Records to beat and battles to watch at the World Athletics Championships

Will Gatlin have more bolt than Usain? Reuters/Matthew Childs

This year’s World Athletics Championships kicking off in Beijing couldn’t come at a better time for many athletes. It is a chance for athletic performance to take centre stage, a change in focus from the recent doping controversy that has shrouded the sport.

While we know that three medals will be awarded for each event, what is less known is which records may fall. So far this year, 11 world records have been broken in indoor and outdoor events. But some athletics records have stood for decades, and will take some beating.

So which are the events with the most giant-slaying potential? Here’s a quick guide.

Women’s events

Many of the women’s events have long-standing records. The women’s 100m record of 10.49 seconds, set by Florence Griffith-Joyner, remains unbeaten since 1988. In men’s events, Michael Johnson’s 400m world record of 43:18 set in 1999 still stands today.

Poland’s Anita Wlodarczyk is the hammer to beat. EPA/Piotr Wittman

Poland’s Anita Wlodarczyk has already posted a world-record throw in the women’s hammer this year, so undoubtedly is the favourite in Beijing. She is tipped to better her 81.08m throw set at the Festival of Throwers meeting in Cetniewo, Poland, a monumental distance and the first time the 80m barrier has been broken by a woman. Such a huge improvement suggests that Wlodarczyk has the potential to throw even further in Beijing.

Giant leaps

Like Johnson’s long-standing 400m record, another that has stood for 20 years is Jonathan Edwards’s triple jump record – currently at 18.28m.

Current Olympic champion Christian Taylor is still 23cm short of this, but this record is what he has his sights on, and has been his goal since entering the sport.

Christian Taylor is the current Olympic champion triple jumper. EPA/Olivier Anrigo

Taylor will have some competition in the shape of Cuba’s Pedro Pablo Pichardo who recently jumped out to 18.06 at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Doha. This competition could be the one to see this long-standing record fall.

Bolt v Gatlin

It will take a record-breaking time to win the 4x100m men’s relay. The event which will see Jamaica’s team (featuring the fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt) take on America (featuring Justin Gatlin).

Bolt vs Gatlin: the high-speed duel everyone’s been talking about. EPA/Thierry Roge

The Bolt/Gatlin showdown is hotly anticipated and the two athletes will first face each other in the men’s 100m. At 33, Gatlin is five years older than Bolt and has twice been found guilty of doping. Much has been made of this contest and many have suggested that Gatlin will not only take Bolt’s 100m title but will also claim his world record, which was set in 2009.

Long walk to stardom

While the 100m is undoubtedly the most hyped, the 20km walk could also see a new record set. Research has frequently cited the benefits of competing at home and this could well be the case for Liu Hong as she attempts to go faster than her 1.24.38 time set at the Premio Cantones de Marcha – the Spanish leg of the 2015 IAAF Race Walking Challenge in La Coruna.

China’s golden walker, Liu Hong. Denis Balibouse/Reuters

Briton Mo Farah also has the potential to break records in Beijing. He is in the form of his life, having broken the two mile indoor record earlier this year. While Farah has said the wins are the priority he hasn’t ruled out tackling Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele’s 5,000m (12:37.35) and 10,000m (26:17.53) outdoor records.

What is certain is that the coming nine days of competition guarantee to have their fair share of drama, medals and hopefully some record-breaking performances.