We bring you the concluding part of the countdown of our Top 10 Sprinters globally in the 2014 athletics season, which kicked off last week with Nos. 10 to 6. Here are the Top 5 Sprinters of the year!
5. KIRANI JAMES
Grenada’s 400m National Record (NR) holder James, hasn’t stopped breaking records since becoming the first youth athlete to complete a 200/400m DOUBLE GOLD at the 2009 World Youth Championships.
He then became the youngest 400m World Champion at the age of 18, winning in 2011 in 44.60s, and is the current Olympic champion, winning in 43.94s (his country’s first ever medalist at both championships).
Starting the 2014 season, James rekindled his rivalry with Merritt at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, where he halted Merritt’s winning streak after he was awarded the victory, despite the American tying him in a photo finish where both were given a scorching time of 43.97s!
However he recorded a more emphatic win at the Diamond League meeting in Lausanne where he rewrote his PB, NR and the Diamond League Record with a blistering 43.74s finish, setting a World Lead in the process, while Merritt followed in second place.
His time equals the fifth fastest time ever, and the fastest by a non-U.S.A. athlete. The race also elevated their head-to-head record in James’ favour at 7-5.
At the Commonwealth Games, he became his country’s first ever champion, winning in a Games Record of 44.24s. He is also one of only nine athletes to win the World Championships at Youth, Junior and Senior level.
4. DAFNE SCHIPPERS
It’s no mean feat breaking two long-standing National Records (NRs) several times in one season! However Dafne Schippers achieved this exact feat in 2014, which happened to be the first season she has focused predominantly on the Sprints.
Early on in the season, the Dutch athlete lowered her country’s 100m record from 11.08s to11.03s, before producing another blistering performance two hours later as she handed shock defeats to US Olympic champion Allyson Felix and Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare, running 22.34s at the Diamond League in Glasgow and thus shaving off a millisecond from the NR she had set in Gotzis the previous month.
At the European Championships, Schippers matched Fanny Blankers-Koen’s ‘Flying Dutchwoman’ record from1950 by winning both sprints, posting 11.03s in the 100m before winning the 200m in another NR of 22.03s; a World Lead at that time and the fastest time by a European since 1995! She is the 10th woman to achieve the sprint double in the history of the championships.
Not done with her European medals, she added GOLD in the 200m and a Bronze in the 100m at the Continental Cup in Marrakech. This year, Schippers progress in the sprints has been relentless and she now has a big decision to make for the 2015 World Championships and the 2016 Olympics – does she focus on sprinting now or continue her career in heptathlon?
3. KALIESE SPENCER
Jamaican 400m hurdler Kaliese Spencer was in immaculate form all through the 2014 season. She kicked off her season as a double Silver medalist at the World Indoor Championships in Sopot, picking medals in the 400m and 4x400m.
Her Diamond League kicked off with a loss to Nigerian-born Bahrainian hurdler, Kemi Adekoya, who emerged the surprise winner in Doha. This ended up being her only loss all year.
In her hometown of Kingston, Spencer set a PB of 53.41s in the 400m hurdles and went on to notch six consecutive Diamond League victories after her Doha defeat, gathering a total of 30 points and securing her fourth Diamond League trophy in the last five seasons.
Spencer rounded off her near-perfect season with a peerless performance to become the first ever Jamaican to win the 400m hurdles at the Continental Cup to follow the Commonwealth GOLD medal she won earlier in the summer.
Following her impressive performance in 2014, Spencer was one of the nominees for the IAAF Athlete of the Year, though she did not emerge as one of the three finalists. On November 17, she was named Sportswoman of the year by the Caribbean Sports Journalists’ Association while Kirani James won the men’s category.
2. JUSTIN GATLIN
At an age when most sprinters are slowing down, Gatlin closed his 2014 season in spectacular fashion.He was unbeaten all year and owned six of the seven fastest 100m times this season.
Gatlin is a five-time Olympic medalist including GOLD (2004) and Bronze (2012) in the 100m. He returned to his world class form on the track in 2012, after serving a doping suspension from 2006- 2010. At the 2012 Olympic Games, he ran the 100m in 9.79s, the fastest ever time for a man over 30.
This year, he ran the fastest 100m and 200m times. Even more remarkable was the fact that these times were posted by a man in his thirties. This was evident as he pulled off the fastest ever one-day sprint double, clocking 9.77s in the 100m an hour before running the 200m in 19.71s to win the Diamond League trophy in Brussels.
Two months earlier in Monaco, Gatlin had run a PB of 19.68s, becoming the joint 8th fastest man in the history of the 200m, along with Frankie Fredericks. It certainly has been one of the most remarkable and controversial comeback stories in sport, given his previous doping suspensions, and in light of the research released this year suggesting that athletes may well continue reaping the benefits of doping long after it has taken place.
Indeed his nomination for IAAF male athlete of the year generated much criticism, with German discus World Champion, Robert Harting requesting that his nomination for Athlete of the Year be rescinded in protest at Gatlin being nominated.
It was therefore no surprise that he didn’t emerge among the Top 3 finalists. That said, one could also say that he’s done his time, and should be commended for returning to the sport after such a long absence and producing this kind of form in his thirties!
Topping the list of the best sprinters in 2014 is none other than Nigeria’s and Africa’s Queen of the track, Blessing Okagbare who posted a top-notch performance this season. The Beijing 2008 Long Jump Bronze Medalist is the reigning Nigerian and Commonwealth 100m & 200m Champion, and African 100m Champ as well!
She had a good outing at the Diamond League,especially in Shanghai where she won a double with Meet Records in the Long jump (6.86m) and 200m. She ran also a PB of 22.23s in the 200m to come 2nd behind surprise winner Tori Bowie in Eugene.
Okagbare is now the most prolific athlete of the Diamond League since its inception in 2010, notching up her 38th appearance in the series. She participated in nine Diamond League meetings this season, winning four of them. She’s ranked second in the IAAF World rankings in the 100m this year, and fifth in the 200m.
At the Nigerian Championships in Calabar, she became the first athlete in the Country’s Track and Field history to win a sixth consecutive title in the 100m in a CR of 11.06s, before going on to make it a sprint double in the 200m in 22.62s.
Okagbare’s finest moment of 2014 was undoubtedly the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, where she emerged as the outstanding athlete of the Games. She lived up to pre-championships expectations to win the 100m in a Games Record of 10.85s, before making it a double in the 200m in 22.25s.
She also helped the women’s 4x100m relay team to a silver medal finish in 42.92s. At the African Championships in Morocco, she regained her 100m title lost in 2012 by winning with another CR of 11.00s flat before anchoring the 4x100m relay team to a fifth back-to-back title in 43.65s!
The 2014 sprinting season may have come and gone, but the indelible marks set by these sprinters are a sign for exciting things to come, in the way of more rivalries and records at the 2015 World Championships and the 2016 Olympics!