Running’s Biggest Moments in 2015
Amazing feats by our favorite athletes, scandals and fights, and one very embarrassing accident
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The year’s midnight is now passed, so it’s time for the requisite running-themed “year-in-review” article. Before we bid adieu to 2015, we offer a quick look back at a few of the biggest stories from the past 12 months.
Mo Farah, Farah. Whatever Will Be, Will Be.
When Mo Farah lost his first track race of the season—a 3,000-meter Diamond League race in Doha—there was brief speculation that the world’s best track distance runner might have lost some of his edge. False alarm, as it turned out. Farah won when it counted. For the second time, he took gold in both the 5,000 and 10,000 meters at the IAAF world championships. This achievement, plus victories in two major road races at the Lisbon Half Marathon in March and the Great North Run in Newcastle in September, means that Farah is now flirting with GOAT-status. We will see what happens at next summer’s Olympics.
Usain Bolts to Victory…Yet Again
Unlike Mo Farah’s defeat in Doha, which felt like little more than an early season blip, for much of 2015, it seemed as though the struggle was real for the great Usain Bolt. In the lead-up to the world championships in Beijing, he ran his slowest 200-meter final in nine years, and pulled out of several other meets because of injury. The maestro was clearly struggling. He even admitted it. Meanwhile, Justin Gatlin was having the year of his life, running lightning-quick PBs at age 33 and establishing himself as the favorite in a showdown with Bolt in Beijing. Once again, however, Usain Bolt came through when it mattered most. At the world champs, he won gold in both sprint events. The 100 was at least close. The 200, not so much.
Dibaba Goes Gaga
It wouldn’t be accurate to call 2015 a “breakout year” for Genzebe Dibaba. After all, in 2014, the 24-year-old Ethiopian broke three world indoor records within 15 days. But her greatest performance to date came this past summer in Monaco, when she clocked 3:50.07 in the 1,500 meters–thereby breaking a world record in track and field’s “blue ribbon event” that has stood for over 20 years.
Kilian Killing It
Is there anything Kilian Jornet can’t do? After spending the first quarter of the year on the European ski mountaineering race circuit, the world’s best trail runner headed stateside for the summer and casually set course records in flagship events like the Hardrock 100 and Alaska’s Mount Marathon.
2015 was not the best year for professional athletics. Doping and corruption scandals led to fears that the sport was headed down the same dark path as professional cycling. Perhaps most prominent of all was the charge against Lamine Diack, who served as the president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) before he was replaced by Sebastian Coe earlier this year. Diack was arrested in November and stands accused of accepting a 1.5 million euro bribe from the Russian Federation to help cover up positive doping tests from Russian athletes. Russia, in a suspicious throwback to the Soviet era, is currently banned from international competition after an investigation by the World Anti-Doping Agency found evidence of state-sponsored doping.
Alberto, Say It Ain’t So
On the home front, it was Nike Oregon Project coach Alberto Salazar who came under fire. Mark Daly’s BBC documentary Catch Me if You Can and David Epstein’s Pro Publica investigation included testimony from coach Steve Magness and athletes who used to work with Salazar. Among other allegations, Salazar was accused of testing testosterone gel on his sons (which he claimed was merely an experiment to ensure no one would sabotage his runners) and pressuring former Olympian Kara Goucher to take thyroid medication for weight loss. In an extensive rebuttal, Salazar vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
Symmonds: Rebel With a C(l)ause
When Nick Symmonds won his sixth U.S. national championship in the men’s 800 meters in June, it seemed as though he’d all but punched his ticket to represent his country at the IAAF world championships. Always outspoken about the rights of athletes to market themselves, Symmonds came into a dispute with USATF; the governing body of U.S. athletics required all athletes to sign a contract agreeing to wear only Nike apparel at all team functions while in Beijing. Symmonds, a Brooks athlete, felt a provision of the contract was poorly worded, as it failed to clearly describe what counted as a “team function.” He refused to sign and was ultimately left off the team. We hope that Symmonds and USATF can settle their differences in time for Rio 2016.
Usain Bolt vs. Rogue Segway
Well, it could have been ugly. Really ugly. Greatest sprinter of all time suffers career-ending-injury-from-errant-Segway kind of ugly. But Usain Bolt was okay. So it was just extremely entertaining.