Sports History Chronicle World Sportsman of the Year 2014 – Renaud Lavillenie

My shortlist was:

Clayton Kershaw (USA – Baseball) – won the Cy Young and MVP Awards and produced the lowest ERA by a National League pitcher since 1995
Martin Fourcade (France – Biathlon) -winner of two Olympic golds and four world cup titles
Yuzuru Hanyu (Japan – Figure Skating) – world and Olympic champion and made a record total
Charles Hamelin (Canada -Short track speed skating) world and Olympic champion and dominant in the world cup
Sebastian Brendel (Germany – Canoeing)  did the  ‘double double’ in 2014 being world and European in both 1000 and 5000m, , gold in all 3 World Cups and set a world best time.
François Pervis (France – Cycling) -three individual golds at the world championships
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal – Football) -56 goals in the year and helped Real Madrid to Champions League
Kohei Uchimura (Japan – Gymnastics) – won a record fifth individual all-round world title
Teddy Riner (Fance – Judo) – extended his winning streak to 65 contests and won the world title again
Marc Marquez (Spain – Motor Cycling) – won a record 13 races in the Moto GP season
Giles Scott (England – Sailing) – unbeaten in six regattas
Rory McIlroy (Nothern Ireland – Golf) – won the Open championship and US PGA titles
Jongoh Jin (South Korea – Shooting) – won two world titles and broke a 34 year old world record.
Renaud Lavillenie (France – Athletics) – broke the outright world record for Pole Vault which had stood for 21 years and won 22/23 competitions.
Dennis Kimetto (Kenya – Athletics) – broke the world marathon record

My deliberations produced this decision:

Kershaw had a brilliant regular season and was the first pitcher to win the National League MVP since 1968.  He was MLB’s ERA leader for the 4th successive time with a superb 1.77. However, his play-off appearances were fairly disastrous and it is in those games that you need your stars to “step up to the plate” if a pitcher can do so.

Fourcade won seven races in the season, including the two Olympic golds.  He easily won the overall world cup although he has had more wins in previous years.

Hanyu won four of his eight competitions in the 2013/14 season including the two championships.  World records in skating are still quite new so perhaps not as important as in other sports.

Hamelin won six world cup races and gold in both championships but I think short-track skaters have to win several golds to win my award.

Brendel had a brilliant year winning all the titles available to him.  Canoeing has relatively few races each year so I also look back to 2013 to help with my choice.  Brendel won one world title in 2013.  The world record he set in 2014 adds to his claims but the conditions were very helpful and many records were set across the board.

Pervis’s three world titles were the icing on the cake of a brilliant 2013/4 season where he also set two world records late in 2013 at a helpfully high altitude.  He competed sparingly in the world cup.  Late in the year he had illness problems and struggled.

Cristiano Ronaldo – scored lots of goals but it seemed that he and Messi were just knocking in hat-tricks for fun against weak opposition in the Spanish league.  the top teams are so far ahead of the others there that big scores are commonplace.  The value of goals seems to me to be less than it was.

Uchimura enhanced his claim to be the greatest all-round male gymnast in history but perhaps wasn’t at his very best in 2014.

Teddy Riner (Fance – Judo) – extended his winning streak and won the world title again but had injuries.

Marc Marquez (Spain – Motor Cycling) – won a record 13 races in the Moto GP season from 18 races.  He won the first ten races but was a little more beatable as the season progressed.  This was possibly due to him having a huge lead in the championship but in the end those five losses stop him being my choice.

Giles Scott (England – Sailing) Finn Class Sailing world champion and winner of all six regattas in which he competed in 2014.  He won the world championship, European Championship and Olympic test event in Rio.

Rory McIlroy (Nothern Ireland – Golf)  – winner of the Open and the USPGA in golf.  He is number one golfer in the world by a long way having also won the PGA at Wentworth and another important PGA tour event.  He was also part of the winning European Ryder Cup team.  Golf is a very competitive sport at the top level so to win two majors in a year and dominate the rankings and end of year US PGA Tour Awards is a superb achievement. However, he needs a little more at this exalted level of achievement to win my vote.

Jongoh Jin (South Korea – Shooting) – won two world titles and broke a 34 year old world record.  He won the most important events of the year and a world cup event but didn’t win enough outside the championship to win my award.

Renaud Lavillenie (France – Athletics) – broke the outright world record for Pole Vault which had stood for 21 years and won 22/23 competitions.  He had a brilliant indoor season and was well over 6 metres in competitions before his historic world record breaking Bubka’s mark.  I have a slight question over that performance as it was so much higher than his other marks.  Sometimes indoor runways can be very springy giving extra assistance to jumpers.  His outdoor season was an anti-climax in terms of heights achieved as he wasn’t close  to 6 metres but he was still far too good for his rivals and won the European title.

Dennis Kimetto (Kenya – Athletics) – broke the world marathon record continuing the downward trend in that record.  He didn’t do much else in the year to earn him my verdict.

Out of my list the ones who have proved themselves to be most dominant most regularly over the year are Scott, Brendel, McIlroy and Lavillenie.  The best individual performances were Pervis at the world championships, Jongoh Jin’s shooting world record and Lavillenie’s vault.  I may have slight doubts over his record but if we accept its validity it is one of the outstanding athletics performances of recent years.  That combined with the number of times he competed and won makes Lavillenie my choice.

My top three are:

3rd Giles Scott

2nd Sebastian Brendel

1st Renaud Lavillenie

Previous Winners

2012 Lionel Messi (Argentina – Football)

2013 Teddy Riner (France – Judo)

To see details of all winners and runners-up from this year and previous years go to the “My Awards” tab on the home page or click here

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