Caterine Ibarguen, Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Abderrahman Samba, Gong Lijiao and Caster Semenya (© Getty Images)
Illustrating the fierce competitiveness of athletics at the moment, just five athletes will begin their 2019 seasons with unbeaten streaks of 10 or more competitions.
Topping that list is world and Olympic champion Caster Semenya of South Africa who extended her undefeated streak in the 800m to 29 finals this year, a campaign that included victories at the Commonwealth Games, African Championships, IAAF Diamond League final and IAAF Continental Cup. Her streak began at the African Games in Brazzaville on 14 September 2015, eight days after an eighth-place finish at Berlin's ISTAF.
Next on the list is Shaunae Miller-Uibo who has raced unbeaten in her past 14 outings: eight at 200m and four at 400m, with an indoor 300m victory in February and a street 150m triumph in May added to the tally. The 24-year-old Bahamian's last loss came on 11 August 2017 when she took bronze over 200m at the World Championships. (Worth mentioning too is that Miller-Uibo also took a pair of victories at her national championships in 2018, claiming titles in the high jump (1.70m) and shot put (11.48m). Those came against modest competition, so in fairness can't be included in these tallies.)
Just behind Miller-Uibo is Gong Lijiao of China whose current 13-meeting win streak began on 24 March at the National Grand Prix final in Beijing. She can thank this year's Continental Cup rules shift for keeping her streak alive after Ostrava, where she ended the competition with the third farthest throw but won the final round to steal the victory.
Topping the men's list is Abderrahman Samba, who made his first full international 400m hurdles season a notable one. The 23-year-old Qatari was a perfect nine-for-nine in the event this year to build a 10-meet streak in his event. Among those was his spectacular 46.98 shocker at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris, only the second time the event's 47-second barrier has been broken.
Female World Athlete of the Year Caterine Ibarguen also ended the season unbeaten in her past 10 appearances, eight of those in the triple jump and two in the long jump. Four of those were her double victories at the IAAF Diamond League final and Continental Cup, an 11-day span which netted her a cool US$160,000.
Approaching double figures
But arguably the most impressive win streak record belongs to Eliud Kipchoge, this year's Male World Athlete of the Year.
When the 34-year-old Kenyan crossed the finish line at September's Berlin Marathon with a jaw-dropping 2:01:39 world record, it was Kipchoge's ninth straight victory over the distance, a phenomenal achievement given the limited competitive schedules available to the world's finest marathon runners. Underscoring that record is that each of those nine races were of the highest quality: seven were part of the World Marathon Majors series and another, the 2016 Olympic final. His streak began in Rotterdam on 13 April 2014 where he clocked 2:05:00 in another quality race. Over the course of his career he's contested the distance 11 times and has only lost once, finishing second in Berlin in 2013 where he clocked 2:04:05.
Next on the list is Jamaican discus star Fedrick Dacres who will begin 2019 riding an eight-meeting streak. Those came after a few mid-season defeats that ended a stretch of 13 straight victories.
Meanwhile, IAAF Diamond League 200m champion Noah Lyles will begin the season with six straight victories in his main event, and riding an unbeaten streak of seven, thanks to his 100m triumph at the Continental Cup.
Notable too is Nafi Thiam's continued dominance in the combined events. The 24-year-old Belgian extended her unbeaten streak to six – five heptathlons and one indoor pentathlon – going back to her Olympic triumph in Rio two years ago.
She's still sitting well behind Swede Carolina Kluft, however, who cobbled together a phenomenal 19-competition unbeaten streak in the heptathlon, one which began on 22 July 2001 when she captured the European junior title, and ended with her victory at the World Championships in Osaka six years later.
End of the line
This past year witnessed the end of several streaks, Mariya Lasitskene’s in the high jump the most notable among them.
Her 45-meet streak, one of the longest in the sport in recent years, began at the University Games in Smolensk on 1 July 2016 and lasted exactly two years, with her victory at the Paris stop of the IAAF Diamond League on 30 June. The end of the line came in Rabat two weeks later where she finished third behind Mirela Demireva and Yuliya Levchenko. Over the course of those two years, she topped two metres or better at 28 competitions.
The 25-year-old authorised neutral athlete has since began chiseling together another, winning each of her seven competitions since that defeat in Rabat.
World hammer record-holder Anita Wlodarczyk of Poland had put together a streak of 42 consecutive victories from 2014 to 2017, but that came to a surprising end in her first competition of 2018 as she finished an uncharacteristic ninth in Halle.
Katerina Stefanidi, the world and Olympic pole vault champion, hit the end of the proverbial road at the World Indoor Championships in March. The 28-year-old arrived in Birmingham riding a 19-meeting win streak, but once again found world indoor gold elusive, forced to settle for bronze. Nonetheless, her unbeaten run, which began at the Millrose Games on 11 February 2017, lasted more than a year.
Likewise, the fiercely competitive pole vault scene on the men's side caught up with world champion Sam Kendricks who was undefeated in 16 meetings in 2017. That streak ended at his first competition of 2018 where he finished second to Piotr Lisek in Cottbus on 31 January in his season's debut.
A second-place finish in Banska Bystrica on 6 February ended world high jump champion Mutaz Barshim's unbeaten streak at 12. He bounced back later, winning his most recent six competitions, but that streak was put on hold by injury in early July.
Others who rode periods of solid momentum this year included world shot put champion Tom Walsh who collected nine straight wins early this season, and Marie-Josee Ta Lou (100m) and Hellen Obiri (5000m) whose streaks ended at eight.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF
NOTE: The win streak calculations are based on finals only.