by: Robert Johnson, LetsRun.com
December 31, 2015
It’s the end of 2015 and that means it is time to look back. LRC’s co-founder Robert Johnson shares his thoughts below. LRC co-founder Wejo shared his athlete of the year (Tsepo Mathibelle), race of year (Evan Jager’s 8:00.45 steeple), person of year (unknown), and one regret here. LRC’s Jonathan Gault talks about Eliud Kipchoge’s amazing run in Berlin with his shoes falling apart, Genzebe Dibaba’s 3:50.07 1500, and Usain Bolt vs Justin Gatlin here.
Looking back at the year, I try to think big picture. Memories of individual races unless they were truly epic likely will fade with time so is there anything that will be remembered in 10 years? Were there any big themes that dominated the sport as a whole?
The Year of Doping/Corruption
2015 has to be remembered as the year of doping/corruption. On a regular basis, shocking headline after shocking headline came out one after another. When they came out, they were depressing but I think taken as a whole they are uplifting. Doping has long been a problem in the sport, but I am hoping that in 10 years, 2015 will be remembered as the year when the tide finally turned.
30 years ago, the people in charge acted like doping didn’t exist. 15 years ago, they knew it did, but they still tried to look the other way. Is 2015 finally the year where people realize it’s an evil in the sport that must be fought with all available resources?
Let’s hope so.
Instead of reacting along the lines of, “Oh my god, this is awful. Star athlete John Doe has tested positive,” I hope in the years to come that doping positives are almost trumpeted with glee, “We have exciting news to report. We’ve busted Star athlete John Doe – the immoral cheat who has stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars – and they are out of the sport for four years. We know there are other cheats out there and while we can’t catch them all, we’ll do our very best.”
The Greatest Development Of The Year – No Person Is “Too Big To Fall”
Perhaps my optimism is overstated but I do think one VERY important principle was proven in 2015 – no person in the sport is too big to fall.
In 2015, the royalty of the sport were hit with doping allegations – some proven, some not. But think about it. Other than Usain Bolt, the names in the sport don’t get any bigger than the likes of Rita Jeptoo, Aslı Çakır Alptekin, Paula Radcliffe, Alberto Salazar, Galen Rupp, Lamine Diack and the entire country of Russia.
And to me that’s a positive.
Doping is immoral, it’s theft on a large scale and it must be stopped – no matter who is accused of doing it or facilitating it – whether they are head of the governing body or a star athlete or coach.
Person(s) of The Year – Hajo Seppelt – Vitaly and Yuliya Stepanov
Along those lines, if I’m handing out a Person of the Year Award for someone like Time magazine does each year, this is a no-brainer for me and the sport of track and field. Track and field’s person of the year is Hajo Seppelt. A lot of great journalists like David Epstein and Mark Daly did some fine work, but no one did more for the anti-doping movement than Seppelt and Germany’s ARD network. Without him, none of the Russia/IAAF corruption would be out there.
Actually, I take that back. Seppelt was amazing but Vitaly and Yuliya Stepanov risked their lives to get the story out. All three of them deserve it as without the Stepanovs’ secret recordings, none of this comes out. Yes, the first report from Seppelt and the Stepanovs came out in 2014, but WADA only made it official by confirming it this year.
Now I’ll turn to my main thoughts on the actual action on the track.
Men’s Superstars Absolutely Dominate/Women Crown Lots of First-Time Gold Medalists
When I think back about actual track action, I think of two contrasting themes. On the men’s side of things, the favorites came through big-time. On the women’s side, new champions were crowned all over the place.
Seriously, think about it. They didn’t even need to hold a track season for the men in the mid-d and distance events. They could have just handed out a gold medal on January 1 to the most famous men in each event currently competing. Think about who won the gold medals on the track in Beijing.
Men’s 100/200 – Usain Bolt
Men’s 800 – David Rudisha
Men’s 1500 – Asbel Kiprop
Men’s Steeple – Ezekiel Kemboi
Does that mean it was a boring year? No. It’s just a testament to how great those runners are. It certainly was entertaining along the way. Rudisha lost more this year than any other but still got gold, Asbel Kiprop had to come from way, way back on the last lap of Worlds to win gold, Ezekiel Kemboi had to shake off a lot of Diamond League disasters and Mo Farah was finally forced to deal with Kenyan team tactics in an honest race at Worlds.
On the women’s side, things were a lot different. None of the pre-season favorites for gold won gold in the distances. Here is who I would have said was the pre-season favorite for gold.
Women’s 800: Eunice Sum – won bronze.
Women’s 1500: Abeba Aregawi – finished 6th at Worlds.
Women’s 5000: Genzebe Dibaba – won the bronze (although she did win gold at 1500).
Women’s 10000: ?? – With superstar Tirunesh Dibaba out with pregnancy, there may have been no favorite and while Vivian Cheruiyot, a star in her own right, won her 4th global gold, we don’t think she could have been considered the favorite since she didn’t compete in 2014 due to her own pregnancy.
A New Rivalry Emerges To Replaces Defar Vs. Dibaba
The other development for me on the women’s side was the replacement of the biggest rivalry in the sport from being Meseret Defar vs. Tirunesh Dibaba to now being Genzebe Dibaba vs. Almaz Ayana. The names have changed (well, one of them at least) but the theme of the rivalry is the same – two super talents from Ethiopia that don’t really like each other clashing at 5000. 2016 could really get interesting if Defar and Tirunesh Dibaba return for one last Olympic hurrah.
Welcome To The Pro Ranks, Eric Jenkins and Emily Sisson
On the US front, I think in 10 years we’ll be looking back and remembering 2015 as the welcoming in to the pro ranks of both Eric Jenkins and Emily Sisson. Both finished off their collegiate careers in fine fashion as both won NCAA individual distance crowns – a rarity for Americans (Jenkins won the 3000 and 5000 indoors, Sisson won the 5000 indoors and out) – before joining the pro ranks. Jenkins certainly has the talent to join the sub-13:00 crowd and Sisson seems poised to fill the long distance void that will soon be left when Shalane Flanagan/Kara Goucher retire (of course, Molly Huddle will still be around).
PRs at time of 24th birthday
Shalane Flanagan – 15:05
Emily Sisson – 15:12
Kara Goucher 15:28
In looking up that stat, I realized something that may be interesting to you. Sisson, who turned 24 in October, is actually seven months older than Abbey D’Agostino, who turns 24 in May.
Will Sisson be as good as Goucher/Flanagan? That’s going to be difficult and will be especially hard to do on the track as Sisson doesn’t seem to be as fast as they are, but she certainly seems capable of being a sub-2:25 marathoner.
More 2015 in Review:
*Wejo: Tsepo Mathibelle Athlete of Year, Evan Jager’s 8:00 Steeple Race of Year, Plus Unknown Person of Year & 1 Regret
*Jon athan Gault: Eliud Kipchoge’s 2:04:00 With His Shoes Falling Apart, Bolt vs Gatlin and Dibaba’s 3:50.07