Usain Bolt, Ashton Eaton and Christian Taylor
With the imminent announcement of the 2015 World Athlete of the Year winners, we revisit the achievements of the three men’s finalists.
Although he went undefeated in all of his individual races this year, the Jamaican superstar didn’t appear to be at his best for the first half of the season.
He won over 100m in Rio and then over 200m in Kingston, Ostrava and New York, but wasn’t producing the fast times athletics fans are accustomed to seeing from the multiple Olympic champion and world record-holder.
The turning point came at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in London, where he twice clocked 9.87 to beat a quality field.
His form improved further leading up to the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015, where he won the 100m by 0.01 in a season’s best of 9.79 in one of the closest and most exciting races of the championships.
Four days later, he won the 200m title in a world-leading 19.55 and then capped his week with victory in the 4x100m, bringing his tally of senior global championship gold medals to 17.
An injury earlier in the year not only ruled out Ashton Eaton from competing at the IAAF Combined Events Challenge meeting in Gotzis; it also threatened to derail his season.
Thankfully for the US decathlete, he was able to quickly recover and was back competing within a month. But it meant that Eaton would be heading to the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015 without having completed a decathlon since winning the world title in 2013.
The Olympic champion showed no signs of rust though, and led the decathlon from start to finish.
Along the way, he ran the fastest 400m time ever produced within a decathlon, clocking a lifetime best of 45.00. With a world record in his sights, he maintained his outstanding series on day two and ended with a gutsy run in the 1500m to achieve his goal, setting a world record of 9045.
It added six points to his own world record and gave Eaton his fifth successive global title. His performance was also the only world record set in Beijing.
For many athletics fans, 2015 will be remembered as the year of the jumps, due in no small part to Christian Taylor.
The US triple jumper formed one half of the best rivalry in athletics this year as both he and Cuba’s Pedro Pablo Pichardo regularly threatened – and surpassed – the 18-metre barrier.
After an early-season defeat – albeit with an 18.04m leap – at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Doha, Taylor went undefeated for the rest of the year.
He added two centimetres to his lifetime best when winning in Lausanne with 18.06m to gain revenge on Pichardo and won again in Monaco in another close contest.
At the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015 Taylor and Pichardo were again closely matched. Or at least they were up until the last round, when Taylor flew out to a North American record of 18.21m.
The jump moved him to second on the world all-time list and puts him just eight centimetres shy of the world record.