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World records in athletics are ratified by the International Association of Athletics Federations. Athletics records comprise the best performances in the sports of track and field, road running and racewalking.
Records are kept for all events contested at the Olympic Games and some others. Unofficial records for some other events are kept by track and field statisticians. The only non-metric track distance for which official records are kept is the mile run.
The criteria which must be satisfied for ratification also apply to national or other restricted records and also to performances submitted as qualifying marks for eligibility to compete in major events such as the Olympic Games.
The criteria include:
Witnessing a world record brings great pleasure for athletics fans; athletes' personal sponsors and the promoters of major meetings such as the IAAF Diamond League and its predecessor, the IAAF Golden League have offered bonuses to athletes breaking a record.
Some middle-distance runners have specialized in acting as pacemakers in longer races, receiving a fee without even finishing the race, and possibly a bonus if a record results. This is a useful occupation for athletes who are capable of running accurately to a specified pace, but not capable of the very fastest times to become champions in their own right.
In the pole vault record bonuses create an incentive for an athlete capable of smashing a record to instead break it by the minimum amount (one centimetre), multiple times, at multiple meetings, in order to accumulate multiple bonuses. This has been done by Sergey Bubka in the men's pole vault, and Yelena Isinbayeva in the women's pole vault. Some commentators have complained that neither athlete ever posted as high a mark as they were capable of. In other disciplines this issue does not arise, since it is practically impossible to deliberately break a record by a small margin, except in the high jump.
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