Five of the most impressive indoor world records ever

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Christian Coleman at the 2018 Birmingham Diamond League. Photo: MV4R Photography.

From the magic of Laura Muir to the sensational Samuel Tefera, the 2019 indoor season has had it all.

Two world records came tumbling down as teenagers Tefera and Yomif Kejelcha finally toppled the great Hicham El Guerrouj, with their respective 1500m and mile indoor world records.

It was certainly a season to remember, fittingly capped off by Kejelcha’s 1500m record. And with two more records now added to the history books, we look back on five other indoor world records that have proved almost unforgettable.

1. Renaud Lavillenie – Pole Vault – A world record both indoors and out

One attempt, one clearance, one moment to last a lifetime.

Perhaps the most impressive record on this list is the sensational 6.16m Pole Vault clearance by France’s Renauld Lavillenie in 2014.

For 21 years the legendary Sergey Bubka had never had to worry about his 6.15m world record being broken. 6.05m seemed the limit for the mere mortals trying to reach Bubka’s almost surmountable heights, with the Ukrainian setting a total of 35 world records throughout his career.

Then, at the annual Pole Vault Stars meeting in 2014, the perfect moment arrived.

Lavillenie was in the moment. The competition was won, he was on Ukranian soil and Bubka was present in the stands. There was no choice but to go for the impossible.

Then, with only he and the bar left in the contest, the Olympic champion set the bar at 6.16m, took one deep breath and charged down the runway.

And with that, mission impossible was accomplished. Lavillenie and everyone else in the building exploded with disbelief, with the long-time king of the pole vault Sergey Bubka heading down from the stands to embrace his conqueror.

Since this record, the cycle has since continued, with nobody managing to even get close to reaching its once impossible heights. The recent rise of 19-year-old European champion Mondo Duplantis may see it come under threat. However it will certainly take another moment of magic to topple Lavillenie’s impressive world record.

2. Helena Fibingerova – Shot Put – The oldest of all the world records

While Lavillenie’s record is the most impressive, the 20.50 shot put world record set by Czech thrower Helena Fibingerova takes the title as the oldest world record throughout athletics.

You have to go all the way back to February 1977 and the old sovereign state of Czechoslovakia for when the Olympic bronze medallist suddenly stormed to the top of the all-time lists both indoor and out with a huge 22.50m throw.

The 27-year-old had made a great enough impression at continental level, bagging two European indoor golds as well as silver and outdoor bronze.

However, this was the first time that the new world record holder truly shone on the world stage, later going on to set an outdoor world record of 22.32m the very same year.

Despite her huge throws however the world record breaker only tasted gold on a global level once, winning the world championships in 1983 (pictured below) with a hugely decisive final throw that brought her from fourth to first in the competition.

By then, her outdoor record had been bettered, but her impressive indoor record set nearly 42 years ago is still yet to be beaten.

3. Chrsitian Coleman – 60m – Taking the post-Bolt era by storm

If you break a world record in the men’s 60m, the chances are it won’t last long. Because you will just go and break it again.

Previous record holder Andre Cason ran a record 6.45 in January 1992 before breaking it the very next month, while Maurice Greene broke his own record twice in the space of just three days.

This would also have been the case for world indoor champion Christian Coleman if his first world record had seen the starting blocks wired and had a drugs test after.

Fortunately for the 21-year-old however, his first invalid world record was cast into distant memory just four weeks later with an astonishing 6.34 time at the 60m USA trials, breaking a record that had been set  just before his fifth birthday.

It was an incredible achievement for an athlete so young in what was also a period of huge transition for the sport following the retirement of its ultimate icon Usain Bolt.

Despite winning silver at the world championships the year before, Coleman was still a relative unknown, massively overshadowed at the championships by the huge good vs evil narrative surrounding his opponents Bolt and Justin Gatlin.

But with Bolt retired and Gatlin seemingly too old to continue at the top, the onus was now on the young American to carry the sport forward.

And he did it in the best way possible, stamping his name into the history books and also storming to gold at the 2018 world indoor championships, officially coming into his own as the main man in sprinting and signify a new generation of athletics stars.

4. Irina Privalova – 60m – A record only ever matched by herself

Perhaps continuing the trend of the indoor 60m in a way, Russia’s Irina Privalova ran 6.92 twice in the space of just two years. And since her first ever 6.92 time over a quarter of a century ago, nobody apart from her has been able to match it.

Her record also came at one of the most competitive ever times in the event, with Privalova bettering the 6.96 record set just a year prior by Jamaica’s Merlene Ottey, while the Russian’s record was almost broken by Gail Devers just one month earlier, with the American just missing it by 0.03 seconds.

However, since then the record has been relatively untroubled, with the world 60m gold and silver medallist also enjoying a charmed life throughout other disciplines throughout the sport.

Outdoors she won multiple World and European medals at 100m, 200m, and in both relay events. However, the pinnacle for her outdoor career came at the Olympics in Sydney, where she conquered yet another new discipline with an emphatic win in the 400m hurdles final.

It was the last ever major medal she would ever win and emphasized how incredibly adaptable she was as an athlete.

However the event where she was officially ‘the best’ remains the 60m indoors, with her 6.92 record that she managed to achieve not once, but twice.

5. Ashton Eaton –  Heptathlon – Three world records in three years

While his reign at the top of the Decathlon suddenly came to an end in 2018, three-time world indoor champion Ashton Eaton remains the undisputed king of the indoor heptathlon.

From the moment he clinched his first world record in 2010 to his retirement in 2016, the American never stopped upping the ante.

After turning 22 just two months prior he achieved his first world record of 6499 in 2010, before then beating it less than a year later with 6568.

However, his next world record the following year came at the biggest stage possible, as he steamrollered through the 2012 world indoor championships to win gold with a massive 6645 score, underlining his status as the very best that the event had ever seen.

Now that he was the greatest ever, the task now was just to become even greater. And while his world record would remain at 6645, the world indoor champion would go on to achieve a hat-trick of titles indoors, as well as two Olympic and world outdoor titles before his retirement in 2016.

Since then, the fastly emerging Kevin Mayer has since broken his Decathlon world record,something nobody expected to happen so soon.

However his 6645 record in the heptathlon remains in a dimension of its own, sitting 166 points ahead at the top and solidifying Eaton’s place as the most dominant male multi-eventer that the sport has ever seen.

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First published on: 6 February, 2019 9:48 pm

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