The Olympic Games are the world’s biggest stage for track and field every four years, and because of that, they are often a site for incredible, history-making performances from the sport’s biggest stars.
The two biggest stars to emerge from men’s track and field at the 2012 Olympic Games were Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt—the only men’s athlete to win three gold medals in track and field—and Great Britain distance-runner Mo Farah, who made history as a double-gold medalist on his native soil in London.
Bolt and Farah will likely be the two most remembered names from the London Games’ men’s track and field program, but do they belong atop the list of the best performers from 2012? The following slides take a look at who the 15 best performers in men’s track and field were this year.
Greg Rutherford may not have been the biggest British star of this year’s Olympic track and field competition, but he certainly thrilled the crowd in his home nation by winning long jump gold. Rutherford won the competition with a jump of 27 feet, 3 1/4 inches.
Rutherford’s jump was the shortest gold-medal-winning mark in the event since 1972, but winning the event in front of the home crowd made his win all the more special, and earned him a spot on these rankings.
Ezekiel Kemboi was a two-time defending world champion in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, but faced some serious questions prior to the Olympics, as he is facing an assault charge for allegedly stabbing a woman in Kenya.
That proved not to be a distraction on the track, however, as Kemboi won the steeplechase gold.
While Kemboi could be facing some serious legal issues in his home country, he is innocent until proven guilty. His perseverance through the much more serious issues in his life to still win gold earn him a spot on this ranking.
Christian Taylor had the world’s two best triple jumps heading into the Olympics, but he jumped even better in London. Taylor’s season-best jump of 58 feet, 5 1/4 inches was far better than any of his competition, and earned him gold in his first Games.
Taylor is only 22 years old, so he will likely be back to contend for more golds, but his Olympic career certainly got off to a good start.
Will Claye is the only man on this list who did not earn a gold medal at the Games, but he earns a spot in the rankings for his medal-earning consistency. Claye participated in two events, long and triple jump, and medaled in both of them.
Claye earned silver in triple jump—behind only his U.S. and former University of Florida teammate Christian Taylor—with a best jump of 57 feet, 9 3/4 inches. This followed up a bronze Claye earned in long jump with a leap of 26 feet, 7 3/4 inches.
Three U.S. shot putters—Reese Hoffa, Christian Cantwell and Ryan Whiting—came into the Olympic shot put final as the world’s three farthest throwers in 2012.
Yet hopes of American domination in the event were spoiled by Tomasz Majewski, who defended his Olympic title by winning gold.
Majewski’s best throw of 71 feet, 10 inches made him the first shot putter since 1956 to defend the Olympic title.
There may not have been a more stunning winner in men’s track and field at the London Games that Keshorn Walcott taking gold in the javelin. Walcott, only 19 years old, entered the Olympics as only the 23rd-best thrower in the world in 2012, but finished ahead of everyone in London.
Walcott’s gold-medal-winning throw of 277 feet, 6 inches was the farthest throw ever for an athlete from Trinidad and Tobago. His breakthrough for gold was certainly a huge achievement in his nation, which earned its first-ever gold in a field event with Walcott’s victory.
If it were not for a fellow Jamaican named Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake would have been the sprinting superstar of the 2012 Olympic Games. Blake ran fantastic times of 9.75 seconds in the 100-meter dash and 19.44 in the 200-meter dash, but had to settle for silver in both.
No sprinter other than Bolt, however, could beat Blake. Blake finally earned a gold in the 4x100-meter relay, where he teamed up with Bolt as part of a Jamaican team that broke the world record in 36.84 seconds.
Even without an individual gold, Blake proved himself as a star at the 2012 Games, and at only 22 years old, there should be more golds in his future.
Felix Sanchez may have had the most stunning comeback performance in men’s track and field of the 2012 Games. Sanchez was the 2004 Olympic gold medalist in the 400-meter hurdles, but he had not broken 48 seconds in the event since and was certainly not among the favorites in London.
At the Games, Sanchez’s 2004 form suddenly re-emerged. He ran the fastest time in the world—47.76 seconds—in the semifinals, then ran an even faster time of 47.63 in the final to win gold.
This was a surprising comeback that seemed to come out of nowhere for Sanchez. In the midst of that comeback, Sanchez became the first hurdler to defeat Puerto Rico’s Javier Culson in 2012.
On a side note, there may not have been a more heartwarming moment in these entire Games than the true display of emotion that overcame Sanchez during the medal ceremony.
Renaud Lavillenie had one remaining attempt in pole vault, with a miss meaning he would have to settle for bronze. Instead, Lavillenie cleared a height of 19 feet, 7 inches to earn gold and set the Olympic pole vault record.
Lavillenie’s vault tied his previous season-best, which is higher than any other pole vaulter has cleared this season. This vault was much more significant, however, because it was higher than anyone had ever gone before in Olympic competition.
Ashton Eaton did not just win decathlon gold, he made it look easy.
Eaton broke the decathlon world record earlier this year in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, but decided not to pursue another record at the Games. Instead, it became clear that his only goal was gold. He played it safe in multiple events, but still won gold by a comfortable margin of 198 points.
Eaton’s final score of 8,869 points was the eighth-best decathlon score of all time.
Check out a full, event-by-event review of Eaton’s decathlon.
Aries Merritt has had incredible consistency as the world’s fastest 110-meter hurdler this year, and that consistency continued at the 2012 Olympic Games.
Merritt entered the Games having run consecutive races in 12.93 seconds, the fastest time in the world for 2012. He followed that up in London by finishing his semifinal heat in 12.94, then running his fastest time yet, 12.92, to win gold in the final.
Merritt made it clear this season that he is the world’s best high hurdler, and that continued with a tremendous performance at the Games.
Kirani James is only 19 years old, but he has already made major history. James became the first Olympic medalist ever for the nation of Grenada, and he made that medal gold.
James won his gold in the 400-meter dash, and with his time of 43.94 seconds, he became the first non-U.S. runner ever to break 44 seconds in the 400. He has already become his nation’s greatest athletic superstar, and with his youth, he has the potential to accomplish much more in future Olympiads.
There was only one individual world record set at the 2012 London Games, and that record came from David Rudisha in the 800-meter dash.
Rudisha broke his own world record by becoming the first man to ever break 1 minute, 41 seconds in the 800, with a time of 1:40.91.
At only 23 years old, Rudisha’s list of accomplishments is incredible, and he won gold in his first Olympic Games. Expect Rudisha to be continuing his assault on the record books and go for a second gold at the 2016 Rio Games.
There was not a more perfect stage for Mo Farah to prove himself as Great Britain’s greatest distance runner ever than on his native soil at the London Olympics.
Farah became the first man in British history to win the 5,000-meter run. He followed that up one week later by becoming the first British man to win gold in the 10,000-meter run. In addition to making national history in each event, he became only the fifth man in Olympic history to complete the distance double in a single Games.
Farah is not only the greatest British distance runner ever, but he is also worthy of going into history as the host nation’s biggest star of the 2012 London Games. His performance will certainly be remembered forever, especially in Great Britain.
There were plenty of doubters (myself included) who did not think Usain Bolt would win double gold in the 100-meter dash and 200-meter dash at the 2012 Olympic Games.
Bolt proved the doubters dead wrong, and established himself as the most dominant sprinter in Olympic history.
First, he became only the second man to win back-to-back golds in the 100 with a winning time of 9.63 seconds, which broke his own Olympic record. Bolt followed that up by becoming the first man to ever win back-to-back 200 golds, with a winning time of 19.32.
Bolt won a third gold as the anchor leg of the Jamaican 4x100-meter relay team, which ran a world-record time of 36.84 seconds.
For a second consecutive Olympic Games, Bolt won gold in all three of those events, and was once again the star among stars of the Olympic men’s track and field competition.