Story written by EPelle
Gosh, has 2006 been a year to remember.
So much has happened, with several world records set indoors, several outdoors, and four athletes staying undefeated against international competition.
I could spend an hour talking about what made the year great, but thought I'd make it easy on you today and give you the facts as they appear A-Z -- those people and moments which made my year!
Asafa Powell twice equaled his WR, went undefeated. Powell finished the season with top-10 times of 9,77 - 9,77 - 9,85 - 9,85 - 9,86 - 9,86 - 9,89 - 9,91 - 9,95 and 9,96. He also ran 19,90 over 200m.
Brad Walker joined the 6,00m club in Jockgrim on 19-July. Walker ended the season with five jumps over 5,85m.
Carro went undefeated and won European gold. Carolina Klüft has been atop the IAAF leader board for 222 weeks as best heptathlete in the world.
Deena Kastor broke 2.20! Kastor ran perfect splits in setting her American record with her London Marathon victory, running the fourth-fastest women's marathon all-time - 2.19.36. Kastor also ran an 8.56,35 3.000m, a 31.58 road 10km, and a 1.04.07 half marathon this year. Kastor also won the USA 8km championships in March, running 25.05.
European Championships. Enough said.
Francis Obikwelu doubled up at Euros. Obikwelu impressed me with his consistency this season. He kept quite and to himself this season, letting his spikes tear through the red track att Ullevi Stadium and power him home to first-place finishes in the 100m (9,99) and 200m (20,01). He brought our 200m specialist, Johan Wissman, home to a silver medal and a new NR (20,38) in the process.
Gary Kikaya set a non-USA WR! Americans have owned the 400m for what seems ages on end. They have not lost an Olympic 400m race since 1976 (they boycotted in 1980), and have broken 44,00 39 times - the only nation with athletes under 44,10. Kikaya made great strides this season by blistering home a 44,10 at the World Athletics Final, only 0,08 seconds from Jeremy Wariner's winning mark.
Haile Gebrselassie went bonkers on the roads. Gebrselassie set world records in the 20km (55.48/Phoenix, AZ, USA), the half-marathon (55.48/Phoenix, AZ, USA) and a 25km best (1.11.37/Amsterdam), and finished his year having run a 60.08 half-marathon for a win in Granollers, along with marathon times of 2.05,56 (PB), 2.06,52 and 2.09.05.
Isaac Songok broke away from Bekele. Songok began his international career as a 1.500m runner. He took his game to a new dimension this season in defeating Kenenisa Bekele in the Oslo Golden League meeting, 12.55,79 - 12.58,22. Songok finished his season with bests of 3.31,85 - 7,28,92 (list-leader and PB) and 12.48,66 (PB). He even put up a 7.28,98 and two more sub-13 times to set himself up as a threat in Osaka.
Jeremy Wariner moved up to 4,7 all-time. Wariner's only blemish on the season was pulling up in his final meet of the season. He ran superbly, three times running under 44,00-flat -- 43,62, 43,91 and 43,99. Wariner also ran a 20,19 PB in the 200m.
Kajsa Bergqvist jumped 2.08m! Bergqvist owned the indoor season before injury struck her toward the World Indoor Championships. Bergqvist captured the mark on her first attempt in a classic showdown with Blanca Vlasic, who skipped 2.03m, and made attempts at 2.05m - a height which Bergqvist missed on her first, but maneuverd on her second.
Lornah Kiplagat ran superbly on the roads. Kiplagat led the road warriors with a 30.50 10km (and running 31.11 and 31.24 en-route to longer races), ran a 47.10 15km en-route to her Debrecen 20km WR (1.03.21). Kipligat extended herself to a 2.32.31 marathon. Kipligat also recorded a 30.37,26 on the track.
Meseret Defar set a WR! Defar was dangerous on the track, lighting up the outdoor circuit with a list-leading 8.24,66 (with 8.34,72 backing that up), and a world-record 14.24,53 in New York City, USA in June. Defar also recorded 14.33,78 - 14.35,37 and 14.39,11 in Grand Prix races.
Nobody could touch Powell, Wariner, Saladino or Richards. Each won their share of the IAAF $1.000.000 jackpot, never suffering defeat in a Golden League event.
Olga Kotlyarova ran well when it counted. The former 400m specialist won the European Championships (1.57,38) and recorded a season-best of 1.57,24. Kotlyarova ran under 1.58 three times, and also ran a 50,99 open 400m for a runner-up finish in Sochi as part of a 400m/800m double in which she recorded a 1.58,95 (also a runner-up).
Paul Koech broke 8.00 without Shaheen. Saif Saaeed Shaheen would have been my "S" selection in any other year - he twice broke 8.00 in the steeple, ran a personal best 3.33,51 1.500m, and ran a 12.51,98 5.000m in Rome - 0,54 seconds off of Bekele. Lost in the steeple shuffle was Koech, who - without the aid of following Shaheen - ran 7.59,94, 8.00,29 and 8.01,37 -- all victories on the European Circuit - the final time recorded at the World Athletics Final.
Qaulity was in order this season: 15 sub-13,10s; 23 sub 1.44s and 13 sub-4.00 1.500m. Xiang Liu twice ran under sub-13,00, with his world-record 12,88 recorded in Lausanne. Hurdlers faced off often and furiously against each other in 2006, with the world record and subsequent excellent times a result of not ducking one another. The 800m was again worth watching this year, with Wilfred Bungei recording four of those times. Bram Som broke out to establish himself among the next World Championships medal contenders with two well-placed 1.43 clockings. The Russians simply ran away from the world this season in the 1.500m, trading places and world-leading times in several outstanding efforts.
Russia ran a 3.23 WR indoors!
Sanya Richards went undefeated, broke AR. Richards closed in on the American record in 2005, running a world-leading 48,92 - which was also her personal best. She broke 50-flat nine times in 2005. This year was a year unparalleled in the young American's career, as she topped the world-list at 48,70 - a time which also broke the 22-year-old American record of 48,83 that Valerie Brisco-Hooks established at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, USA. Richards ran the year's five-fastest times, and again broke 50,00 nine times.
Tyson Gay had a season to remember. Men's 200m sprinting took the sport to a new postal code this season, with 16 performances under 20,00 by far the best year in ages. Tyson Gay ran the third (19,68)-, fourth (19,70)-, fifth (19,79)- and sixth (19,84)-best performances of the season - with his personal best, 19,68, making him the equal third-best performance and equal fifth-best performer of all-time. Gay also recorded 9,84 - 9,88 - 9,88 - 9,92 - 9,96 - 9,97 in a sprinting campaign which must be considered one of the best seasons ever.
Usain Bolt broke Powell:s 16-day 200m NR. Usain Bolt set the world junior record, 19,93, in Deveonshire in 2004. He followed it up with another sub-20,00 - a 19,99 in London in 2005. Bolt has shown excellent flashes of greatness, but had not previously been able to stay away from injury. He had the great fortune of competing against Americans at their best in Lausanne, broke Asafa Powell's two-week-old national record (19,90), but finished "only" third in 19,88 in what many consider one of the greatest races in history. Bolt finished the season with top-5 bests of 19,88 - 19,96 - 20,08 - 20,10 and 20,10.
Virgilijus Alekna went undefeated, and won ECs. Alekna has the 2nd-furthest discus throw in history, hurling the implement 73,88m in Kaunas, Lithuania in 2000. He is the two-time defending Olympic champion in the event. Alekna had the second-furthest throw of the season, a 71,08m victory in Réthimno, and had two of the year's four 70-metre throws (70,10m in Tallinn).
Wallace Spearmon made sure we quickly forget his father. Spearmon's father was an All-America sprinter for Arkansas. Nothing he did can compare to Spearmon Jr.'s 2006 season in which his top-five times were 19,65 - 19,87 - 19,88 - 19,90 - 19,90. Spearmon's 19,65 was a personal record, and run completely alone, as second place in Daegu, South Korea, was more than a second behind. Spearmon is the 3rd-best performer with the 3rd-best performance all-time in the 200m. He threw in a 10,11 100m in Shanghai for good measure.
X²+8=19,63 was the equation of the year. Xavier Carter had the best of two world in 2006. He became the first athlete since Jesse Owens to win four gold medals at the NCAA Championships at the conclusion of the collegiate season, then opened up the senior circuit record books by running the 2nd-fastest time in history, 19,63, from lane eight in his first-ever professional 200m race - a victory in Lausanne. He finished the season with marks of 10,09 (10,11 - 10,12 - 10,15) - 19,63 (19,97 - 19,98 - 20,13 - 20,22 - 20,30) and 44,53 (44,76 - 44,84 - 44,96). He is the most versatile sprinter in the world, having managed these marks after playing American collegiate footboll in the autumn season.
Yelena Soboleva smashed the indoor 1.500m WR. Soboleva ran astonishingly indoors at her national championships, becoming the only clean athlete in the history of the world to record a time under 4.00 at 1.500m, running 3.58,28. Her fast running didn't stop there. Soboleva, who also ran 1.58,53 indoors - becoming the 15th-fastest person in history, put up outdoor marks of 1.57,28 (1.58,17 - 2.00,00) and 3.56,43 (3.56,74 - 3.58,60 - 4.00,36 - 4.00,47 - 4.01,95). Soboleva had five Grand Prix victories in 2006.
Zulia Calatayud kept her nose in the 800 leadership. Calatayud ran the third-fastest women's 800m outdoors in 2006, stopping the clock at 1.56,91 in a great third-place finish in Lausanne. Calatayud also recorded six additional sub-2,00 clockings in 2006.