this year was Russia’s Yekaterina Koneva, but she lost to Ukraine’s Olha Saladukha - 14.69m v 14.73m - at the Europeans.
In late summer, the London 2012 Olympic champion Olga Rypakova returned to action after being on maternity leave and having her last competition at the end of 2012 and showed some of her old form when winning at the Asian Games.
Historically, it seems that this is an event where it is quite hard to transform success as junior into medals as a senior, but Rouguy Diallo of France certainly showed great promise with some impressive jumping which carried her to 14.44w and the gold medal at the IAAF World Junior Championships in July.
Mirko Jalava (men’s events) and A Lennart Julin (women’s events) for the IAAF