2014: Hot ‘off year’
Non-championship seasons can sometimes be dull. With no global contests to stoke the competitive fire, fans and athletes can sleep walk through such seasons. That was true to a certain extent about 2014. Nevertheless, this 'off year' delivered memorable moments aplenty.
Indoors, Renaud Lavillenie of France elevated Sergey Bubka's world pole vault record to 6.16 metres. Kenya's women and Jamaica's men damaged records in events seldom contested. Anchored by Yohan Blake, Jamaica took a thin, but significant slice off the 4x200-metre relay record with a run of one minute, 18.63 seconds. The Kenyan women twice rewrote the 4x1500 record.
Even though invincible, shot putter Valerie Adams was voted Female Athlete of the Year and Poland's Anita Wlodarczyk punctuated a dominant season in the hammer with a world record, 79.58 metres. There was a stunning world record in the 50 Kilometre walk by Lavellinie's compatriot, Yohann Diniz. Just imagine walking 50k in three hours, 32 minutes and 33 seconds!
There was another blockbuster record on the road as Kenya's Dennis Kimetto broke the 2.03 barrier with a run of two hours, 02 minutes and 57 seconds in the marathon.
The best single event of the year was the men's high jump. I was sure the world record of 2.44 metres would fall to either Mutaz Barshim of Qatar or Bogdan Bondarenko, who cleared personal best heights of 2.43m and 2.42m, respectively.
With stratospheric clearances at lofty settings, Barshim looks like the favourite to get over 2.44m first.
However, Bondarenko, the reigning World Champion from Ukraine, won four of their seven clashes in 2014.
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce confirmed her status as the dominant straight line sprinter on the planet at the World Indoor Championships. Her superb 60-metre victory took merely 6.98 seconds. That's just 0.02 off Merlene Ottey's Jamaican record. Now the pocket rocket is Olympic champion and world champion, indoors and outdoors.
Injury blighted her outdoor season and new candidates for sprint glory emerged. They include American Tori Bowie, Michelle-Lee Ahye of Trinidad and Tobago and converted heptathlete Dafne Schippers of Holland.
Kaliese Spencer, Stephenie McPherson, Kemar Bailey-Cole, Rasheed Dwyer and Andrew Riley all won Commonwealth Games titles, but O'Dayne Richards holds pride of place. His Commonwealth shot put victory, achieved with a national record of 21.62 metres, was Jamaica's first at the Games in a throwing event. It was truly a landmark.
With World Cup football in the air, athletics wasn't in the spotlight in 2014, and a raft of doping related issues didn't help. Even so, thanks to Barshim and Bondarenko, Lavillenie, Diniz, Wlodarczyk and Kimetto, track-and-field fans had their fair share of memorable moments. They hold much promise for the run-in to the 2016 Olympics.
n Hubert Lawrence has scrutinised athletics since 1980.