15 October, 2017

My list of top athletes for 2017

It is customary at the end of the year for IAAf to nominate and reward the best athlete of the year. The 2017 campaign is launched and the first list of 10 was made public. Last year we were treated to the Gatlin scandal. This year, things were tamer but still I was shocked when I found that Semenya was part of the list. Here are the official IAAF lists for women

Almaz Ayana (ETH)
Maria Lasitskene (ANA)
Hellen Obiri (KEN)
Sally Pearson (AUS)
Sandra Perkovic (CRO)
Brittney Reese (USA)
Caster Semenya (RSA)
Ekaterini Stefanidi (GRE)
Nafissatou Thiam (BEL)
Anita Wlodarczyk (POL)

and for men

Mutaz Essa Barshim (QAT)
Pawel Fajdek (POL)
Mo Farah (GBR)
Sam Kendricks (USA)
Elijah Manangoi (KEN)
Luvo Manyonga (RSA)
Omar McLeod (JAM)
Christian Taylor (USA)
Wayde van Niekerk (RSA)
Johannes Vetter (GER)

While I agree with, say, 60-70 % of the choice of the nominees I do also disagree with some choices. I am also afraid that things will become worse when we'll go down to the short list of three and finally the athlete of the year. Last year U. Bolt got the title that should have been awarded to W. Van Niekerk and A. Wlodarczyk was passed over in favour of A. Ayana.

Thus I decided to give my list of 10, the short list of three and my athlete of the year choice in one go. Here it is. For women

1. A. Wlodarczyk

2. E. Stefanidi

3. N. Thiam

M. Lasitskene
S. Pearson
S. Perkovic
I. Spanovic
R. Jebet
S. Miller
M.J. TaLou

And for men

1. M. Barshim

2. E. Kipchoge

3. O. McLeod

S. Kendricks
K. Mayer
J. Vetter
C. Taylor
W. Van Niekerk
P. Fajdek
D. Kipruto

Some comments are in order. There is no ranking past the first three. The athletes of the year are Wlodarczyk and Barshim. (I am curious to see whether the IAAF will ignore Wlodarczyk for the second year in a row). I included Kipchoge because to my eyes he is the best marathon runner ever. Van Niekerk would have been my athlete of the year for 2016 but not this year. He is among the 10 best but that's it. For me Spanovic has done better than Reese (the IAAF nominee): she jumped a world-leading 7.24 m and won the Diamond League. I don't understand how Mayer did not make it to the IAAF list. He had a brilliant year and his European heptathlon record of 6479 (at 99 % ! efficiency with respect to his best performances) is putting him at second place in the all-time list. Jebet and Miller failed at the World's but then redeemed themselves at the Diamond League. TaLou did not win any major victory but to my eyes she has been the most consistent sprinter, so there.

It is also customary to nominate the best new talents, the young athletes that made an impression. IAAF is doing this and I find it an excellent idea. Again my choice is totally subjective. The three best new female talents are
S.E. Naser (400 m, 19), Y. Levchenko (HJ, 20), R. Peinado (PV, 20) 
and corresponding male ones
K. McMaster (400 m HD, 20) D. Lysenko (HJ, 20), J. Cheptegei (10 km, 21).
I included in parentheses their specialty, just in case the name does not ring a bell, as well as their age.

They are not the only ones. I have already written on K. Warholm who at just 21 was world champion this year. Taking into account the presence of K. McMaster and of A. Samba (20) one can be pretty optimistic about the future of men's 400 m hurdles. And to finish on a greek note I would like to add to the talent list I. Kyriazis (21) who finished 6th at the javelin throw event of this year's World's.

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