I run an 800m Running Facebook page. I have recently decided to rank the best 800m runners of the modern era (1960 onwards) using a subjective list of criteria, and marking each runner against each criteria. I shared the rankings on the page over 10 days, counting down 10-1.
Ive copied the article below. Hopefully will generate some comment/debate as it did on the Facebook page. I'm sure there are still some errors/omissions and Id love the feedback. Remember, this is an attempt at a subjective list, and I ran the criteria and tried not to have any preconceived ideas on who would come out on top:
It’s the age-old question- who is the greatest 800m runner of all time?
Whilst a few names for this title will pop up automatically to any fan of middle distance running, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to bring some objectivity into this debate. I would rank the top 10 athletes of the modern era from 10-1.
I did this by establishing a list of criteria and assigning an importance to each of these criteria. For example, times ran and Major Championship results had a larger loading than the other criteria I used. These criteria were:
.Times: World Records, how long did the record last, how many times did they run a certain time. 15 points
.Major Titles: How the athlete performed in the big two – Olympics and World Championships with more of an emphasis on the Olympics. 15 points
.Other Major Honours: This is a level below the big two, and includes area championships, Commonwealth Games, World Junior championships, World University Games, NCAA.
.Longevity: How long did the athlete perform at the highest level? 10 points
.Impact on the Event: Did the athlete change the way 800m was run? Are they celebrated by middle distance fans? 10 points
.Global Impact: Are they known beyond the niche middle distance fraternity? 5 points
.Performance in other events: I rated this criterion lower as it is a purely 800m ranking list, not a middle distance list. 5 points.
I also discounted champion 800m runners before the 60’s , so in effect this is a rankings
list for the modern era. I did this for several reasons:
·The competition pool was not as deep before the .60’s, which saw the emergence of the East Africans.
·Due to the amateur nature of the sport, most athletes did not have the longevity in the sport as opportunities were extremely limited. Athletes had to get a job to support their families.
·Opportunities to compete in championships outside the Olympics were more limited.
·It is difficult to compare times between eras, due to improved track conditions, better footwear etc. When the world record hit the 1.44’s I considered this to be the cut off time for inclusion.
·There is less information about these athletes to be found, making it harder to compare to athletes from the modern era, and to assess their impact across the sport and wider community.
Because of this cut off, apologies are extended to Mel Sheppard, Douglas Lowe, Mal Whitfield, Rudolf Harbig and Arthur Wint, who given different circumstances would more than likely have been included.
After completing this analysis, I could see the cream rising to the top, with only a couple of minor deviations from the way I would have ranked the top 4 initially. However, it was at the lower level where the surprises occurred. For example, I was surprised with Yuri Borzakovskiy’s
results and consistency over many years, when I had not previously considered him to be a top 10 contender.
So without further ado, here’s the list from 1 to 16.
1. DAVID RUDISHA
Times: 15/15: Has broken the world record three times, including Winning and breaking the World Record in the 2012 Olympic final, undoubtedly the greatest 800m race of all time. Has held the world record now for 13 years
Major Titles 15/15: Double Olympic Champion, Double World Champion
Other Major Honours 10/10: 2x African Champion, 2xDiamond League final winner, 1x World Cup winner, 1x World Athletics Final winner, 1x World Junior Champion.
Longevity 10/10: Ran 1.44 or faster 11 years in a row, One of only 4 double Olympic Champions.
Impact on the event 9/10: Front running a world record in the Olympics changed the way people thought about the event. Is regarded by most as the best of all time.
Global Impact: 4/5: Olympic Gold bought Rudisha’s talents to the world. Almost
every track fan would have Rudisha amongst their favourites
Performance in other Events: 2.5/5. Has run a hand timed 45.2 but no championships in any other event , and only a 2.19 1k and no 1500m recorded. #2 all time 600m
Rudisha is the complete performer over 800m. The pure 800m
specialist, Rudisha is the current world record holder and won everything that
was available for him to won.
Times : 15/15 Broke the world record on grass, in a time that is still the NZ record 61 years later. WR over 800m, 880 yds, 1000m
Major Titles 15/15: One of only 4 double Olympic Champions over 800m.
Other Major Honours: 8/10: Won the Commonwealth games 800m in 1962 in the only event that was available to him in that era.
Longevity/Consistency: 9/10: Double Olympic Champion in an era when most runners retired early.
Impact on the event: 9/10: Widely regarded as one of the greatest. His WR on grass is still spoken about in hushed terms.
Global Impact: 4/5 Athletics was very popular across the globe in that era, and Snell's Olympic wins gave him a lot of attention.
Performance in other events: 5/5: 1500m Olympic and Comonwealth Games Champion. WR holder over 1000m , Mile, 4xMile.
Snell rightfully takes his place in the Pantheon of legendary 800m runners.
3. SEBASTIAN COE
Times 15/15: Two World Records outdoors and two indoors, with the last World Record making Coe the fastest person over 800m by nearly 2 seconds at the time. His 1.41.73 stood for 16 years
Major titles: 12/15: No golds to show for his efforts, but 2 Olympic Silvers is nothing to be sneezed at.
Other Major Honours: 7/10: 1x European Champion1 gold, 1 silver 1 bronze European Championships, 1 World Cup. Coes trophy cabinet is a little threadbare over 800m.
Longevity/Consistency: 10/10: Medalling in the 1978 European Championships and still running 800’s at the 1990 Commonwealth Games. Ran 1.44 or better 12 times in 14 years
Impact on the Event: 10/10: In the 80’s no one was bigger than Coe.
Global Impact 5/5: The world stopped for the Coe/Ovett clash in Moscow in 1980. Coes impact continues as president of World Athletics.
Performance in other events 5/5: Double Olympic Champion over 1500m, multiple world record holder over 1000m, 1500m, mile. Even ran for GB in the 400m
With his style and silky-smooth stride, Coe is almost everyone’s favourite 800m runner. One of 3 in the top 10 to not win an Olympic Gold over 800m
4. WILSON KIPKETER:
Times 15/15: Broke the outdoor WR twice and equalled it once. Smashed the World Indoor Record twice on one weekend.
Major Titles 14/15: 3 World Titles, but the Olympic title eluded him, with a silver and bronze.
Other Major Honours: 8/10: World indoor gold, 2x World Indoor Silver, Gold European Championships.
Longevity/Consistency: 10/10: Ran 1.43 or faster 10 year in a row, Ran 3 World Championships and 3 European Championships.
Impact on the Event: 8/10: Renowned as a great 800m runner but maybe not
given the recognition he deserved.
Global Impact 3/5: Relatively unknown outside of middle-distance aficionados.
Performance in Other Events: 3/5 World Indoor 1000m Record, has run a sub 4-minute mile, but not much else, including no recorded 400 or 1500m time in World Athletics.
Extremely underrated, mostly due to his lack of a gold medal
in the Olympics. However, 3 World Titles and 4 World Records (indoors and out)places
him amongst the greatest. One of 3 in the top 10 to not win an Olympic Gold
Times: 15/15 Two World Records
Major Titles: 14/15 Olympic Champion 1976.
Other Major Honours 8/10: 1x World Cup winner, 2x World University Games winner. 1x Pan American Games Silver. Won what was available to him in the era.
Longevity/Consistency: 8/10: Ran 1.45 or better 6 years in a row. Two Olympic finals.
Impact on the Event: 9/10: Changed the way people saw the typical 800m runner – a big powerful guy fast enough to win the Olympic 400m title.
Global impact: 2.5/5: Coming from Cuba, was relatively unknown outside of athletics.
Performance in Other Events 5/5: Olympic 400m
Big guys can win Olympic 800m gold (and back up in the 400m
for good measure)
6. JOAQUIM CRUZ
Times: 14.5/15: Missed the WR by 0.04. At one stage he had the 2nd, 4th , 5th and 5th
fastest times in history.
Major Titles: 14/15 : 1x Olympic Gold, 1x Olympic silver, 1x World Championship Bronze.
Other Major Honours: 6/10: NCAA Champion, Pan American Champion
Longevity/Consistency: 9/10: Ran 1.46 or better 10 years in a row.
Impact on the Event: 8/10: Recognised as one of the greatest and most consistent.
Global Impact : 3.5/5 Relatively unknown outside of athletics circles. Olympic Semi Finalist over 1500m.
Performance in other events: 3.5/5: 1x Pan American Champion over 1500m, PB 3.34.Olympic Semi Finallist
8. YURI BORZAKOVSKIY
Times: 12/15: Multiple sub 1.43 times.
Major Titles: 14/15: 1x Olympic Gold, 2 World Championship Silver, 2 World Championship Bronze.
Other Major Honours: 10/10 1x World indoor Championships gold,1x Silver, 1x European Championships Gold, 2x European Indoor Championships Gold.
Longevity/Consistency 10/10: Ran 1.45 or better 14 years in a row.
Impact on the event: 6/10: A fantastic runner , very consistent. I was surprised at how much
he had actually won.
Global Impact 1/5: Little known outside of middle-distance fans.
Performance in other events: 3.5/5: Ran 45.9 and competed internationally for the Soviet Union in 400m and 4x400m. 3.40 1500m.
A dark horse in these rankings, I was very surprised at his
continued excellence over many years
8 STEVE OVETT.
Times: 10/15: Ovetts times do not reflect what he was capable of.
Major Titles: 13.5/15 Olympic Champion 1980, 3 Olympic Finals over 800m.
Other Major Honours: 6/10: 2x European Silvers, 1x European Junior Champion.
Longevity/Consistency: 8/10: Ran 1.45 or better 8 years out of 10. 3 consecutive Olympic Finals.
Impact on the Event: 8/10 Won the Olympic title in his non preferred event.
Global Impact :4.5/5 Coe/Ovett captured the worlds imagination in the 80’s and helped bring in the era of professional athletes.
Performance in Other Events : 4.5/5. Multiple World Records over distances from 1500m to 2 mile. Championship medals over 1500m ,5000m , but Olympic gold over his main event eluded him.
Ovett would surely have been ranked higher if his times
reflected his talent
9. EMMANUEL KORIR
Times 13.5/15: Korir is the 6th best performer of all time over 800m.
Major Titles: 14.5/15. 1x Olympic Champion, 1x world Champion.
Other Honours 8/10: 1x World Cup winner, 1x NCAA Champion, 3x Diamond League Final Winner.
Longevity /Consistency: 6/10 Has run 1.43 or better 5 seasons in a row. Most recent season cost him a higher ranking.
Impact on the event 5.5/10 Is compiling an impressive resume and could become one of the greats.
Global Impact: 1/5: Unknown outside of running community.
Performance In Other Events: 3.5/5: World
Championship finalist over 400m, 44.21 PB
Korir is fast establishing himself as one of the greats and could move up this list significantly if he continues the same trajectory over the next few years if he can recapture his 2021/2022 form.
10. ANDRE BUCHER:
Times: 13.5/15 PB of 1.42.55
Major Titles: 12.5/15 1 World Championship.
Other Major Honours: 8/10 2 Euro Championship silvers, 1 world Indoor championship Bronze
Longevity/consistency: 9/10 Ran sub 1.46 10 years out of 11
Impact on the event: 5/10
Global impact: 1/5
Performance in other events:. 2.5/5 46.32, 3.38. No major championships
#16 Billy Konchellah 47/70
#15 Dave Wottle 47.5/70
#14 Paul Ereng 48/70
#13 Mbulaeni Mulaudzi 48.5/70
#12 Ralph Doubell 50/70
#11 Vebjorn Rodal 50.5/70