Below are several top performance for 2015:
Usain Bolt 100m in Beijing: Overall, Usain Bolt appeared to have had a sub-par 2015 on the track based on his standard. With personal best times of 9.58 (100m) and 19.19 (200m) under his spikes, both world records, 2015 saw an injury-plagued and apparently out-of-shape Bolt running less than impressive season best times of 9.79 (100m) and 19.55 (200m).
However, it was the manner and the stage on which the 6’5” Jamaican established his 2015 season’s best that will be remembered. Going up against his main rival, American Justin Gatlin at the 2015 World Championship in Beijing, Bolt proved his mettle by narrowly defeating Gatlin in the 100m, in 9.79 seconds to Gatlin’s 9.80 seconds. Bolt would later return to win the 200m in a world-leading time of 19.55 seconds ahead of Gatlin’s 19.74 seconds.
Bolt’s Beijing performance was unexpected, as Gatlin, who was enjoying an undefeated season in both the 100m and 200m, and establishing personal bests, was favored to topple Bolt’s stronghold on the global sprinting titles.
Perhaps, the mere presence of Bolt in both 100m and 200m races in Beijing may have provided the unwelcome mental distraction that led to Gatlin’s defeat by Bolt in both races. It is often said that “championship performers always rise to the occasion”. In 2015 Bolt once again proved that he is a championship performer and is at his best when global gold medals are at stake.
The Rise of Dafne Schippers: 2015 saw the meteoric rise of Dutch sprinter Dafne Schippers. The 23 year-old former pentathlon athlete used the 2015 season to focus on the 100/200m sprint. This proved to be a great decision by Schippers and her management team. Dafne used the 2015 season as a coming out party and has left no doubt to track fans that she is one of the world’s elite female sprinters by season’s end.
Heading into the 2015 season with personal best times of 11.03 and 22.03 seconds in the 100 and 200m respectively, Schippers chose the biggest stage in Beijing to validate her focus on the 100 and 200 races. Schippers set the Dutch national record and lifetime bests of 10.81 seconds and 21.63 seconds in the 100 and 200m respectively. Schippers also used her 2nd place finished in the 100m (behind Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce – 10.76) to set up a exciting dual with Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson (21.66) to take the 200m title in 21.63 seconds, a new championship record.
Her 21.63 seconds performance is the fastest 200m ran in over 17 years (USA’s Marion Jones ran 21.62 seconds in Johannesburg back in September 1998). Schippers used her speed; her strength and her strong finishing kick to signal in 2015 that she will be a force to be reckoned with in the sprint double in the future.
Who is Wayde Van Niekerk? The 2015 Beijing World Championship men’s 400m title was suppose to be a two-man race between Grenada’s Kirani James and USA’s LaShawn Merritt. James and Merritt have won all major 400m global titles since 2008. Merritt was Olympic champion in 2008 and world champion in 2009 and 2013. James was 400m world champion in 2011 and Olympic champion in 2012. Since 2009, James and Merritt were the only two athletes to post sub-44 seconds in the 400m, with Merritt having a personal best 43.75 seconds to James 43.74 seconds.
2015 saw the emergence of South Africa’s Wayde Van Niekerk, who ran a personal best 43.48 seconds to capture the 400m world title. Van Niekerk chose the Beijing World Championship to run the 4th fastest 400m race in history, while defeating both Merritt (43.65 – PB) and James (43.78) in the process. Van Niekerk, the 23 year old third-year marketing student at the University of the Free State (South Africa), possesses a combination of speed and strength.
The South African was able to use his blazing speed to put distance between him and the field by the 300m mark and then used his strength to repel the competition. Perhaps, we shouldn’t be overly surprised by Van Niekerk’s 43.48 performance in Beijing in August as he joined the sub-44 seconds club a month earlier, when he ran 43.96 seconds in Paris. At the end of 2015 season, track fans now know who Wayde Van Niekerk is. The biggest question now becomes: will Van Niekerk become a one-hit wonder? Only time will tell.
The Jamaican 4x400m women’s gold winning team: For any relay team to be successful there is the need for precision and smooth baton exchanges. The Jamaican quartet of Christine Day, Shericka Jackson, Stephenie-Ann McPherson and Novlene Williams-Mills showed grit and determination to capture the women’s 4x400m relay gold medal in a 2015 season best time of 3:19.13.
With USA’s Francena McCorory (spelling??) ahead on the anchor leg, Williams–Mills ran a brilliantly executed race down the stretch, to catch and pull away from McCorory, and to give Jamaica the gold medal. Jackson, the bronze medalist in the individual 400m in a personal best time of 49.99 seconds, ran a superb 2nd leg to keep her team in the race. The USA quartet lead by the 400m individual champion, Allyson Felix was the clear favorite to take the title. On paper the American team was favored, but the Jamaican quartet’s true grit and determination prevailed.
Written by O’Neil A. Reid (edited by Raymond Byfield). O’Neil is the author of the book “Banned for Life, The Steve Mullings Story” O’Neil can be reached at email@example.com