BBC Sport athletics

Related BBC sites

Page last updated at 21:52 GMT, Thursday, 11 March 2010

Where will the records come from this weekend?

Venue: Aspire Dome, Doha Date: 12-14 March
Coverage: Updates on BBC Radio 5 live, watch live at

Yelena Isinbayeva
Pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva has been one of few athletes setting indoor records

Mark Butler
By Mark Butler
BBC Sport's athletics statistician

As the World Indoor Championships get under way in Doha, the long wait for a men's world indoor record goes on.

It has been almost five years since Kerron Clement broke Michael Johnson's standard for the 400m. Since then we have had no ratified records in International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) indoor events for men.

The IAAF have only been recognising world indoor records since 1987 but, if we look at legitimate world indoor bests across the same set of events, there has not been such a lengthy dry spell since records began in the 19th Century.

Indoor athletics is not so much of a priority for those who are able to live and train in warmer climates all year round

I am not counting Kenenisa Bekele's runs at 2000m and two miles in 2007/08 as they are not official world record events indoors.

Nor am I considering the United States "All Star" men's 4x400m record of 2006 because, disappointingly, the required doping controls were not in place after that race.

None of these marks were approved by the IAAF yet, since 2006, there have been 13 ratified women's world indoor records - largely thanks to Ethiopian distance runners and pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva.

This is hardly a signal of crisis in men's athletics, of course.

In the same period, we have seen several changes to outdoor records, courtesy of Asafa Powell and Usain Bolt - who, rather than competing under cover, choose to spend this part of the year in Jamaica where there are no indoor stadia.

Counts of legitimate world indoor bests and official world indoor records, by decade.
1950-59: 87
1960-69: 242
1970-79: 296
1980-89: 209
1990-99: 141
2000-09: 55
2010 to date: One
The spike in the 1970s is because both electronic and hand-timed marks were accepted for sprint events. From 1977, only electronic timing was regarded as official for events up to 400m.

Bolt, especially, could take the world indoor sprint records if he so desired. When he set the world outdoor 100m record of 9.58 seconds in Berlin last August, he was timed at 6.31 at 60m, compared with Maurice Greene's world indoor best at that distance of 6.39.

But Bolt, Powell and Tyson Gay are more likely to be found in March easing themselves into the season with relaxed outdoor 400m races.

So who can break the drought among the men?

This is the year to do it, with the world indoors the only global championships for senior athletes.

It gets ever harder to set new records and, looking at the list leaders by the beginning of March, there is no-one threatening to do so.

But I would say that the current men's 1000m and heptathlon marks are relatively soft.

The 4x400m record is also due for revision (as it should have been in 2006). The existing record works out at an average of just 45.7 seconds per leg, well within the capacity of the United States squad in Doha, which includes Clement.


My point is proven by reference to the official IAAF scoring tables for indoor athletics in which performances are translated into points, therefore allowing us to make comparisons across events.

The tables show that Wilson Kipketer's 1:42.67 800m is the strongest current men's world indoor record with 1305 points, while his 2:14.96 1000m is the weakest of the individual running events, worth just 1256.

Further down the list are the heptathlon, triple jump and relays. What a pity, therefore, that Phillips Idowu is out of Doha, because we have proof that - at his best - he could break the world triple jump record of 17.83 (1253 points).

When he won the 2008 world indoor title with 17.75, the actual distance he leapt from the point of take-off was 17.849.

Britain hold two long-standing world records through Colin Jackson at 60m hurdles and the men's 4x200m relay squad.

Even without Idowu, there are two Britons in Doha within reasonable range of joining that select club.

If he can reproduce his best, then Dwain Chambers will be within a foot of the 60m mark.


And if Jessica Ennis's Glasgow advancement at 60m hurdles can be extrapolated across the other pentathlon disciplines, a world record plaque could certainly be in her sights when she lines up for her final event, the 800m.

Where better to do it than the the World Indoor Championships, where there is a $50,000 bonus available to those who set new world records.

Men's world indoor records

Ordered by difficulty in terms of points, according to the IAAF scoring tables for indoor athletics.

Event Mark Points
800m 1:42.67 1305
200m 19.92 1303
5000m 12:49.60 1303
Pole vault 6.15 1300
3000m 7:24.90 1299
Long jump 8,79 1294
1500m 3:31.18 1290
High jump 2.43 1286
One mile 3:48.45 1284
Shot put 22.66 1281
60m hurdles 7.30 1271
60m 6.39 1270
400m 44.57 1270
50m hurdles 6.25 1269
50m 5.56 1260
1000m 2:14.96 1256
Heptathlon 6476 1253
Triple jump 17.83 1246
4x400m relay 3:02.83 1203
4x200m relay 1:22.11 1195

see also
Rival's drugs ban boosts Chambers
10 Mar 10 |  Athletics
Olympic athletes set medal target
10 Mar 10 |  Olympics
Van Commenee laments Idowu loss
09 Mar 10 |  Athletics
Ennis ready for Doha challenge
04 Mar 10 |  Athletics
When is a record not a record?
19 Feb 09 |  Athletics

related bbc links:

related internet links:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites