It seemed pretty clear to me that Poland’s undefeated, double world record setting hammer throw Olympic gold medallist Anita Wlodarczyk was a sure bet for this year’s Athlete of the Year Award. That was until a bright-minded friend stopped me in my tracks. His message was simple – world records aren’t created equal. That devalued the huge world record throw of 82.29 metres Wlodarczyk used to win her second Olympic gold medal in Rio di Janeiro and even bigger heave – 82.98, which she produced later in her supreme 13 meet season. He reasoned that the hammer throw, which made its Olympic debut as recently as 2000, is so young that records are easy to come by. By contrast, the records in the 100 and 200 metres are out in never-never land at 10.49 and 21.34 seconds, respectively. He applies the same reasoning to the women’s 3000-metre steeplechase where Ruth Jebet of Bahrain, another contender for the big award, has dismantled the world record. Given that Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson won two Olympic gold medals and not just one like the big Pole and the tiny Bahrani, he reckons that Thompson has as good a chance as they do to be named female Athlete of the Year. The one medal-two medals argument has pros and cons. Sprinters like Thompson can apply the same skills to more than one event because they are similar. Often, field event skills, like throwing the hammer, are so specific that the athlete can’t even conceive of doing another discipline. That aside, the patriot inside me had to look more closely to see if he was right. The big question is whether Thompson’s 7-win 100-metre season and her 3-2 200-metre campaign is superior in quality to Wlodarczyk’s 2016 compilation of gold, no losses and eight 80-metre throws. The slim lady from Banana Ground sped to the three fastest 100-metre times of the year – 10.70 to win the National Senior Championships, matching the Jamaican record held by Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, 10.71 to win in Rio and 10.72 seconds to win at the Brussels Diamond League meet. Her gold-winning 200-metre time was the fastest by anyone in 2016 at 21.78 seconds. The search for comparisons between Thompson, Wlodarczyk and the other main contender for the award leads to the IAAF Scoring Tables. Designed by the sport’s governing body to quiet vexing questions like this one, the tables produced a stunning conclusion. The Jamaican scores 1255 points from her 10.70 100-metre clocking and a similar amount – 1250 – for her fast Rio 200. The same tables give the blond Pole a slam dunk score of 1303 points for her second world record and 1292 for the one that took her to the top of the podium in Rio. If those tables are any guide, Thompson would have to run 10.45 or 21.20 to match Wlodarcyzk’s second world record! It’s staggering to think that an 80-metre hammer throw equates to sprint times of 10.70 and 21.72 seconds respectively. When you consider that Wlodarczyk had seven 80-metre plus throws, it’s a big deal. Almaz Ayanna’s gold medal-winning 10,000 metre world record of 29 minutes 17.45 seconds was pretty tasty too. It gathered 1288 points for the tireless Ethiopian. While you digest that, note that Jebet gets 1263 points for her world record of 8 minutes 52.78 seconds in a discipline that was added to the Olympic track and field programme as recently as 2008. Single-handedly, she bumped the all-time total of sub-9 minute steeplechase times up from one – the old world record of 8 minutes 58.81 seconds – to four. Her Olympic year hat-trick of sub-9 clockings included her winning time in Rio, 8.59.75. While Thompson, Ayanna and Jebet all lost races in the season, South African Caster Semenya was undefeated in her prime event. However, the IAAF tables give Semenya’s fastest 800-metre time of 1 minute 55.28 seconds a mere 1239 points. The sole 2016 loss for US 100-metre hurdler Kendra Harrison came at the wrong time. Sadly, she was an uncharacteristic sixth at her nation’s Olympic Trials. Harrison was otherwise spotless and peaked with a world record of 12.20 seconds, worth 1255 points. There are only two possible conclusions. Either the IAAF Scoring Tables have led this discussion down the garden path or Wlodarczyk is the Athlete of the Year by virtue of a season better in quality to the efforts of every other female athlete on Earth. That would include Ayanna, Jebet and Thompson. Take your pick. – Hubert Lawrence has made notes at track side since 1980. VEXING QUESTIONS
LONDON – Many saw her as Britain’s future queen, but it looks like Kate Middleton’s royal romance will not have a fairy-tale ending. Middleton and Prince William have ended their four-year relationship, a decision that surprised palace-watchers and disappointed monarchists hoping for a glamorous royal wedding to rival that of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. For many Britons, however, the split provided more evidence that the royals are as human as anyone else. “I think they’re just like any other couple,” said Minet Marshall, a 36-year-old London office worker. Behind the scenes, a different story unfolded. The Sun said the split was caused by the “extraordinary pressures” on the couple and by William’s career in the army. The second in line to the throne graduated from Sandhurst military academy in December and is undergoing further training at an army base in rural England, while Middleton lives in London. The prince, 24, and Middleton, 25, met as students at St. Andrew’s University in Scotland in 2001 and had been dating since 2003. Once their relationship became public with a joint photo on a Swiss skiing vacation in 2004, Middleton was a media darling. The brunette fashion buyer was photographed attending public events, going to work, even getting a parking ticket – a level of attention that evoked the romance of William’s father, Prince Charles, and then-Lady Diana Spencer a quarter-century ago. “William, after what happened to his father, cannot get it wrong,” The Sun’s royal reporter Duncan Larcombe told AP Television News. “He cannot marry the wrong woman, and I suppose, in a funny kind of way, it’s better that we’re here today talking about his girlfriend leaving, splitting up with her, than us talking about a royal divorce.” Charles and Diana married at St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1981, in a televised ceremony watched by millions around the world. They had two sons, William and Harry, but divorced in 1996 after admissions of adultery on both sides. Diana died in a car crash in Paris in August 1997. William was determined Middleton would not suffer the same media hounding his mother had endured, appealing through his office for the media to leave her alone. Last month, Middleton lodged a complaint of media harassment with Britain’s media watchdog, the Press Complaints Commission. She settled the claim earlier this month following an apology and admission of error by the Daily Mirror newspaper. “It would put pressure on any relationship, that sort of attention,” said Ingrid Seward, editor of Majesty magazine. But she said the media were not to blame for the split. Seward said the couple’s relationship had simply reached an impasse. Some were glad to see the end of the affair. “He deserves better,” 13-year-old Jessica Davis said. “I think Prince William should marry me.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “They’re young, and before you meet the right person, you have to kiss a lot of frogs.” The Sun newspaper reported the breakup Saturday in a front-page story, saying the couple had reached an “amicable agreement” to separate. William’s Clarence House office refused to comment, saying it did not discuss the prince’s private life, but royal sources did not deny the report, tacitly acknowledging it was true. The news took many royal-watchers by surprise. It was widely thought the couple would soon announce their engagement; one bookmaker was so certain of a royal wedding it stopped taking bets on it earlier this year. The retail chain Woolworths had commissioned mugs, plates and other Wills-and-Kate memorabilia, despite the absence of a formal engagement.