It’s a whole new year which means a whole new season of international athletics is not too far away and I for one can’t wait to see its return!
For anyone who has read my blog before and has been wondering where I’ve been since the Olympics there’s a few reasons why I haven’t blogged or indeed tweeter much since Rio. Obviously the main season had ended so there wasn’t much to comment on but I also started a new job shortly after so it seemed the right time to step back for a bit. However with the start of the Indoor season and the European Indoor Championships in March along with the World Championships in London in August, there is lots to look forward to. Plus I am sure we haven’t heard the end of doping/IAAF controversies and the story of Russian Athletics will continue to create unfortunate headlines.
So onto the first post of 2017 and let’s take one final look at 2016 with the first ever Athletics Appetizer Awards! This is just my personal take on the best of 2016 so let’s get to it!
THE ATHLETICS APPETIZER AWARDS FOR 2016
2016 was quite a year for Athletics with some incredible performances on the track and numerous world records and some unforgettable moments from a unique Olympic games in Rio. For the 1st Athletics Appetizer Awards (the AAA awards?) I have decided on 10 categories which are as follows:
- MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
- FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
- MALE PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR
- FEMALE PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR
- MOST IMPROVED MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
- MOST IMPROVED FEMALE ATHELTE OF THE YEAR
- MOST PROMISING U20 MALE ATHLETE
- MOST PROMISING U20 FEMALE ATHLETE
- MOST MEMORABLE OLYMPIC MOMENT
- ATHLETICS LEGACY AWARD
There is no set criteria for how I came to my decisions but I’ve tried to look at the season as a whole rather than just what happened at the Olympics but obviously that naturally played a huge part. So onto our first award:
MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
WAYDE VAN NIEKERK
What an unbelievable rise it has been for the South African. The first man ever to run sub 10 seconds for the 100, sub 20 seconds for the 200 and sub 44 seconds for the 400 makes him the biggest rising star in athletics. To top off his World title from last year, he added an Olympic title and with it that incredible new World record of 43.03 seconds which despite his rapid progression surprised everyone that he took it so early in his career.
He has an interesting career ahead of him now and you feel there is more to come from him over the shorter sprints especially in the 200. Not long ago I found myself re-watching the 400 metres final from the 2014 commonwealth games where van Niekerk burst onto the international scene and was with Kirani James for about 300 metres before fading at the end (he had run the heats of the 200 metres earlier that same day) but to see where he has gone from there to the faster quarter-miler of all time is sensational.
FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Simply dominant in 2016 as she has been for several years now and just keeps extending her World record further and further out of everybody else’s reach. Unbeaten this year and there doesn’t appear to be anyone who can stop her, the main question seems to be how much can she extend her world record? She doesn’t get the international recognition that she should and probably largely due to the fact that the hammer is not the most well-known event but her exploits can only be hugely respected.
MALE PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR
WAYDE VAN NIEKERK
A moment where you simply could not believe what you were seeing but those who watched it live saw something incredibly special. From Lane 8, van Niekerk destroyed two great runners in Kirani James and LaShawn Merritt as he smashed Michael Johnson’s 17 year old record and nearly broke the 43 second barrier which I don’t think anyone saw coming. Some are calling him the next superstar of the sport and while he doesn’t have the charisma of Usain Bolt (who does?), he has already shown he has the ability to do what people think is not possible and that is when the greatness of the sport is revealed.
FEMALE PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR
The women’s 10000 metres final in Rio was absolutely insane that words can’t really do it justice. No one thought that a world record was even possible let alone likely especially that Championship races aren’t always the fastest. However for Almaz Ayana, who had only run a handful of 10000 metre races, she decided that winning wasn’t enough. She decided that not just breaking the world record but destroying the World Record was what she set out to achieve. The world record of Junxia Wang has been long under suspicion as were many of the Chinese athletes and times in the 1990’s to the point that no one thought this record could be broken. The same was said about the 1500 metre record that Genzebe Dibaba broke last year but to do it in an Olympic final is incredibly risky and while it possibly cost her Gold in the 5000 metre final a week later, she left an impression that will be remembered for some time. If van Niekerk’s world record left you dropping your draw when he crossed the line, then Ayana’s world record had you jaw dropped for several minutes, long before she finished due to the astonishing change of pace that the rest of the world could simply not follow.
MOST IMPROVED MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
McLeod became the first person to run sub 10 seconds for the 100 metres and also sub 13 seconds for the 100 metre hurdles in the same season. It wasn’t a vintage year for the event with no one else going under 13 seconds in the year but while the focus in this event at the beginning of the year may have focused on the American’s or the French hurdlers McLeod really separated himself out of the pack to become Olympic Champion and he has a lot of years ahead of him and with his flat speed I think he has a chance of approaching that incredibly world record of 12.80 seconds from Aries Merritt in 2012.
MOST IMPROVED FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
I very nearly went with Harrison for performance of the year and it was very close between which World Record to go for but Harrison’s world record in the Olympic stadium in London was perhaps the moment of the year. If only the clock had been right the first time though!
In a season which she was largely dominant on the circuit which included a near world record run in Eugene she did not compete in Rio after failing to make the top 3 at the US trials. She bounced back in incredible fashion though after she broke the world record in London. Assuming she is in London next year it seems it’s her to lose but the slight doubt about her ability to run her best in the biggest moments will be tested and she will be very interesting to follow next year.
MOST PROMISING U20 MALE ATHLETE
Dominant at the World Junior Championships which saw him win by over a metre and set a new World Junior record of 23.34 metres. With the senior implement he showed his potential to be one to watch as his throw of 21.14 metres meant he was ranked 12th in the world which is impressive for a 19 year old. Of course there is no guarantee that dominance in the junior ranks will lead to similar senior success but it would be quite the surprise if he was not heavily involved at the top of men’s shot put for many years to come.
MOST PROMISING U20 FEMALE ATHELTE
Still just 17 years old Candace Hill has already achieved a lot in her junior career adding a World Junior title to her name in a new Championship record of 11.07 seconds ahead of the also talented Swoboda and Khalifa St. Fort to set her up as the big sprinting talent of the future. Of course with the talent the US has, there is no guarantee that she will be making the team for the World Championships next year or even possibly the one after that but with still so much time to develop it seems surely a matter of time before she finds herself on the biggest stage. It’s crazy to think that she’ll be 25 at the 2024 Olympics where you would think she would be in her prime and that’s still 7 years away!
MOST MEMORABLE OLYMPIC MOMENT
USAIN BOLT COMPLETES THE TRIPLE-TRIPLE
As amazing as some of the other moments in the Olympics were including the aforementioned world records to Thiago Braz Da Silva’s victory in the pole vault, there was a moment after Bolt had won his 9th Olympic gold medal when you realised that we had probably seen the last of Usain on the Olympic stage. Ultimately his presence, his personality and his performances are what a lot of people will remember from the last 3 Olympic Games. He transcended the sport and became on the few Olympics who everyone around the world knew exactly who he was and the list of people who have done that is very short indeed. Are there greater Olympians or even better athletes in track and field history? Depending on who you ask you will get very different responses. No one has carried his sport quite like Usain has though and his act will be an impossible one to follow.
ATHLETICS LEGACY AWARD
At the age of 30 Jessica Ennis-Hill announced her retirement from athletics after a career that saw her win home Olympic gold (along with silver in Rio), 3 World Championships and European Champion which marks her as one the best female multi-eventers in history. Beyond her talent and success though, what really stood out about Jess was her character and the example she has given for others to follow. From a physical point of view she showed that you didn’t have to be the tallest or even the strongest to make it in the heptathlon which many of the best were. She showed that you can be as graceful in defeat as you can in victory and she showed that you if you have the passion and the drive you can overcome any obstacles and challenges. She did it all during her career and there aren’t many athletes who retire as beloved as she is. She will be dearly missed but hopefully many will see her example as the one to follow. An amazing career for one of the best multi-eventers of all-time.
So that completes the first AAA awards! Did you agree with my choices or would you have gone for something else? There was a lot of choice for some of these awards so there is plenty of room for debate. Let me know in the comments or tweet me using the link the bottom of the page.
That’s all for now and with the Indoor season not too far away next time I will set out my early indoor season preview and wishes for 2017. Thanks for reading and I hope you all have a great 2017.
Until next time!