As we enter 2016, I thought it was time I finish this list off, before all the good stuff gets started again (and I am not talking about the integrity of the IAAF!). For the post which lists 6th-10th, you can find that here:
Here then are the top 5 British athletes for 2015.
5. Shara Proctor (2015 World Silver Medallist, Twice broke the British record and finally jumped over 7m!)
The women’s long jump in the UK is one of its strongest events with 3 Brits making the final of the World Championships and another in Jazmin Sawyers who won European U23 silver and was a reserve for the World Championships. Proctor has been regularly making finals in recent years but hasn’t been able to jump at her best in those finals. Usually she would qualify extremely well and then not match that performance in the final. This year though it was the exact opposite! In a high quality qualifying, she sneaked through to the final ranked 11th. In the final though (which was also of pretty good quality), Proctor would leap to 7.07m in the 3rd round to take a shock lead and go over 7m for the first time (and yet another British record). She would then do it again in the next round jumping 7.01m. Unfortunately for Shara, Tiana Bartoletta would win the competition in the very last round to win her second World Long Jump title, 10 years after her first! This did not take away from what was a career high performance and achievement for Proctor.
4. Dina Asher-Smith (2015 European indoor 60m silver medallist (equalling the UK record), New UK 100m record (first British athlete to go under 11 seconds), 2015 World Championship 5th place in 200m finally breaking Kathy Cook’s record from the 84′ Olympics!)
Dina Asher-Smith is a superstar. Now we Brits have a tendency to go over the top when it comes to young sport stars and what their potential is. In fact it has shocked me that no has declared her a future World/Olympic Champion, which would have undoubtedly happened 10 years ago (see Mark Lewis-Francis). Nonetheless Dina had an incredible 2015.
As a youth and junior athlete she got better every year, and in 2014 she was World Junior Champion over 100m and had set new UK Junior records for both the 100m and the 200m. The question however was could she transition into being a senior (had she been born a month later she would have still been a junior in 2015!). The answer was an emphatic YES. In the indoor season she came second only to Dafne Schippers in the 60m at the European Indoor championships, running an equal UK record and is believed to be the quickest teenager over the distance in history!
In the outdoor season, she would set a new UK record in the 100m at Hengelo (once again just behind Schippers) running 11.02 seconds. The fact she was disappointed with her race was a good sign. She then ran the 200m at the Birmingham Diamond League where she ran Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh closer than anyone expected as she ran a new PB of 22.30 seconds. At the London Anniversary Games she ran under 11 seconds for the first time and the first time by any British Athlete running 10.99 seconds. There was some speculation and a little surprise by some when she was selected for the 200m and not for the 100m for Beijing, but in her Junior international career, she was mainly a 200m runner and it was felt that she had a better chance of making that final than in the 100m.
In Beijing, she set PB’s in both the heats (22.22s) and the semi’s (22.12s) before finishing 5th in the final running 22.07 seconds finally breaking the UK record that had stood for 31 years! It was also a new world age group record. Had she been born a month later it would have been a World Junior record. Time will tell exactly what she will achieve in the future and her times aren’t going to keep going down at the current rate forever, but at long last Britain has a genuine world class sprinting talent. In my opinion the best we have ever had at that age.
3. Jessica Ennis-Hill (2015 World Heptathlon Champion, ranked 2nd for 2015 on the global lists, 3rd in BBC Sports Personality of the Year)
I never bought the idea that Jess would not compete in Beijing. I think Jess and her coach did an excellent job of downplaying expectations (even if it did match with their actual expectations), but Jess is not the average athlete. For the period between 2009 and now, Jess has been the best heptathlete in the world and she has been the one to be the face of her event after Carolina Kluft moved on. Her story was fantastic. Just over a year after giving birth she comes back and becomes World Champion. That’s not to say Jess was back at her optimum condition (which is scary for everyone else) and she was helped by Theisen-Eaton and Johnson-Thompson messing up the High Jump and Long Jump respectively. However Jess is that talented she can be not at her best but still beat everybody else. 2016 will be a different case, but Jess will be much stronger and more confident whilst her main challengers will be more determined after their disappointments. Though we can be nearly 100% sure that Jess will compete at her best when the Olympics come. We will miss her when she retires.
For more on the heptathlon in Beijing, you can find my review here:
2. Mo Farah (2015 World 5000m and 10000m Champion, the first athlete to do a triple-double in consecutive global championships, broke the European Half-Marathon Record (59 minutes, 32 seconds))
It was a bit of strange year for Mo Farah. Doping allegations over his coach Alberto Salazar made uneasy headlines just as the outdoor season had started. Ironically the later (and way more serious) allegations appearing in the Sunday Times and the German ARD documentary actually helped him as he was specifically mentioned as someone who did not have any suspicious blood values which Farah later backed up when he released his personal blood data. On the track though, with the exception of a 3000m race in Doha at the beginning of the season, it was typical Mo Farah. He won the 10,000m in the prefontaine classic, and every other race he ran which was sparingly.
In Beijing, Farah did what Farah does best. Win major championships. In the 10k, the Kenyans tried the novel idea of not running ridiculously slowly before the last lap and at least made an effort to test Farah but it wasn’t enough. The 5k however was another one of those slow, uneventful races (this one even slower than normal, the women actually ran quicker for a bit!) which finished with Farah winning a last lap kick. Ndiku tried to get ahead and hold Farah off but he wasn’t at 100% and Farah won fairly comfortably in the end. That was Farah’s 4th consecutive global title at 5000m (3 World Championships and 1 Olympic). No British athlete has done that just to add another layer of history for Farah. Somehow that was only good enough for 7th in the BBC sports personality of the year! If he does the double again next year, I think he solidifies himself as our greatest ever track and field athlete.
1. Greg Rutherford (2015 World Long Jump Champion, 2015 Diamond League winner, ranked 2nd in the world lists).
It was difficult choosing between Mo and Greg to be honest. Both had excellent seasons and neither could have really done any better but Greg’s consistency and regularly beating the best the world had to offer puts him ahead for me. He also became just the 5th British athlete to complete the Grand Slam of Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth Championships. He even added the Diamond League for good measure! I’ve already written at length about the ginger kid that won the Long Jump in 2012 which can be viewed below:
All that can be said is that Greg has achieved everything he could have been reasonably expected to achieve and if he retired tomorrow he would have his place in history sealed in stone. Greg proves that even if you are not the number one ranked athlete (although Greg has been highly ranked for the last 4 years now) going into a major championships there are two things that are more important. Consistency and the ability to perform at your best when it matters most. Greg does this as well as any British athlete has ever done.
It was good year for British athletes, hopefully 2016 will give similar memories.
Until next time!