Why You Won’t See a World Record in this Upcoming World Championships or Olympics
When was the last time you saw a world record in a World Championship or Olympics Games in a middle distance or long distance event from 800 meters upwards?
Sprinters take advantage of the Championship atmosphere, the multiple rounds, and faster tracks to set their world records.
You have to go back to Alberto Juantorena’s 1.43.50 800 meters at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. If you count Commonwealth Games, then Filbert Bayi’s 3.32.16 1500 meters in 1974 at Christchurch, NZ come to mind.
My favourite race without rabbits is the 1974 Commonwealth Games 1500 meters Filbert Bayi victory over John Walker. Bayi opened up a suicidal first lap 54.9 and ran from start to finish in first place, with Walker closing in the final lap.
Unfortunately, we can thank the rabbits for destroying that opportunity.
Rabbits set the pace and do the wind breaking so others can draft anywhere from half to three-quarters of the race. They are paid professionals, usually world class athletes themselves, and the races usually a straight final Invitational..
In the Olympics or World Champs, you would need a teammate to qualify through the rounds. For some countries, just getting 2 world class athletes meeting the IAAF “A” standard is tough.
Let’s take a look at a few examples of rabbits where teammates assisted in the pace setting and I will focus on the Men’s Mile or the 1500 meters.
- Roger Banister, 1953, the year before his sub 4 minute mile. In this race, an intentional lapped runner assisted Bannister in a failed sub 4 minute mile (the current rule with LAPPED runners are not allowed to be pace setters)
- Roger Banister, 1954, sub 4 minute mile. He needed 2 rabbits, one for the first 2 laps and the second rabbit for the third lap. The rest is history.
- Kipchoge Keino vs. Jim Ryun, 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Ryun was unaware that Keino’s teammate (playing sacrificial lamb) was pace setting in the rarefied air. Or, at least he didn’t know when Keino would be making his move. Keino also won a silver medal in the 5000 meters at the same Olympics.
- Hicham El Guerrouj’s silver medal at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. Like 1968, his teammate did the pace setting, but ultimately was out-kicked by Noah Ngeny. El Guerrouj would later get his revenge by winning double gold in the 1500 meters and 5000 meters in Athens Olympics in 2004.
Personally, I don’t like rabbits as it defeats the head to head competition, which is what Sports is all about. The element of rain, wind, or altitude affects everyone.
In a way, a match race like Donovan Bailey – Michael Johnson was more interesting, just like the match races from the Turn of the Century (I am referring to 1880-1900 turn of the century, not the last millennium!)
I love the “catch me if you can” attitude! Nigeria’s Innocent Egbunike would run the same way for his 400m… he ran the first 200m almost as if it was a 200m! Sometimes he died on the homestretch, and sometimes he didn’t.
Games World Champs begin.