Rankings v records – new system to change athletics

Shock as Guliyev beats Van Niekerk & Makwala in 200m

Who’s the world’s best man over 200m? Should be simple enough. Turkey’s Ramil Guliyev won the world title in London last year.

But, hold on, 10 people recorded faster times in 2017. One of them – Andre de Grasse – won silver behind Usain Bolt at Rio 2016, before a hamstring injury denied him a shot at the worlds. The Canadian, then?

But what about South African star Wayde van Niekerk who had two of the four fastest times of 2017? Or Yohan Blake who is still the second fastest of all time? Or perhaps American Christian Coleman, whose upward trajectory continues apace.

From April, the IAAF intends to sort such crowded scenes into an athletics world order.

What’s the change?

A new world ranking system – similar to those seen in tennis or golf – will provide a run-down of the best athletes in each event.

So in the same way that tennis’ tour organisers, through heavy-duty number crunching, define Roger Federer and Simona Halep as the best players in the world, the IAAF will rank their stars.

It won’t end the eternal bar-room debate, but it will attempt to provide an objective answer.

What rides on it?

Not just prestige. Qualification for IAAF events will move away from obtaining one-off qualifications times, distances and heights and instead be based on athletes’ position in the rankings.

No longer will it be possible to bank on an early-season high-altitude outlier performance as a ticket to the biggest championships.

The IAAF have listed athletes on the basis of one-off times – both all-time and for individual seasons.

Instead their five best performances over the previous 12 months, weighted on the profile and significance of the event where they were laid down, will be averaged out to form an athlete’s ranking.

With IAAF qualification as the lure, it is designed to produce consistently more competitive match-ups throughout the sport.

Where have the rankings come from?

They may be new to the IAAF, but the basis of the rankings has been around for decades.

The All Athletics ranking website has shut up shop after being bought up by the IAAF

The IAAF have bought up and brought in house a system used to create the previously independent and incredibly detailed All-Athletics rankings.