Comments Off on Heptathlon: Thiam delivers historic double
Nafissatou Thiam joins Jackie Joyner-Kersee to become only the second woman to complete an Olympic double in the heptathlon. Thiam’s sequal to Rio 2016 went to the form book, particularly as reigning world champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson pulled up injured in the 200m at the end of the first day.
It was a Dutch affair for the remaining medals. Anouk Vetter broke her national record with 6689 to gain silver. Emma Oosterwegel forced her way to bronze in the 800m at the expense of USA’s Kendell Williams, who was in third position coming into the final event.
Comments Off on Decathlon: Warner joins the 9,000-point club
Canada’s Damian Warner has joined an elite group of men with 9,000+ points in the decathlon. That rollcall: world-record holder Kevin Mayer (9126, Tokyo silver medallist), Ashton Eaton (9045) and Roman Sebrle (9026)—the first to do it back in 2001. Warner’s mark of 9018 becomes an Olympic record.
Warner demonstrated his dominance right from the start, setting down field-leading marks in the 100m and long jump, for which he was just shy of his world decathlon best with 8.24m (best = 8.28m).
The battle for bronze came down to the final event, with Australia’s Ash Moloney claiming the prize with an elated “f*ck yeah” when the result came up on the board. The under-20 world champion is also his country’s first-ever medal in the event and he just about edged USA’s Garrett Scantling.
This year’s Gotzis was all about Damian Warner. He has now taken the Gotzis decathlon crown a record six times, long jumped a Canadian national record and decathlon best (8.28m) and went number four on the all-time list (a whisker off the the 9,000+ club with 8995).
It ended a Canada 1-2 with Lapage coming through with a new PB. There was also a strong showing from Belgians Van Der Plaetsen and Pittomvils, and the Belarusian Zhuk who all score new decathlon PBs. Take a look below how the top eight performed against their PBs coming into the competition (the sorting function and overall scores are from their Gotzis results).
Xenia Krizsan set a new PB and Hungarian national record scoring 6651 to take the heptathlon title in Gotzis, bettering Vetter who finished second with 6536 points.
You could throw a blanket over 4th-7th with only 10 points separating them. In that pack were three lifetime bests. Notably, German Vanessa Grimm added an impressive 269 points to her overall best score, which included five new (or equalled) individual event bests. See below how the top eight fared relatively against their PBs coming into the competition (the sorting function and overall scores are from their Gotzis results).
There are many different routes to a great heptathlon performance. Joyner-Kersee set her world record of 7291 at the Seoul Olympics in 1988 and also won individual gold in her strongest event, the long jump. Ennis-Hill is the fastest hurdler the event has seen, while Thiam seems to be that rare heptathlete that thrives in the javelin. Explore the the strengths and weaknesses of the greatest heptathletes of all time.
It wasn’t the fairytale ending that we wanted in the men’s 100m in the London world championships. Experience has taught track fans never to bet against Usain Bolt at the major champs; if he’s there, he’s fit and ready to perform. This time it seemed like a race too far even for a legend of the sport. Where did it go wrong?
Reaction times: 100m medalists
A good place to start is the start. Bolt complained about the blocks after his heat and he didn’t seem to get any more comfortable with them; posting his worst reaction time in the final (0.166 in both the heats and semi final). This was his worst reaction time ever in any major championship 100m final. Even at his best, though, he wouldn’t be matching Christian Coleman or Justin Gatlin at this point of the race.
Race splits: 0-20m
100m medalists, seconds
The start has never been a strength of Bolt, but this was bad even for him. His modus operandi is all about overhauling the field through the rest of the race. Coleman blasted out of the blocks and Bolt gathered some pace, but it was Gatlin held his form over the last 30m to take the title. The American has been guilty of floundering towards the line on the big occasion, but not this time.
Race splits: 20m-finish
100m medalists, seconds
If you look at the placing every 10m, Coleman had a storming race but just lost out in the last 10m, where Gatlin’s form carried him through. Bolt also never really got into the race despite reaching the best top speed of 0.85 per 10m from 50m-70m. He was never ahead and was playing catch up throughout—nothing new for him, but this time he didn’t catch up.
If we compared Bolt’s world record splits (available for every 20m, so we have added up the two 10m splits from above), you can see the difference. Not shown here is the first 20m, which, if you include reaction time there is a 0.1 difference (2.98 in London and 2.88 in Berlin). Again this is evidence that it was poor start (reaction time and up to 20m), but the real difference as you can see in this chart is that his top speed wasn’t there any more.
Bolt v Bolt: London 2017 against Berlin 2009
From 20m, splits per 20m
This top-end speed is what allowed Bolt to be such a poor starter. Without the immense top-end speed, the start needed to be perfect. Without either, even in someone who was so much better than everyone else, Bolt became fallible. His greatness is unquestionable. He just seems a little more human now.
Splits from the IAAF’s London 2017 biomechanical analysis
Comments Off on Hop, skip and jump: triple jump phase analysis
The golds went to Christian Taylor and Yulimar Rojas in the triple jumps, but how did the three phases of their jumps break down?
Thanks to data from Seiko, via PJ Vazel, we can break down the three phases of each of the medal-winning jumps. What both gold medalists share is that their best jumps had shortest first phases (“hops”), but then they more than made up for it in the final jump compared to their competitors.
This was most significant for Rojas, whose jump phase of 5.86m represents 39.3% of her final mark of 14.91m. This is the largest percentage of any phase by any of the medalists.
Men and women’s triple jump, medal-winning jumps (m)
This strength is what carried Rojas to gold—she was inferior to Caterine Ibarguen and Olga Rypakova in the first two phases. Taylor’s middle phase (“skip”) was longer at 5.56m than both Will Claye and Nelson Evora. This made up 31.5% of his final 17.68m. As a percentage this is better than all the medallists’ middle phases, male and female.
What about distance from the board? Evora’s was 2.2cm behind and the best of all medal-winning jumps. Ibarguen was the best of the women (2.8cm). The rest are well behind. Even if you factor in this distance in a simple mathematical way, there would be no change to the medals.
Distance before the board
Men and women’s triple jump, medal-winning jumps (cm)
Mo did at again at the London 2017 world championships, recording an astonishing 10th consecutive track distance title. It was harder this time though. To win he had to post a time faster than he had ever done in a global championship, with the Africans keen to push the pace and test the champion.
Cheptegei’s 61.02 opening 400m provided a shock to the field, but Farah never drifted far from the leader running a more smooth, equal pace. At 600m to go, having seen this before, we knew that Mo’s turn of pace (even at 34 years old) was going to bring him through. Now only Bolt has more individual world championship titles (eight against six—total medals-wise he’s 7th, but that’s because sprinters can top up with relay medals). There’s question marks over the athlete who only started winning global titles at the age of 28, but tell that to the 60,000 people who were roaring him on in the stadium last night. He is, as it stands, one of the greatest athlete of all time.
Comments Off on What do 400m relay splits really mean?
Sydney McLaughlin posted a scintillating 50.37 fourth-leg split last week, while Shaunae Miller-Uibo posted the fastest women’s 400m split (49.60) at the world relays. They are the latest in a long line of fast splits: Allyson Felix recorded a 47.72 leg at the world championships in 2015. Michael Johnson even went sub-43 (42.9) in the 1993 world champs. Relay splits are clearly different from the individual event, so what do they really mean?
The IAAF posted a list of the all-time fastest 400m splits a couple of years ago (before Felix’s Beijing 2015 performance). What is noticeable here is the lack of first-leg runners. There’s only one in the men’s top 40 (Danny Everett) and only one (Gwen Torrence*) in the women’s top 40. In fact if you look at the top 100 relay performances for men and women (which can be found on Peter Larsson’s site here and here), the first leg is rarely the fastest.
Which leg was the fastest in each team?
All-time top 100 4x400m performances
Those two first-leg athletes deserve a special mention: Lalonde Gordon at the 2012 London Olympics (44.4) and Sanya Richards-Ross in the Daegu world champs, 2011 (49.3).
The first leg is clearly different. Relay splits follow the baton (not the athlete), so the runners on second, third and fourth legs have a rolling start (so long as they are up and running before they reach the end zone). This is worth 0.7 seconds according to PJ Vazel, who studied the difference between opening and anchor legs at major championships.
The first leg then is more like an individual race. Going back to the fastest of all first legs, Danny Everett clocked 43.79 in the Seoul Olympics relay. His PB is 43.81. This is the least different when comparing the top-40 male relay splits against their PBs. (Interestingly, one athlete has a faster individual PB than a rolling-start relay leg: LaShawn Merritt, 43.65 individual and a 43.8 fourth leg in the 2014 world relays.)
With this new found respect for first-leg runners, is there anything we can glean from the April’s world relays? Surprisingly it was a first-leg runner that clocked the best relay split—Steve Gardiner (BAH) in the mixed relays with 44.33. This is pretty close to his season’s best (and PB and national record) of 44.26 set in April. No woman went faster than the Olympic champion Miller-Uibo (49.60, second leg), even if you adjusted the first leg by 0.7. However, the next best split was record by Phyllis Francis, again on leg one. Using the adjustment for rolling starts, her 50.42 split gets quite close to Miller-Uibo and makes them the stand-out performers from Nassau.
It could be a good season for Francis. At the previous edition of the world relays she recorded a first-leg split of 51.40 and ended the season at 50.50. The Olympic finalist in Rio might just be up there in the medals if she records a similar improvement this season.
Perhaps two. Tatána Kocembová is given leg one on the “fastest by stage” (48.93), but is not listed individually at time of publication.
Comments Off on How much will a quarter miler improve outdoors?
In our last indoor-related article of the year, we’ll shift our focus to the men’s 400m. Indoors is a strange environment for a quarter miler: having to share a lane and cover two laps, when usually one suffices. Combine these factors with the indoor “drag” on all runners, 400m athletes can hope for a healthy improvement outdoors. But by how much?
To come up with an answer we have used data from 2016 (which featured both the world indoor champs and the Olympics) and paired indoor and outdoor performances of the top 300 athlete where available. This resulted in a list of 110 athletes.
Using linear regression (that is, a “line of best fit”) on the resulting scatter plots reveals no catch-all answer. Instead it depends on how fast an athlete was: a faster time indoors meant less improvement outdoors—with the reverse true for “slower” performers who improved significantly more. Here’s the result:
400m men: 2016 indoor and outdoor times
Of course, the line finds the “best fit” through all the points so there will be exceptions either side. If we use this as our guide though, it suggests a male athlete running 45.4 indoors can be expect to improve 0.67 second outdoors (or 1.48%), while at the lower end (around 48.0) an athlete can expect a 1.87 second improvement (or 3.89%). Compare this to the 800m men in the same year, where the improvement of the fastest and slowest is less disparate: an 800m leader can expect a 1.86% improve, while the “slowest” will expect around 3.5%.
If you watch someone like Pavel Maslak this all makes sense (who, according to this model, should have run slightly faster outdoors in 2016). If you “Maslak” the 400m, that is, get out hard and lead from start to finish, your path is unobstructed—and the less potential gains there are outdoors. Bralon Taplin, who slightly out-performed the model with 0.82 second improvement, similarly ran his 2016 indoor best (45.20) with a 2.56 second winning margin and unchallenged all the way.
There are also those on the top indoor list who get caught up, have to jostle and probably run a bit further. Both David Verburg (46.27 to 44.82) and Nery Brenes (46.49 to 44.60) improved massively outdoors, while recording their best indoor times finishing third and fourth respectively in their races (that is, they had reckon with people in their way).
There must be plenty of quarter miles looking forward to having a lane to call their own—and it’s probably those who miss this the most that have the most to gain outdoors.