Statistics in the latest issue of AW tell us which events are struggling or thriving

As we enter Olympic year, British athletes need to raise their game if they want to make their mark on the world scene. During 2019 there were only 11 British athletes ranked in the world’s top 10 in their event compared to 17 athletes in 2016 and 2017 and 15 in 2018.

It is the worst showing since 2006 and is just one of the many stats in the latest (Dec 19) issue of AW magazine. Such facts and figures paint a picture of the strongest and weakest events in British athletics and which ones are on the way up (or down).

These have been produced primarily by statisticians Peter Matthews and Mel Watman, co-editors of the Athletics International newsletter, who have once again teamed up with AW to produce our annual stats special. Incredibly, for Matthews, it is his 52nd successive year of compiling merit rankings for British athletes.

One obvious statistic from 2019 is that the women are out-performing their male team-mates. Led by world champions Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Dina Asher-Smith, the females have excelled and the best-placed British male athlete in our world merit rankings is hammer thrower Nick Miller in fifth place globally, whereas no British man won a medal at the World Championships in Doha.

For many years it was the other way around. Just over 20 years ago, at the 1998 European Championships in Budapest, eight of the nine gold medals won by the Brits at the event came from men, with heptathlete Denise Lewis the sole female winner for Britain.

The British women’s team was also in a lower league compared to the men in the European Cup. But Lewis, together with Kelly Holmes, Paula Radcliffe, Jessica Ennis-Hill and others began to improve the standard of women’s athletics and now they are leading the way when it comes to medal hopes at major events.

As for events, here are a few of the risers and fallers in 2019…


» Men’s and women’s 100m and 200m in Britain are particularly strong – at the sharp end and in-depth. The 50th best men’s 100m mark of 10.49 in 2019 is an all-time record, as is the 50th best 200m time of 21.30. There were also women’s sprint records for the 50th best over 100m of 11.88 and 100th best of 12.13 while at 200m the 50th best of 24.31 and 100th of 24.81 were records too.

» The men’s 800m has also enjoyed a strong year with 11 Brits in the world’s top 100, while 53 athletes under 1:50 is an all-time record in the UK.

» The men’s hammer saw eight British men over 70 metres although strength in depth was not as impressive, while the women’s hammer saw 16 over 60m and a record 50th best mark of 48.97m.

» Women’s shot put standards in depth have improved in the UK with the 50th best mark of 12.21m and 86 throwers breaking 11.50m being the best since 1997 and 1989.

» Marathon running is on a high with all-time record standards in the women’s event and the best men’s results since the early 1990s. The men still have some way to go to match the standards of 1983 (when 229 men ran under 2:25 compared to 64 this year) whereas in the women’s event there were records this year of 10th best (2:33:27) and 50th best (2:49:13) plus 168 women running three hours or quicker.


» Not so healthy is the steeplechase – both men’s and women’s in depth. Only 34 men broke 9:20 compared to roughly 100 most years in the 1980s, for instance.

» The men’s 400m and decathlon are also weak. Only two men made the world top 100 in the 400m, for example, the least since 1979. In the decathlon, just 41 men broke 5000 points.

» Javelin is a struggling event for both sexes. Only four men threw over 70 metres, for example, while the women’s top mark of 53.97m was the worst since the current javelin specification came into use in 1999.

» In the men’s 110m hurdles the 50th best mark in the UK has declined each year from 2015-19 – 14.98, 15.11, 15.17, 15.29, 15.31 to 15.55 (the worst since 1972).

» Some events are a mixed bag, too. The women’s long jump is at an all-time high, but the men’s equivalent is in the doldrums. Surprisingly, the 50th best mark in the men’s 1500m is the lowest since 2008 despite having three men in the world final in Doha – and a 3:30 runner not making the team.

» The December 19 issue of AW magazine is a 112-page stats special and is available to buy and read digitally here or order in print here

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