Six Tokyo Olympic contenders post Doha
Who after Usain Bolt? We ask that question not just in its literal sense—as in, who’s going to win the men’s sprint events at the next Olympics—but also in a wider sense. Is there a single athlete right now who holds out the promise of setting the track and field events at Tokyo afire?
Based on the performances at the recently concluded athletics world championship, there is good reason to think so. Here’s our list of six athletes who can blaze through records at the 2020 Games—each of their winning marks in Doha is better than the mark that fetched gold at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Noah Lyles (22), USA
World Championship gold-medal mark: 19.83 seconds
Personal best: 19.50 seconds
One of athletics’ up and coming stars, Lyles skipped the 100m at Doha to focus on the 200m event. His decision proved the right one as he won gold, but he has confirmed that he’ll try and emulate Usain Bolt by going for the 100m-200m double next year in Tokyo. His personal best is far better than Bolt’s Rio gold timing.
Rio 2016 gold-medal mark: 19.78 seconds
Karsten Warholm (23), Norway
Men’s 400m Hurdles
World Championship gold-medal mark: 47.42 seconds
Personal best: 46.92 seconds
The Norwegian had shocked everyone two years ago when he won the 400m hurdles title at the 2017 World Championships at the age of 21. He’s just gotten better and better. He’s dominated the season with two of the three fastest times, and now holds the second fastest time ever for the event, just shy of the world record set way back in 1992.
Rio 2016 gold-medal mark: 47.73 seconds
Sam Kendricks (27), USA
Men’s Pole Vault
World Championship gold-medal mark: 5.97 metres
Personal best: 6.06 metres
Kendricks was one of only three people to clear six metres in the pole vault this season with a 6.06 set at the USA track and field outdoor championships in Iowa, USA. But he defeated a field containing the other two, Piotr Lisek (Poland) and Armand Duplantis (Sweden), to defend the title he won in London—his clearance at Doha is better than the Olympic record, which was set in Rio.
Rio 2016 gold-medal mark: 6.03 metres
Beatrice Chepkoech (28), Kenya
Women’s 3000m Steeplechase
Rio 2016 gold-medal mark: 8:57.84 minutes
Personal best: 8:44.32 minutes
The Kenyan narrowly missed the medals at both the 2016 Olympics and 2017 World Championships after finishing fourth, but made up for it by winning the title here with a championship record time of 8:57.84 seconds. She’s also the reigning world record holder with a 8:44.32 set in Monaco last year. If she’s fit she’ll canter her way to the Olympic record.
Rio 2016 gold-medal mark: 8:59.75 minutes
Dalilah Muhammad (29), USA
Women’s 400m Hurdles
World Championship gold-medal mark: 52.16 seconds
Personal best: 52.16 seconds
The reigning Olympic champion, Muhammad broke her own world record at the Championships with a time of 52.16 seconds. She had set the record in July when she surpassed Yuliya Pechonkina’s world record of 52.34 seconds that had stood for 16 years with a 52.20. Tokyo may see her break her own record yet again.
Rio 2016 gold-medal mark: 53.13 seconds
Mariya Lasitskene (26), Russia
Women’s High Jump
World Championship gold-medal mark: 2.04 metres
Personal best: 2.04 metres
Lasitskene won the title for the third championship in a row, setting a new personal best. Competing under a neutral flag at Doha, she was barred from competing in the 2016 Olympics in Rio because of the doping-related ban on Russian athletes, but will hope to make up for that hurt next year. Lasitskene is to the high jump what Yelena Isinbayeva was to pole vault.
Rio 2016 gold-medal mark: 1.97 metres
And the records that may never be broken…
There was just one world record set at the world athletics championships, and that was in the women’s 400m hurdles in which American Dalilah Muhammad broke her own record set earlier this year.
So how close did other athletes get to breaking records in their event?
According to scoring tables from the IAAF, the governing body for world athletics, only three other gold-medal winning marks were close to the World record, those in the women’s 1500m, the women’s triple jump and the men’s shot put.
American Joe Kovac’s 22.91 metre shot put throw was tantalizingly short of the world record (see chart); it was the third best throw of all time.
In the women’s triple jump, the winning leap of 15.37 by Venezuelan Yulimar Rojas came close to breaking a 24-year-old record.
There are other events such as the women’s long jump, women’s shot put and women’s 400m where the world records are more than 30 years old. The longevity of some these records have been a matter of heated debate.
Many of these world records were set in an era when doping was rampant and drug testing less than rigorous. There were even proposals a few years ago from European athletics bodies to establish a new set of world records and wipe out those set before 2005. 2005 was chosen because it was the year that the IAAF started storing urine and blood samples of athletes, allowing for future retesting if needed.