On top of the world? Athletes target new records

Mariya Lasitskene has piled up 42 wins in her last 43 outings since 2017. (Reuters pic)

PARIS: Ten years on from Usain Bolt’s 9.58s lightning dash over 100m which remains seared into the memory, today’s stars are targeting a clutch of world records ahead of next month’s athletics world championships in Doha.

AFP Sport takes a look at the records most likely to fall:

400m hurdles trio

The event is undergoing a renaissance after several years in the background not least owing to the emergence of Qatari Abderrahman Samba, 23, and 22-year-old American Rai Benjamin, respectively holders since last year of the second and third best times ever recorded – 46.98s for Samba, and 47.02s for Benjamin.

Add Norwegian world champion Karsten Warholm, who has twice set European marks over the distance this season, timing 47.12s in London on July 20.

The trio’s recent exploits are enough to suggest that Kevin Young’s 46.78s which the American achieved on Aug 6, 1992, could be in real danger.

“All the ingredients are there,” says 1997 world champion Stephane Diagana. “In terms of density (of contenders) and potential coming to the boil we have for a long time been well away from the high level which we knew in the 1990s.

“Now we are coming back towards a level which is even superior.”

Lasitskene alone

Whether she can pull out a new world mark is one thing. Whether Russian high jump starlet Mariya Lasitskene can actually be beaten is another after she piled up 42 wins in her last 43 outings since 2017.

Her personal best stands at 2.06m, tantalisingly close to Bulgarian Stefka Kostadinova’s August 1987 world mark of 2.09m.

Lasitskene, 26, has several times just missed clearing 2.10m, notably in Ostrava on June 20.

What has been lacking for her, though, is the lack of serious rivals to push her to even greater heights, though there is the additional motivation of next year’s Tokyo Olympics having had to miss the Rio Games in 2016 owing to the suspension of Russian athletes over a doping scandal.

Norman quest

The absence of South African 400m Olympic champion and world record holder Wayde Van Niekerk (43.03s in 2016), hit by a serious knee injury in 2017, is likely to be a boon to the US contingent led by Michael Norman.

The 21-year-old from San Diego, whose 43.45s earlier this year gave him the fourth best time to date, goes to Doha as favourite over the distance. Compatriot Fred Kerley, who beat Norman in the US championships in timing 43.64, is another title hope.

Triple jump: Taylor vs Claye

Jonathan Edwards’ record of 18.29m has stood since 1995 but double Olympic champion Christian Taylor leaves nobody in much doubt about his ambitions to beat it.

“The world record is the only reason why I am continuing competing,” says the triple world champion who came within 8cm of putting the Edwards mark to bed in 2015.

Taylor’s fellow American Will Claye turned in 18.14m at a June meeting to show he is the likely man to push his rival hardest.

Powell’s fears for mark

Mike Powell set the long jump mark of 8.95m in Tokyo back in August 1991 in an epic tussle with Carl Lewis – but expects the record to slide from his grasp this summer.

The main threat would appear to be 21-year-old Cuban Juan Miguel Echevarria, who cleared 8.83m in June last year in Stockholm albeit that was wind assisted at 2.1m per second above the permitted maximum of 2.0m/s.

“For Echevarria, it will come unless he is injured – that’s certain,” forecasts Powell.

“If you are capable of doing 8.60m, then you are capable of jumping 9m with a really fine jump.”

His official personal best to date stands at 8.68m, though the world indoor champion did jump a wind-assisted 8.92m in Havana last March.

Echevarria faces competition for gold and a potential new mark from South African Luvo Manyonga – whose personal best is 8.65m.

More marks?

Five athletes have broken world marks across the past year.

They include Kenyans Beatrice Chepkoech in the 3,000m steeplechase and Eliud Kipchoge in the marathon – though he will miss the worlds – French decathlon star Kevin Mayer, China’s 50km walker Hong Liu and US starlet and Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad, fresh from setting a new world mark in the 400m hurdles in July.