01 November, 2016

Caster Semenya athlete of the year ⁉︎ You're joking

I have trouble understanding the IAAF's athlete of the year selection process. Two years ago they included in their list J. Gatlin, a doping twice-offender who should have been banned for life. This year they are at it again, this time with C. Semenya who dominates the 800 m thanks to the decision of the CAS that overruled the IAAF imposed testosterone level control. I have promised to write a longer article on Semenya and I will do it one day. However, looking at the list, I started thinking who would I vote for and which names I would have omitted. 

So, here are my comments on the the IAAF preliminary list and my personal top-three.

Almaz Ayana. She ran an out-of-this-world 10 km at the Olympics. However her subsequent lacklustre performances over the 5 km make me rather sceptical. Is there a repetition of the Wang Junxia scenario?

Ruth Beitia. Although she is highly commendable for her longevity and career I do not think she has a place among the top-ten athletes.

Vivian Cheruiyot. Again, a great athlete but I would not have included her in my top-ten list.

Kendra Harrison. I would inclue "Kennie" in my top-three list despite the fact that she could not make it to the Olympics. She broke one of the "haunted" world records dominating the discipline (except when it counted, at the US Trials).

Caterine Ibargüen. Definitely in my top-three list. She has dominated triple jump like nobody else over the past years.

Ruth Jebet. A great runner. I did particularly like the fact that she did not take undue risks at the Olympics and went for the record in a tamer competition.

Sandra Perkovic. An excellent and very consistent thrower. I know that I am being unfair by not including her in my top-three but somehow the performances from the 80's still linger in my memory (although I know that they were obtained in dubious conditions).

Caster Semenya. The fact that she appears in the list is an injustice to other women.

Elaine Thompson. She was my favourite for the olympic medals. Still, I wouldn't include her in my top-three. Next year perhaps?

Anita Wlodarczyk. The greatest female hammer-thrower of all times. She is definitely in my top-three list and my favourite for number one (despite the fact that I am an unconditional Ibargüen fan).

So my top-three in order: Wlodarczyk, Ibargüen, Harrison.

Usain Bolt. He's the greatest sprinter of all times. It is impossible not to include him in the top-three.

Thiago Braz. Come on, be serious. Braz da Silva's feat was winning the Olympics and beating Lavillenie. Is this enough for an athlete of the year selection? I do not think so.

Ashton Eaton. Probably the best decathlete of all times but this year was not his best one.

Mo Farah. He has been dominating his distances for quite some time now but the rumours concerning his coach (A. Salazar) in doping matters are enough to make me hesitate.

Eliud Kipchoge. Great Marathon runner but I wouldn't have included him in my top-ten list.

Conseslus Kipruto. An upcoming steeplechaser but still not the best. Next year perhaps?

Omar McLeod. To my eyes he is the future of high hurdles. Definitely in my top-three list.

David Rudisha. His come-back to top shape just in time for the Olympics is ample justification for the top-ten list but, somehow, not enough for my top-three.

Christian Taylor. I do not think that this was Taylor's best year despite his success. We were all expecting him to go fetch Edwards record. Who knows? Perhaps at next year's World's. 

Wayde van Niekerk. The indisputable number one. Not only did he crush the competition at the Olympics but he totally dominated the quarter-mile throughout the year.

My men's top-three in order: van Niekerk, Bolt, McLeod.

I find this photo of van Niekerk and James absolutely superb.
I had to give it here.

While I stand by my choices I am aware that the IAAF voters may (will) make different choices. So, most probably Ayana and Farah (perhaps even Jebet or Perkovic) will find themselves among the top-three. Well, we'll have to wait and see.

PS1. The IAAF has made public the names of the three finalists. For men the results are exactly what I expected: Bolt, Farah and van Niekerk. For women we have Ayana (something I expected), Thompson (I wouldn't have predicted this despite the fact that I am a great fan of her) and Wlodarczyk. 
My favourites for the title are always van Niekerk and Wlodarczyk but we have to wait till the end of the month.

PS2. The athletes of the year were announced today. They are Bolt and Ayana. While I feel that for Bolt the nomination is totally justified (but, still I would have chosen van Niekerk), I find the non-nomination of Wlodarczyk to be a huge injustice. She has been dominating her discipline like nobody else. 
On the other hand the nomination of the two "rising stars" was 100 % to my taste. Both Nafissatou Thiam and André de Grasse are athletes that I have been following for quite some time now and I am overjoyed by their nomination.
President's award went to Tegla Loroupe, another great athlete that I have always been admiring.

PS3. Just in case you were wondering who have been nominate athletes of the year since this distinction started back in 1988, here is the list

1988 Carl Lewis (USA) / Florence Griffith-Joyner (USA)
1989 Roger Kingdom (USA) / Ana Fidelia Quirot (CUB)
1990 Steve Backley (GBR) / Merlene Ottey (JAM)
1991 Carl Lewis (USA) / Katrin Krabbe (GER)
1992 Kevin Young (USA) / Heike Henkel (GER)
1993 Colin Jackson (GBR) / Sally Gunnell (GBR)
1994 Noureddine Morceli (ALG) / Jackie Joyner-Kersee (USA)
1995 Jonathan Edwards (GBR) / Gwen Torrence (USA)
1996 Michael Johnson (USA) / Svetlana Masterkova (RUS)
1997 Wilson Kipketer (DEN) / Marion Jones (USA)
1998 Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) / Marion Jones (USA)
1999 Michael Johnson (USA) / Gabriela Szabo (ROM)
2000 Jan Zelezny (CZE) / Marion Jones (USA)
2001 Hicham El Guerrouj (MAR) / Stacy Dragila (USA)
2002 Hicham El Guerrouj (MAR) / Paula Radcliffe (GBR)
2003 Hicham El Guerrouj (MAR) / Hestrie Cloete (RSA)
2004 Kenenisa Bekele (ETH) / Yelena Isinbayeva (RUS)
2005 Kenenisa Bekele (ETH) / Yelena Isinbayeva (RUS)
2006 Asafa Powell (JAM) / Sanya Richards (USA)
2007 Tyson Gay (USA) / Meseret Defar (ETH)
2008 Usain Bolt (JAM) / Yelena Isinbayeva (RUS)
2009 Usain Bolt (JAM) / Sanya Richards (USA)
2010 David Rudisha (KEN) / Blanca Vlasic (CRO)
2011 Usain Bolt (JAM) / Sally Pearson (AUS)
2012 Usain Bolt (JAM) / Allyson Felix (USA)
2013 Usain Bolt (JAM) / Shelly-Ann Fraser (JAM)
2014 Renaud Lavillenie (FRA) / Valerie Adams (NZL)
2015 Ashton Eaton (USA) / Genzebe Dibaba (ETH)

2016 Usain Bolt (JAM) / Almaz Ayana (ETH)

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