2003 - Sprints Review
Monday 22 December 2003
In our traditional run-up to the end of the year, renowned track and field statisticians, A. Lennart Julin (SWE) and Mirko Jalava (FIN) begin the first of a series of eight season reviews covering all Athletics disciplines, highlighting the best performances which have taken place across our sport in 2003.

MEN – Sprints

Last year our review began “The 100m year got off to a extraordinary good start with no less than six legal-wind sub-10 runners by mid-May - equalling the total number for the whole previous year!” 2002 altogether was a good 100m-year capped by Tim Montgomery’s World record which bode well for 2003 with the additional incentives provided by the World Championships.

Ana Guevara of Mexico wins the World 400m final
(Getty Images)

However, 2003 ended up being very much an off-year for the 100m. In 2002 there were 26 legal sub-10.00-marks recorded by 11 athletes – in 2003 there were just 9 marks by 8 runners! The corresponding numbers for sub-9.95 are 10 by 5 versus 2 by 2. Also if one looks a few years further back 2003 comes out as an off-year statistically.

At the World Championships in Paris, for the first time since the inaugural edition in 1983 not one single sub-10.00-mark was recorded.

But why? The only thing exceptional this particular year was the new false start rule, but it would be senseless to see that as an explanation for the decline. There was no visible decline in “reaction times” (measured in thousandths) so there is no reason why there should be a decline of about a tenth in the finishing times recorded.

It thus appears that we just have to accept that the dearth of sub-10 sprint times was more or less a freak co-incidence, a pure statistical variation where the truly outstanding performances were missing. This was emphatically illustrated by the World Championships final where the top-4 lead by Kim Collins finished within 0.01, and the top-6 within 0.06.

How extraordinary this evenness was, can be well illustrated by comparison with previous WCh finals: 1983: 0.20/0.25, 1987: 0.27/0.41, 1991: 0.06/0.10, 1993: 0.15/0.16, 1995: 0.10/0.15, 1997: 0.09/0.14, 1999: 0.20/0.24, 2001: 0.16/0.25. The average for those eight editions of the meet, thus was 0.15/0.21 while in 2003 it was mere 0.01/0.06!

But if we do look beyond the established group of stars some very exciting prospects for the future made themselves known on the international scene this summer: Justin Gatlin (USA), Darrell Brown (Trinidad-Tobago) and Asafa Powell (Jamaica).

100m - IAAF WORLD RANKINGS - as of 15 Dec 2003
Position - Name - DOB - Country - Points

  1. Kim COLLINS 76 SKN 1347
  2. Justin GATLIN 82 USA 1343
  3. Bernard WILLIAMS 78 USA 1340
  4. Deji ALIU 75 NGR 1325
  5. John CAPEL 78 USA 1323
  6. Dwain CHAMBERS 78 GBR 1320
  7. Mark LEWIS-FRANCIS 82 GBR 1282
  8. Maurice GREENE 74 USA 1281
  9. Uchenna EMEDOLU 76 NGR 1281
  10. Darrel BROWN 84 TRI 1275

Since Michael Johnson left the 200m scene some years ago this event has been almost in limbo internationally because there have been very few major races outside of the championships.

A consequence of this has been that just about every sprinter has made the 100m his priority, with the only real exception being Konstadinos Kederis (GRE). The logical consequence of this has been that Kederis for the last three years has picked up all the major championship titles, and it might very well have been the same in Paris if it hadn’t been for the injury that forced the Greek sprinter out of the World Championships.

In Paris, no 200m was run sub-20. Actually only one runner dipped under that barrier during the whole year. However, with no less than eight runners at 20.01-20.06 not too much should be made out of this fact.

Simply put, the 200m missed an outstanding athlete this year. Bearing this out, the World gold in Paris went to John Capel who was just 12th on the statistical year list with his top time of 20.17, and the finish was very tight with the top-4/top-6 within 0.09/0.17, i.e. well below the average listed above for the 100m!

With so many runners bunched up in 2003 on the verge of sub-20 it would be a big surprise if next year there wasn’t a “small flood” of 19’s.

The USA had six runners at 20.01-20.05 – plus the World Champion John Capel! Perhaps the most exciting US prospect is Justin Gatlin who has been sub-20 in previous years but who this year due to injury only got one late season race: Brussels where he won convincingly in 20.04.

However, the surprise revelation of the year was Japan’s Shingo Suetsugu who by choice ran a very restricted season: 20.03 at the national championships in early June, and then a bronze medal at the World Championships in late August.

The future of World 200m running is Usain Bolt. Not yet 17 the Jamaican collected six winning sub-20.50 meets topped by 20.13 at the Pan American Junior championships. However, Bolt wisely decided not to overdo it at this tender age and refrained from trying to add a senior World Championships medal to the gold he collected at the World Youth championships.

200m - IAAF WORLD RANKINGS - as of 15 Dec 2003
Position - Name - DOB - Country - Points

  1. Darvis PATTON 77 USA 1334
  2. Shawn CRAWFORD 78 USA 1322
  3. John CAPEL 78 USA 1315
  4. Stéphane BUCKLAND 77 MRI 1308
  5. Frank FREDERICKS 67 NAM 1305
  6. Joshua J. JOHNSON 76 USA 1291
  7. Marlon DEVONISH 76 GBR 1283
  8. Christian MALCOLM 79 GBR 1250
  9. Darren CAMPBELL 73 GBR 1248
  10. Bernard WILLIAMS 78 USA 1244

Three years into the post-Michael Johnson era the world has grown accustomed to sub-44 runs never being seen and mid-44’s being enough for a medal and perhaps even gold at the World Championships.

The only runner somewhat special in 2003 was Tyree Washington (USA) but it is illustrative for the current tight situation that although he came to Paris with a string of seven straight victories he still had to be content with the silver medal behind Jerome Young.

The general standards of 400m-running in 2003 remained more or less identical to those of the previous year and the year before that, with approximately twenty sub-45 runners, so the situation appears very stable.

However, history has told us that there suddenly could come someone out of “anonymity” on the US collegiate scene to challenge for the number 1 spot in the world.

400m - IAAF WORLD RANKINGS - as of 15 Dec 2003
Position - Name - DOB - Country - Points

  1. Tyree WASHINGTON 76 USA 1370
  2. Jerome YOUNG 76 USA 1362
  3. Michael BLACKWOOD 76 JAM 1321
  4. Marc RAQUIL 77 FRA 1306
  5. Alleyne FRANCIQUE 76 GRN 1299
  6. Eric MILAZAR 75 MRI 1283
  7. Cedric VAN BRANTEGHEM 79 BEL 1277
  8. Daniel CAINES 79 GBR 1274
  9. Brandon SIMPSON 81 JAM 1267
  10. Calvin HARRISON 74 USA 1258

WOMEN - Sprints

2003 was a good year for women’s sprints. Of course in comparison to 2002, this season had the World Championships and that is always a helpful incentive.

The early season competition over 100m/200m made the scene immediately interesting especially with many new names running well. Adversely however, Marion Jones was absent during the season because of her pregnancy, and that naturally affected marks in the 100m/200m.

Then of course at 400m, there continued Ana Guevara’s great win streak which had begun after her bronze in the 2001 Edmonton World Championships final, this year no-one even came really close to threatening the Mexican over 400m.

Guevara won all her competitions during the season and went under 49 seconds (48.89) in the World final in Paris, the first woman since Marie-Jose Perec and Cathy Freeman in the 1996 Olympic final in Atlanta to dip under that mark.

The season had many phases. First, early on, Kelli White excelled in the US competitions in May. White had started with a wind assisted 11.04 already in March and then went twice under 11 seconds in legal conditions before running a fast 10.79 with the wind just above the limit at +2.3 m/s. However, after her 10.93 headwind win in the national championships, White came to Europe only to take second place in three successive competitions.

It was Chandra Sturrup (BAH), who was in charge of those early wins and looked to be going to Paris as the favourite for World Championships gold. But it all changed again, Sturrup was beaten into third place in Berlin and second in Zürich and suddenly she seemed to have lost the winning touch.

Most interesting was that Zürich, the last and maybe the most important meeting before Paris, was won by Chryste Gaines, who as 5th in the US champs, and so was not even in the Paris team for 100m.

The World Championships final saw Kelli White go to the top, the American won ** in 10.85, a personal best, having finished first in her heat in each of the three rounds too.

Gaines went on to win the World Athletics Final in 10.86, a personal best and only 0.01s away from White’s winning mark in Paris.

So in all, it was a very unpredictable year with several people winning the key competitions.

However, the overall quality is going up ahead of the Olympics in 2004, in 2003 there were 30 women at 11.20 or better, 2002 had 28, 2001 27 and Olympic year of 2000 38

100m - IAAF WORLD RANKINGS - as of 15 Dec 2003
Position - Name - DOB - Country - Points

  1. Kelli WHITE 77 USA 1387
  2. Chandra STURRUP 71 BAH 1367
  3. Chryste GAINES 70 USA 1354
  4. Torri EDWARDS 77 USA 1346
  5. Zhanna BLOCK 72 UKR 1337
  6. Christine ARRON 73 FRA 1330
  7. Muriel HURTIS 79 FRA 1287
  8. Angela WILLIAMS 80 USA 1272
  9. Debbie FERGUSON 76 BAH 1270
  10. Marina KISLOVA 78 RUS 1263

** Pending IAAF Decision

Although this season had the World Championships as an incentive, the level of 200m running stayed largely static.

The season started with the 17-year-old name of the future, Allyson Felix (USA), at high altitude, running faster than the World junior record (though the mark was not ratified due to insufficient doping control tests at the meeting) on 3 May in Mexico City where Felix ran 22.11. In any case, she was unable to match that performance at sea level and in Paris Felix was eliminated in the second round.

The two favourites going to Paris were Kelli White and Torri Edwards (USA), White won the US Championships in 22.21 and Edwards recorded 22.28 at the Golden Gala meeting in Rome. The home crowd was naturally waiting for Muriel Hurtis (FRA) and she impressed winning one of the semi-finals in a season’s best of 22.41.

The World Championships final was quite surprising however, as while White was a clear winner**, Anastasiya Kapachinskaya (RUS) managed to push herself into second place in a personal best of 22.38, with Edwards in third and Hurtis in fourth.

White also won the IAAF World Athletics Final, the other race of the season, in 22.31 ahead of Hurtis, 22.41.

There seems to be some progress in the weakest event of the women’s sprints at the moment. 2003 had 23 athletes at 22.75 or better, 2002 had 18, 2001 - 20 and 2000 - 27.

200m - IAAF WORLD RANKINGS - as of 15 Dec 2003
Position - Name - DOB - Country - Points

  1. Kelli WHITE 77 USA 1360
  2. Muriel HURTIS 79 FRA 1350
  3. Anastasiya KAPACHINSKAYA 79 RUS 1336
  4. Torri EDWARDS 77 USA 1314
  5. Kim GEVAERT 78 BEL 1287
  6. Cydonie MOTHERSILL 78 CAY 1282
  7. Natalya SAFRONNIKOVA 73 BLR 1278
  8. Beverly MCDONALD 70 JAM 1266
  9. Allyson FELIX 85 USA 1252
  10. Juliet CAMPBELL 70 JAM 1246

** Pending IAAF Decision

Like in 2002, the one lap sprint was all about Mexico’s Ana Guevara. Guevara having won her last 15 400m finals, started her year in Eugene on 24 May, which the Mexican won in 49.34, showing that she was already in great form.

Guevara broke the world best over 300m distance in Ciudad de Mexico in May recording 35.30, but she competed very little saving her best to the World Championships in Paris.

So after winning the Pan American title in Santo Domingo on 8 August, Guevara arrived in Europe to win in Zürich, the last meeting before Paris, in 49.11, a Caribbean and Central America record.

In Paris, she was never in jeopardy winning in 48.89, the fastest winning time in the World Championships since Helsinki 1983, when Jarmila Kratochvilova (TCH) won with a World record of 47.99.

But the season was not just about Guevara, before the Mexican’s entry to the European competitions, it was Lorraine Fenton (JAM) who won the biggest meetings. The 30-year-old Jamaican ran four sub-50 races during the season. She really tried to offer a serious challenge to the Mexican in Paris running her season’s best of 49.43 for the silver, which of course was more than half a second behind the dominant Guevara. Defending champion Amy Mbacke Thiam made a good comeback and took the bronze (49.95), with Russia’s Natalya Nazarova in fourth also under 50 seconds (49.98).

However, the depth in the event continued to be missing, in 2003 17 athletes went under 51 seconds, the same as in 2002. 2001 had 20, and 2000, 32.

400m - IAAF WORLD RANKINGS - as of 15 Dec 2003
Position - Name - DOB - Country - Points

  1. Ana Gabriela GUEVARA 77 MEX 1389
  2. Lorraine FENTON 73 JAM 1368
  3. Natalya NAZAROVA 79 RUS 1325
  4. Amy MBACKE THIAM 76 SEN 1325
  5. Tonique WILLIAMS 76 BAH 1315
  6. Olesya ZYKINA 80 RUS 1282
  7. Lee MCCONNELL 78 GBR 1257
  8. Svetlana POSPELOVA 79 RUS 1257
  9. Sanya RICHARDS 85 USA 1252
  10. Christine AMERTIL 79 BAH 1236

A. Lennart Julin and Mirko Jalava for the IAAF