Top 10 Impressive Athletics World Records
Everyone loves to see a world record. Here is a list of the 10 most impressive world records ever set in athletics.
10. Yelena Isinbayeva Pole Vault
Apart from being smoking hot, Yelena Isinbayeva is also the best female pole vaulter currently competing, and has set 20 world records, 9 of them in 2005 alone. She is virtually unbeaten since the Olympic Games of 2004.
Though Emma George arguably revolutionised female pole vaulting in the latter half of the 90s, increasing the world record from 4.23m to 4.60m in less than four years, Isinbayeva took the sport to new heights in July 2005, when she became the first woman to pass 5m, increasing that to 5.01m in August of that year.
Here is Isinbayeva passing 5m for the first time.
9. Uwe Hohn Javelin
It’s rare that a world record is too good, but that’s what Uwe Hohn’s astonishing throw of 104.80m was. On a windy day in 1984, Hohn became the first man to throw the javelin more than 100m. The javelin barely landed inside the field and prompted the IAAF to redesign the javelin to purposefully under-perform. The record statistics were restarted, thus Hohn’s throw became an ‘eternal world record’.
The world record for the current javelin design is 98.48 by Jan Zelezny, set in 1996.
Florence Griffith-Joyner was an American sprinter who won 3 gold medals in the 1988 Olympic Games (100m, 200m, 4x100m relay).
She stunned the world when, known as a 200m runner, she ran a new 100m world record of 10.49 in the quarter-finals of the US Olympic Trials. She had run 10.60 earlier in the day, which would have counted as a world record, were it not wind aided.
She shattered the world record by an incredible 0.17 seconds, on a windspeed of exactly zero, making it one of the most phenomenal achievements in athletics history.
Her career was dogged by allegations of drugs use, which only intensified after her premature death at the age of 38.
She was the sister-in-law of heptathlon world record holder Jackie Joyner-Kersee and the wife of Olympic gold medal winning triple jumper, Al Joyner.
She also holds the current 200m world record at 21.34, set in September 1988.
7. Sergei Bubka Pole Vault
Sergei Bubka broke the pole vault world record 35 times during his long career. He became the first man to clear 6m, and remains the only one to clear 6.10m. He set the world record of 6.14 in 1994, and officially retired in 2001.
6. Roman Sebrle Decathlon
As a youngster, Roman Sebrle struggled with which athletic sport to pursue – so he decided to pursue them all. He became the first person to score over 9000 points in the decathlon, with a world record of 9026, in 2001.
Excelling particularly in the javelin and high jump, it was the former that almost ended his career in January 2007 when a stray javelin thrown from 55m pierced his right shoulder while he was resting, entering 12cm deep into his arm. He pulled it out immediately and was lucky not to be more hurt. He recovered from this injury to win the World Championships in Osaka later that year, attaining a personal best in – you guessed it – the javelin.
5. Paula Radcliffe Marathon
The best female marathon runner in recorded history. Of the seven marathons she has run, she has won six and set a record in five. She has run four of the five fastest times in history. In the 2003 London Marathon, she set the world record at an incredible 2hr15m25s, over 3 minutes faster than any other female athlete has run.
She went in to the 2004 Olympics as the ‘Great British Hope’, but was forced to pull out after 36km, clearly distressed. Five days later, she pulled out of the 10,000m with 8 laps remaining. Her withdrawal made headlines in the UK, with editorial stances ranging from support to negativity, with some newspapers deriding Radcliffe for “quitting”, rather than going on to finish the race.
She recovered from this disaster to win 2004 New York Marathon, followed by the 2005 London Marathon, famous for an incident where Radcliffe, feeling hindered by the need for a toilet break, stopped and defecated on the side of the road in plain view of the crowd and TV cameras which where broadcasting live.
She also holds the European record for the 10,000m at 30:01:09, second only to Wang Junxia’s world record time of 29:31:78.
4. Jarmila Kratochvilova 800m
Always in the shadow of her East German rival, Marita Koch, Czech 400m runner Kratochvilova didn’t peak until age 32 when, in 1983, she entered small tournament in Munich on a whim as an 800m runner, and ended up breaking the world record with a time of 1:53:28.
Buoyed by this success, she decided on an unlikely double in the World Championships 10 days later, competing in both the 400m and 800m. Despite a seemingly impossible schedule, she won the 800m easily and set a world record 47.99 to win the 400m. Though Koch beat her 400m record in 1985 with a time of 47.60 , her 800 m record remains as one of the longest standing in athletics.
She was dogged by allegations of illegal drug use throughout her career.
I couldn’t find a video of her 800m record, so here is her 400m record.
3. Bob Beamon Long Jump
In the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games, Bob Beamon did something that no one though was possible.
Beamon ran down the track and leapt from the board into the record books with a jump of 8.90, 55cm further than the previous world record. So astonishing was this jump that when the announcer called out the distance, Beamon himself collapsed to his knees, placed his hands over his face, and had to be helped to his feet.
The defending Olympic champion, Lynn Davies of Great Britain, told Beamon, “You have destroyed this event”, and in track and field jargon, a new adjective – Beamonesque – came into use to describe spectacular feats. Reportedly, the then-available optical facilities were not equipped to measure such distance, and therefore manual measuring had to be adopted.
While this jump has been lauded by sports fans worldwide, there were environmental factors that contributed to this ‘Beamonesque’ mark.The primary factor was the altitude of Mexico City – 7400 feet. Altitude is of great benefit to events such as the long jump, and never before or since has such an important competition ever been held anywhere near this altitude. Many sprint and jump world records were broken at the 1968 Olympics because of this. Additionally, there was the maximum allowable (for record purposes) 2 meters per second aiding wind on his jump. Add to that, immediately after Beamon’s jump a major rainstorm came down, making it much harder for his competitors to try and match his feat. A perfect confluence of environmental factors to help make this history’s most stunning long jump.
Beamon’s record stood for 23 years, eventually being beaten by Mike Powell in 1991, with a jump of 8.95m.
2. Jonathan Edwards Triple Jump
Perhaps athletics’ most eccentric event, the triple jump was turned on its head by the arrival of British superstar Jonathan Edwards. In 1995, he became the first man to legally clear 18m with a jump of 18.16m at the Gothenburg World Championships. That record lasted for about 20 minutes, as his second jump was an amazing 18.29m.
Edwards never quite reached such distances again, but at one time, in 2002, he held gold medals for all the four ‘majors’ (Olympics, World Championships, European Championships and Commonwelath Games). He retired in 2003 as Great Britain’s most successful medal-winning athlete.
Only one other person, Kenny Harrison, has legally cleared 18m. Edwards has legally cleared it four times (18.00, 18.01, 18.16, 18.29) as well as a phenomenal wind assisted jump of 18.43, which made many people reassess what was humanly possible in the event.
With current top level triple jumpers struggling to reach 17.80m, Edwards’ record is unlikely to broken anytime soon.
1. Roger Bannister Mile
Four minute mile. Three words that struck fear into the hearts of runners, until Roger Bannister came along and obliterated the myth that this record was unattainable.
On the 2nd May 1953, Bannister broke the British Mile record with a time of 4:03:6, making him think that this record might be possible. By the end of the year though, it was Australian John Landy who had made the most progress, clocking a time of 4:02:0. Bannister knew that he had to make his move soon, or Landy would take it.
This historic event took place on May 6, 1954 during a meet between British AAA and Oxford University at Iffley Road Track in Oxford. It was watched by about 3,000 spectators. With winds up to 25 miles per hour (40 km/h) prior to the event, Bannister had said twice that he favoured not running, to conserve his energy and efforts to break the 4-minute barrier; he would try again at another meet. However, the winds dropped just before the race was scheduled to begin, and Bannister did run. His time was 3 min 59.4 s. Two other runners, Brasher and Chataway, provided pacing whilst completing the race. Both went on to establish their own track careers. The race was broadcast live by BBC Radio and commented on by Harold Abrahams, of “Chariots of Fire” fame.
The stadium announcer for the race was Norris McWhirter, who went on to publish and edit the Guinness Book of Records. He famously “teased” the crowd by drawing out the announcement of the time Bannister ran as long as possible:
“Ladies and gentlemen, here is the result of event 9, the one-mile: 1st, No. 41, R.G. Bannister, Amateur Athletic Association and formerly of Exeter and Merton Colleges, Oxford, with a time which is a new meeting and track record, and which – subject to ratification – will be a new English Native, British National, All-Comers, European, British Empire, and World Record. The time was 3…”
The roar of the crowd drowned out the rest of the announcement.
Just 46 days later on June 21 in Turku, Finland, Bannister’s record was broken by his rival John Landy, with a time of 3:57:9, which the IAAF ratified as 3 min 58.0 s due to the rounding rules then in effect.
Bannister faced off against Landy in 1954 Commonwealth Games. At that time they were the only two people to have run under four minutes and the race was billed as ‘The Miracle Mile’. Bannister won in 3:58:8, with Landy second in 3:59:6. Bannister went on to complete in the European Championships in 1954, winning the 1500m. He retired after the event to pursue a career in neuroscience.
Nowadays, a four minute mile is standard for professional middle distance runners, with the world record being 3:43:13, set by Hicham El Guerrouj in 1999.
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