After the US championships, blogger Jesse Squire discussed a question many track fans are wondering: will Athens 400m Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner ever be able to break 44-seconds again? At 27-years old, most people say that Wariner still has his prime ahead of him. Squire looked a little deeper and found that this is just not the case in the 400 meters.
Wariner is not “relatively young” or “hardly ancient”. He is ancient by the standards of the 400 meters. It is an event that chews people up and spits them out. Only marathoners’ careers have shorter life spans. The gold standard of quarter-miling, breaking 44.00, has been done 47 times by nine athletes. Only once has it ever been done by a man older than 26 whose name was not Michael Johnson. All realistic analyses of the event should ignore Johnson—he was to long sprinting as Secretariat was to three-year-old racing, a once in a century outlier. If you look at those eight other mere mortals, the median age for a sub-44.00 is twenty-two.
This made me think about the hammer throw. I tend to assume that hammer throwers reach their peaks in their earlier thirties since Sedykh threw his world record at age 31. American record holder Lance Deal threw over 80 meters until his 39th birthday. Other hammer throwers have had an even longer shelf life. Sidorenko broke 80 meters at age 40, and Igor Astapkovich broke 80 meters for 20 years, from age 22 to 41. He even was the top qualifier at the World Championships when he was 40.
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