More about the book

The best of the best in each event
– a book from Paavo Nurmi to Usain Bolt

The rich history of athletics – running, jumping, throwing and walking – is told in a different manner in World’s Greatest in Athletics. The focus is the athletes and their performances with narratives and pictures for the best in each event in the ranking section. This part is based on honours won, records and result level and the goal has been to use objective analysis, but of course more than a little subjectivity comes into such listings. Readers will have their own ideas of who’s the best and that’s just a part of the game – there is no ”final answers” in this matters. This is the, very well motivated, ranking by the authors!

The criteria used for the ranking is the following: How successful was the athlete in terms of championships and record performances, and how long did he or she stay at the top. However, while longevity was a strong element in assessing greatness, it was by no means the be all and end all. Where an athlete was particularly outstanding over 2-3 years that could win over us in comparison to a long but less brilliant career. An example can be seen in the 100m where our top two choices did not have particularly lengthy careers, but were quite brilliant. The opposite occurred in the women’s 800, where the top ranked athlete had a long and successful career, but did not have the high points, in terms of marks, that certain other runners ranked in the top 10 were able to achieve.

"The javelin ranking was a though one"

– Ranking the javelin was one of the most problematic events we faced. Certain events had easy choices for first place – Michael Johnson in the 400, Edwin Moses in the 400 hurdles and Iolanda Balas in the Women's High Jump. Other events had two extraordinary athletes vying for first place, with Bekele and Gebrselassie in the 10 000 m as a prime example, says Richard Hymans who is one of the compilers.
– But the javelin had three athletes who dominated their eras – each at the top of the event for well over a decade. Back in the 1980's I was one of the contributors to the Finnish magazine "Juoksija" picking a top-10 in the javelin, with Matti Järvinen just edging Lusis for top spot, and this time it was even harder to decide, says Richard.

The ranking give you among others:

- Usain Bolts all sub-10 races at 100 m and sub-20 at 200 m
- Haile Gebrselassies top-20 races at 3000, 5000 and 10 000 m
- Sergey Bubka’s top-29 competitions in pole vault including all series
- Jonathan Edward's top-30 triple jump performances
- The amazing story of Al Oerter who won four straight Olympic golds in discus
- All female performances sub 49.35
- Tirunesh Dibaba's all 10 000 m races
- The story of marathoner Paula Radcliffe who's done maybe the best ever female performance in athletics
- Iolanda Balas – the most dominant athlete in any event ever

The truth and nothing but the truth

If the ranking above includes subjectivity one can say the opposite of the 500 deep all-time-lists which contains more than 41.000 results. The easily oldest one in the all-time lists is Jesse Owen's world record of 8.13 in Long Jump from Ann Arbor 1935 which make him no 372.

The all-time lists gives you answer of
- How many men has run sub-10 for 100 m?
- Who’s the most sub-10 100 m runner of all time?
- What’s the time for the 500th at 100 m?
- How many men has run sub-1:45 at 800 m?
- How many of the 116 men who ran sub 60.00 for half marathon are non-africans?
- How many performers is it at 2.40 or higher in High Jump? In World's Greatest in Athletics you will see whom and also how many performances.
- How many women has run sub-11 for 100 m?
- How many women has a personal best over 20 meters in shot put?

The book also gives the answer of:
- Which country has most athletes in top-500 in each event. For example: The US is no 1 at men 200 m with 223 runners but has only 5 in maraton. Corresponding figues for Kenya is the opposite (2/250). There is tables for men and women with the 50 best countries where one can see the number of athletes in the lists in each event.
- In the women’s list the US dominates the 100 m hurdles with 148 athletes in the top-500. Second is Russia followed by France and Jamaica.

Most of the great champions of the past hundred years can be seen in the book – from javelin thrower Eric Lemming and 9-time Olympic long distance champ Paavo Nurmi to Jesse Owens, Fanny Blankers-Koen, Emil Zátopek, Parry O'Brien, Irena Szewinska, Edwin Moses, Carl Lewis, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Sergey Bubka, Heike Drechsler, Michael Johnson, Tirunesh Dibaba, Kenenisa Bekele, Usain Bolt and many more.

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