Hubert Lawrence | The future of world records
Almost 30 years ago, in its build-up to the 1988 Olympics, a US magazine published 'Testing Human Limits', a story discussing the probable progression of world records.
The publication, US News and World Report, proposed that the mile would one day be run in 3 minutes and 34 seconds, that the two-hour barrier in the marathon would be breached, that pole vaulters could soar almost 7.82 metres into the air, that the long-jump mark would be stretched to 10.35 metres, and that high jumpers would approach 2.54 metres.
Even though the article was buttressed by scientific trend analysis, the predictions were staggering when US News published them in 1988. US News called them ultimate limits, and they still make your eyes pop. By comparison, the records are presently 3 minutes 43.13 seconds for the mile, 2 hours 02.57 in the marathon, 2.45 metres in the high jump, 6.14 metres in the vault, and 8.95 metres in the long jump.
All of the ultimate limits listed above are well ahead of the current world records.
With a new World Championships-Olympics-World Championships cycle just around the corner, it's fair to expect that athletes will strive to go faster, farther and higher. With glory and cash as incentives, the current records could be threatened. Current events suggest that the records in the 400-metre hurdles, the men's triple and high jumps, the shot put and the women's
100-metre hurdles and 4x100
might be in danger when we accelerate into the oncoming championship cycle.
Young American Sydney McLaughlin has lowered the world junior record in the 400m-hurdles to 52.75 seconds this season, and with reigning Olympic champion Dalihah Muhammad, Commonwealth champion Janieve Russell and resurging 2014 World Junior champ Shamier Little in hot pursuit, the world record of 52.34 could go.
Rai Benjamin, the lanky Antiguan, and Qatar's Chris Samba have put the heat on the men's record of 46.78 seconds held since 1992 by Kevin Young.
The same goes for the men's triple jump and high jump events, where venerable marks by Jonathon Edwards and Javier Sotomayor have been brought back into view in the last few years.
For all we know, the young Cuban Juan Miguel EchevarrÌa will grow from his long-jump battles with world champion Luvo Manyonga of South Africa and reel in Mike Powell's 1991 monument of 8.95 metres. Though her 41-meet win streak has ended, Russian Mariya Lasitskene has been bold enough to attempt to break Stefka Kostadiniva's high-jump record of 2.09 metres.
That was set in the 1987 World Championships.
SHOT PUT RECORD
Performance levels in the men's shot put are rising, and Olympic champion Ryan Crouser has sprayed so many throws past 22 metres that the throws community might soon put the Randy Barnes record - 23.12 metres - on watch.
Expect more from unlucky American Kendra Harrison, who shipped the 100-metre hurdles mark down to 12.20 seconds.
Finally, Jamaica has so much speed on the way that a shot at the world 4x100 record must be possible by 2021 or so. Elaine Thompson, the reigning Olympic champion, is only 25. In time, her senior-level teammates may include youngsters like Jonielle Smith, the CAC Games 100m champion, and that pair of bullet-quick 16-year-olds Briana Williams, the double World Under-20 gold-medal winner, and Edwin Allen star Kevona Davis. Together, they could give the world record of 40.82 seconds more than a scare.
So, fasten your seatbelt.
By the way, the 1988 US News story included one prediction that has a familiar ring to it. Ironically, it foresaw 9.58 seconds as the ultimate limit for the 100-metre world record. Go figure.
- Hubert Lawrence has made notes at trackside since 1980.