Tuesday, October 18, 2011

2011 In Review – Men’s 100 Meters

With the general rankings out of the way, it’s time to start taking a look at individual events. So twixt now and the end of the year, I will look back on several events in between other news and events that come up. I will start with the men’s 100 meters which always lends itself to questions/controversy. Even more so in recent years as we seem to get fewer and fewer matchups among the events top combatants.

The 2011 100 meter season started off like a house afire, with Steve Mullings (JAM) blasting a PR 9.90 in mid-April (16th), then turning that into 9.89 in late May (21st). As June opened up, Mullings (9.80) then Tyson Gay (USA, 9.79) set new world leads within hours of each other on June 4th. And a week later at the NCAA Championships Ngoni Makusha (ZIM) set an NCAA record 9.89 in winning the collegiate title. The only “downer” on the sprints to that point was the slow start of Usain Bolt (JAM) who only had a SB 9.91 up to that point. As by mid-June four men – Mullings, Gay, Mike Rodgers (USA) and Makusha – were jumbled between 9.79 & 9.89 on the yearly list – and FIFTEEN men had broken 10.00 with legal wind!

Then the wheels came off of what was looking to be a banner year in the 100 meters! First Tyson Gay couldn’t answer the bell for U.S. Nationals, and shortly thereafter had hip surgery. Asafa Powell (JAM) would win the Jamaican Trials (10.08, -1.8 after a 9.90 semi) then take over the world lead on June 30 with a 9.78. Then after 9.91 and 9.86 efforts in July, he pulled out of the World Championships because of injury issues – though he returned the week after Worlds to run 9.92 in Zurich.

Powell wasn’t the only athlete to pull out of Worlds however, as Steve Mullings and Mike Rodgers were both forced to withdraw after testing positive in their respective Nationals Championships! A good news/bad news dilemma for the sport on the doping front – good news that they were caught; bad news that high profile athletes (9.80 & 9.85 respectively on the season) were involved. Then just as it seemed that things couldn’t get worse, Usain Bolt – who was already in the midst of a down season for him – showed the lunacy of the current false start rule when he had to bow out of the World Championships final after leaving his blocks a bit too early!

All wasn’t doom and gloom for the event however. The eventual World Champion – after all the suspensions, injuries and fauz paux’ was Yohan Blake (JAM) who became the youngest ever World Champion at the tender age of twenty one. Blake went on to record SB’s of 9.82 in back to back contests in Zurich and Berlin to close out his season. Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre, also twenty one, went from being the first white man to run sub10 to a legitimate threat over the distance recording four sub10’s (and four National Records) on his way to an SB 9.92 and a 4th place finish in Daegu.

American Justin Gatlin continued his successful return from his ’06 drug suspension breaking the 10 second barrier twice on his way to a second place finish at the National Championships (9.95) – earning himself a ticket to Daegu. Unfortunately injury issues kept him from having an impact in Daegu. Gatlin’s conqueror at Nationals was Walter Dix, who turned his ticket into silver with his runner up to Blake at the World Championships. And Usain Bolt finally found some form post Daegu, to record a world leading 9.76 in his final meet of the year in Brussels.

The up and down nature of this season made it somewhat difficult to rank, as most of the top athletes during the first part of the season failed to finish the season and/or were unable to cross the line in Daegu for the reasons stated above – Mullings, Rodgers, Gay, Bolt, & Powell. The lack of head to heads among the top athletes only make things more difficult, as only Bolt & Powell went head to head in any that mattered for ranking purposes.

Given all of that, here is my top five for 2011:



Yohan Blake


It may be controversial for some, but I settled on Yohan Blake for #1. Blake had two losses in a nine meet season, but he won the meet that mattered most, the World Championships, to go with a solid sequence of marks. He also avenged his two losses from earlier in the season. Blake gave an indication of things to come when he opened his season with at 9.80w. While others faltered during the season, however, he managed to be at his best when it mattered most, winning in Daegu with daylight between him and the field, then running back to back PR’s of 9.82 to finish the season in high profile races in Zurich and Berlin.



Usain Bolt


Usain Bolt gets the nod at #2. He was undefeated and led the world at 9.76, but made the mistake of false starting out of the final in Daegu. It was Bolt’s fauz paux at Worlds that kept him out of the #1 position, as victory there would have locked up gold to go with his undefeated season. Bolt closed out the year in fine fashion with a 9.85 (Zagreb) & 9.76 WL (Brussels) but with a season of only five finals, and without meeting the World gold & silver medalists can rate no higher.



Walter Dix

United States

Choosing #3 was a bit dicier. At the end of the day, however, I went with the World silver medalist.Dix was 5 – 2  in his 7 meet season, and came away with the silver medal in the biggest meet of the year. His season shows one of the flaws in the Diamond League where only half the events are contested. Dix competed in Doha, Eugene, London and Brussels – but each time in the 200. His only Diamond 100 coming in Zurich.



Asafa Powell


Powell, at #4 was 5 – 3 on the season. He set a WL 9.78 at the end of June, but faded from that point on and missed the World Championships – that cost him another place in the standings, as with arguable an equal season to Dix results wise, the silver medal gives Dix the edge – though Powell did finish a place ahead of him in their only “head to head” in Zurich.



Christophe Lemaitre


I round out my top 5 with World Championships 4th placer Lemaitre. In eleven meets he was 6 – 5, but finished just out of the medals in Daegu and was consistently in the top 3 in every other race he ran except Monaco.

That’s my story and I’m stickin to it. Next I’ll take a look at the women’s side of the 100 meters.

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