The Sprints happen to be the most explosive events in Track and Field. Despite the absence of world record holder Usain Bolt from most top events in 2014, other sprinters (100m, 200m, 400m and hurdlers) did not disappoint as they raced their way into the history books and went on to win major Championships. Here’s Making of Champions’ list of the Top 10 sprinters globally in 2014!
10. TORI BOWIE
2014 was the first season that Tori Bowie competed at the highest level in both sprints, and she did so in emphatic fashion. Until now, she had been a specialist in the Long Jump, an event in which she was a 2-time NCAA Champion in college.
Marking her debut in the Diamond League as a sprinter, Bowie topped the 100m rankings after eye-catching victories in Rome (11.05s), New York (11.07s), and Monaco, where she ran a World Lead (WL) and Personal Best (PB) of 10.80s.
She also claimed a shock victory over Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare and the returning Allyson Felix in the 200m in Eugene in a PB 22.18s, the 3rd fastest time in 2014 while running from Lane 1 – it was the only second time she had run over 200m professionally.
Bowie’s ranking might have been higher if her season had not been cut short by injury, which likely robbed her of more great performances and likely kept her from winning the 100m Diamond League crown, which she had been leading the standings to capture! However she has certainly announced herself as a threat to the established order in both sprints at the next Olympics!
9. ISAAC MAKWALA
Makwala has never had a better year for himself and his country, Botswana, than in the 2014 season. The Batswana broke the 400m African Record (AR) at the 35th Resisprint Meeting in Switzerland with a time of 44.01s, erasing the previous record of 44.10s set eight years ago by Gary Kikaya.
The time is the 3rd fastest in 2014 and new National Record (NR) for Botswana and just two hours later, he won the 200m in another NR of 19.96s. Going into the African Championships as the favorite to defend his crown, Makwala lived up to expectations by setting a new CR in 44.23s before taking Silver in the 200m in 20.51s.
Not done with breaking records, Makwala anchored his country’s 4x400m team to their first continental GOLD in the relay with a NR of 3:01.89s, dethroning Nigeria in the process and ending the championship as the only individual with 3 medals.
A month later at the IAAF Continental Cup, Makwala won Silver for Team Africa behind Diamond League winner, Lashawn Merritt in 44.48s. He then capped off his outstanding season with a spectacular 2nd leg run in the 4x400m, taking over the lead from Americas to give Africa a befitting GOLD medal with a PB of 3:00.02s.
8. PASCAL MARTINOT-LAGARDE
Since missing out on the final at the 2013 World Championships due to injury, Martinot- Largade has been a man in the ascendency.
This year, he won a Silver medal at the World Indoor Championships, adding to his Bronze medals from the 2012 editions in Istanbul and the 2013 European Athletics Championships in Gothenburg.
The French hurdler has gone from being a very good hurdler to one of the world’s best, and his Diamond League achievements this year support this. He was amongst the top three finishers in every Diamond League race, recording five victories in Oregon, Brussels and Oslo amongst others.
In Monaco, he ran his near perfect race of the season! Running 12.95s for the win, he broke the French record in the process, amidst the massive support of the home crowd.
Unfortunately, he was unable to replicate his brilliant Diamond League form at the European championships –where he lost the title to Sergey Shubenkov, only claiming Bronze after teammate Dimitri Bascou was disqualified and Martinot-Lagarde was upgraded from 4th.
That notwithstanding, 2014 has been a fruitful year for Martinot-Lagarde and definitely gives him a springboard to target a World Championship medal in 2015.
7. LASHAWN MERRITT
Since the start of June, Merritt has been in an outstanding form in all his Diamond League meetings. It was therefore no surprise that he captured his second consecutive Diamond League trophy at the end of the 2014 athletics season.
He kicked off the season with a win at the first leg of the Diamond League in Doha, and clinched the Diamond League trophy in Zurich as he won the race in 44.36s, making it five wins in total. His only two losses of the season were to Olympic Champion Kirani James. Firstly in Oregon, James was awarded the victory, despite Merritt tying him in a photo finish where both were given a scorching time of 43.97s!
Merritt met his nemesis once more in Lausanne, where James claimed victory with a World Lead, Diamond League Record (DLR) and NR of 43.74s, with the American finishing closely in second with an SB of 43.92s .
At the Continental cup, Merritt faced stiff competition from African Champion Makwala, but it was the two-time World champion who eased past the line to claim victory in 44.60s for Team Americas.
He wasn’t as fortunate in the 4x400m though, as Makwala secured revenge for the host continent with his second leg instrumental to Team Africa’s victory, while Merritt anchored Team Americas to third behind Europe.
6. FEMI OGUNODE
The realisation that Nigeria has lost a star in Femi Ogunode hasn’t hit home as clearly as it has in the 2014 athletics season, which saw the former Nigerian athlete shine brightly for his adopted country, Qatar.
A two-year doping ban that lasted until January 2014 meant that Ogunode was out of track action since 2012, but the Nigerian born Qatari sprinter started his season, by winning a Bronze medal in the 60m at the World Indoor Championships before running a Personal Best of 20.06s in Bulgaria, making him the 9th fastest man in 2014 at the distance that is rumoured to be under threat of being removed from the Olympics –sacrilege according to Usain Bolt, and we agree!
Intriguingly, only one Nigerian has ever run as fast as 20.06s in the 200m. Between 1999 & 2000, Francis Obikwelu did it FOUR times (19.84s, 20.01s, 20.05s & 20.06s), but that was not enough for Nigerians to understand his worth–following a serious injury and life-threatening surgery with no support from his fatherland. Obikwelu also switched to his adopted nation (Portugal in this case) and the rest, as they say, is history.
Ogunode was quite competitive in the Diamond League series before becoming a double Bronze medalist in the 100m and 200m for Team Asia-Pacific at the IAAF Continental Cup ahead of the likes of Cote d’Ivoire’s Hua Wilfried Koffi and Nigeria’s Mark Jelks, both competing for Team Africa.
He capped off his comeback season at the Asian Games, setting a Games Record in both the 100m and 200m in 9.93s and 20.14s respectively, ranking him as the 5th fastest man in the 100m in 2014.
Interestingly, Ogunode became only the second ‘Asian’ in history to break the 10s mark in the 100m after Samuel Francis, also a Nigerian-born Qatari, first did it seven years ago in 9.99s. It also means that he has run much faster than any Nigerian athlete in the 100msince 2006, when Olusoji Fasuba set the current African Record of 9.85s!
Watch out for Part 2 of this story, where we bring you Nos. 5 to 1 of the Top Sprinters in 2014!