AFTER copping the World Athletics Female Sports Award last year, Olympic 100 and 200 metres champion Elaine Thompson Herah is up for another major award.
She is one of three track and field athletes nominated for the Laureus World Sports Award, World Athletics confirmed on its website yesterday. The Laureus World Sports Awards is an annual award honouring individuals and teams from the world of sports. Thompson Herah is joined by 400m runner Allyson Felix of the United States and marathon runner Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya.
Thompson Herah was nominated for the female award following her outstanding triple gold medal-winning performance at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. She won the 100m and 200m and was a member of the winning 4x100m relay team. Felix’s is among those for the award after reaching a record tally of 11 medals in athletics at the Olympics following her 400m bronze and 4x400m gold medal in Tokyo. Other female nominees include swimmers Emma McKeon of Australia and American Katie Ledecky, tennis player Ashleigh Barty of Australia, and Spanish footballer Alexia Putellas.
Thompson Herah who is also the RJRGLEANER Sports Foundation’s National Sportswoman of the Year for 2021, will be hoping to become the second Jamaican to capture this award following the legendary Usain Bolt, who copped the award on four occasions – in 2009, 2010, 2013 and 2017. She will also be hoping to become the third female track and field athlete to win the award, following Marion Jones of the United States and Cathy Freeman of Australia, who won in the first two years of the award, in 2000 and 2001.
Athletics legend and Laureus Academy member Michael Johnson of the United States, lauded Thompson Herah on her latest recognition. “She is an athlete who just completely dominated the sport last year,” said Johnson, according to the World Athletics website. Johnson stated that Thompson Herah, who won the 100-200m double at successive Olympic Games, did something which is very difficult to do, while she is threatening one of the oldest and most impressive world records in the books, the women’s 100m record (10.49 seconds) held since 1988 by American Florence Griffith-Joyner. Joining Kipchoge are American NFL player Tom Brady, Bayern Munich footballer Robert Lewandowski of Poland, Belgian-Dutch Formula One world champion Max Verstappen, Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic, and American swimmer Caleb Dressel.
Tennis player Serena Williams of the United States, who won the award in 2003, 2010, 2016 and 2018, leads the way among females. On the male side, another tennis player, Roger Federer of Switzerland, has been the most successful. He has won the award on five occasions – 2005, 2006, 2008, 2011 and 2018. Meanwhile, golf great Tiger Woods won in the first two years, 2000 and 2001.
From Athing Mu and Karsten Warholm on the track, to Peres Jepchirchir and Des Linden on the roads, these runs kept us on the edges of our seats.
After a year of race cancellations in 2020 because of COVID-19, in-person competition returned in a big way in 2021—and with it came a slew of historic performances.
The Tokyo Olympics this summer featured a number of world records and exciting podium finishes. Collegians broke through during their full season comeback to set records and mix it up with pros. And the World Marathon Majors returned with all six races scheduled within 42 days of each other, paving the way for some unprecedented accomplishments in the fall.
With a year’s worth of competition to reflect on, the Runner’s World editors picked 10 races that stood out from the rest. Here are the performances that put us on the edge of our seats in 2021.
Sydney McLaughlin Breaks the World Record—Twice
This year, Sydney McLaughlin solidified herself as the greatest 400-meter hurdler of all time. The then-21-year-old kicked off the championship portion of her season by winning the final at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in 51.90, shattering the world record set by fellow Team USA standout Dalilah Muhammad at the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar.
In Tokyo, McLaughlin won Olympic gold in 51.46, improving on her world record.
Allyson Felix celebrates winning her 11th Olympic medal.
Allyson Felix becomes the most decorated track star in U.S. history
In her fifth Olympic Games, Allyson Felix clocked two stunning performances. The first was in the women’s 400-meter final when the champion sprinter earned bronze in 49.46, her 10th Olympic medal. The podium finish made her the most decorated female Olympian in track and field, and she passed Merlene Ottey and tied Carl Lewis, who has 10, as the most decorated American athlete in track and field.
Days later, Felix passed Lewis in the record books when she contributed to Team USA’s gold medal in the 4×400-meter relay. With a 49.38-second second lap, Felix maintained the lead for the Americans, who ultimately won in 3:16.85—a time less than two seconds off the world record of 3:15.17.
Karsten Warholm goes into Hulk mode after setting the world record
A few weeks after breaking the previous world record in the men’s 400-meter hurdles, Karsten Warholm shattered the time again by winning Olympic gold in 45.94. The Norwegian came out on top in an all-out sprint to the finish against Team USA’s Rai Benjamin to claim his first Olympic medal and improve on the previous record of 46.70 set in Oslo in July.
Warholm’s performance in Tokyo marked the first time in history that an athlete has run under the 46-second barrier in the 400-meter hurdles. His celebration was also a major highlight; after seeing his time, the 25-year-old was overcome with emotion and ripped apart his jersey.
Molly Seidel takes bronze in the Olympic marathon
In her third 26.2 ever, Molly Seidel became the third American in history and the first since 2004 to earn a podium spot at the Olympic Games. During the marathon in Sapporo, the Notre Dame graduate put in a hard surge with 5K remaining to finish third in 2:27:46.
The breakthrough performance was the latest in a series of successes at the distance. Seidel made her marathon debut at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, where she finished second to make her first Olympic team. In October 2020, she lowered her personal best to 2:25:13 at the London Marathon.
Three months after Tokyo, Seidel improved still by finishing fourth at the New York City Marathon in 2:24:42, bettering the American course record set by Kara Goucher in 2008.
Teenager Athing Mu becomes first American since 1968 to win Olympic gold in the 800 meters
Capping off a season that rewrote the record books, Athing Mu led the women’s 800-meter final wire-to-wire to win Olympic gold. In the process of clocking 1:55.21 in Tokyo, the 19-year-old became the first American gold medalist in the event since Madeline Manning Mims in 1968. She also lowered her own American record.
As a freshman at Texas A&M, she set collegiate records in the 400 and 800 meters before winning two NCAA outdoor titles and later turning pro. The Tokyo Games was Mu’s first open international competition.
Eliud Kipchoge repeats as Olympic champion with huge winning margin
After pulling away from the pack at mile 19, Eliud Kipchoge cruised to victory for the second time to repeat as champion in the men’s marathon at the Olympic Games. In Sapporo, the world record-holder from Kenya finished in 2:08:38, 1:20 ahead of silver medalist Abdi Nageeye of the Netherlands. His winning margin is the biggest since Frank Shorter won the 1972 Olympic marathon.
Peres Jepchirchir wins back-to-back marathons
Just 13 weeks after winning the Olympic women’s marathon, Peres Jepchirchir won the New York City Marathon and became the first person since Shorter in 1972 to earn Olympic gold and then come to a major fall marathon and win again.
The Kenyan finished in 2:27:20 on a sweltering day in Sapporo on August 7, besting world record-holder and countrywoman Brigid Kosgei. On November 7, the two-time half marathon world champion fought off competitors Viola (Lagat) Cheptoo and Ababel Yeshaneh on the final stretch to secure another victory in Central Park. She covered the New York City course in 2:22:39.
Jacob Kiplimo breaks the half marathon world record
On November 21, Jacob Kiplimo lowered the world record by winning the Lisbon Half Marathon in 57:31, a 4:23/mile pace. The Olympic bronze medalist from Uganda improved on the previous world record of 57:32 set by Kibiwott Kandie at the Valencia Half Marathon in December 2020.
Kiplimo raced a mostly solo effort, breaking away from the competition just after 3K, and blazed through the 15K in 40:27—the fastest time ever recorded for the distance. He slowed down slightly in the later stages but held on just enough to dip under the record.
Des Linden sets the 50K record
A little over a year after finishing an agonizing fourth place at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, Des Linden set her sights on a thrilling new challenge: The 50K world record.
On April 13, on a deserted bike path outside of Eugene, Oregon, the two-time Olympian covered 50K (31.06 miles) in 2:59:54, more than seven minutes faster than the previous record of 3:07:20, set by British ultrarunner Aly Dixon in 2019. Linden averaged 5:47/mile pace to set the new record.
Two collegians make the Olympic team in the men’s 1500 meters
The men’s 1500-meter final at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials was a nail-biter, with plenty of exciting buildup to set the stage for an upset and a rivalry.
During the NCAA regular season, then-Oregon runners Cooper Teare and Cole Hocker broke the NCAA indoor mile record by running 3:50.39 and 3:50.55, respectively, on February 12 in Arkansas. In May, Notre Dame runner Yared Nuguse broke the collegiate record in the 1500 meters by clocking a solo 3:34.68 in the first round of the ACC Outdoor Track and Field Championships. In June, Nuguse and Hocker faced off at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, where Hocker out-kicked Nuguse. The middle-distance stars met again two weeks later as only two collegians in the 1500-meter final at the Trials in Eugene, Oregon.
With an all-out sprint down the homestretch, Hocker won the national title in 3:35:28, beating 2016 Olympic champion Matthew Centrowitz, who finished second. Nuguse secured his place on the Olympic team by placing third, but he withdrew from the Games with a quad strain.
Tokyo Olympic Games 800m champion, Athing Mu has dominated the 2021 Wing Awards and Athlete of the Year Awards that will be held at the 2021 Night of Legends on Saturday, December 4 in Orlando, Florida.
The voting has now been opened for fans to choose their favorite athlete of the year and the best performer with the Jesse Owens, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, and Wing Awards.
USATF will present all awards as part of the Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida The event will also include the USATF National Track and Field Hall of Fame class of 2021 induction ceremony.
The awards have been presented annually since 1981; the Jesse Owens Award and Jackie Joyner-Kersee Award are USA Track & Field highest accolades. This is United States highest award for the sport, it bears Jesse Owens’s name in recognition of his significant career, which included four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games.
The winners will be selected by the fans and media by voting to choose their most outstanding male and female athletes, winners are selected by a combination of fan and media votes.
The Wing Awards honor a variety of top performances, including Best Olympics Performance for Track as well as Field, and Breakout Performer.
Two years removed from a feud with Nike and just days after qualifying for her fifth trip to the Olympics, track star Allyson Felix is adding the title of “entrepreneur” to her list of accomplishments.
Felix announced on Instagram on Wednesday that she is launching her own shoe brand called Saysh, a brand that she says “represents hope, acceptance, and the power to create change.”
“When you see me run, know that I’m not running for medals. I’m running for change. I’m running for greater equity for each of us. I’m running for women. More than anything, I’m running toward a future where no woman or girl is ever told to know her place,” Felix wrote on Instagram.
Felix, whose six Olympic gold medals are the most of any female track and field athlete, had public fallout with Nike, her longtime sponsor, back in 2019. She wrote in an op-ed in the New York Times that she wanted to start a family in 2018 knowing that it could jeopardize her deal with Nike as she was trying to renew a deal that had expired in December 2017. Felix wrote that she felt like she needed to return to form as quickly as possible, even after an emergency C-section in November 2018 to deliver her daughter, Camryn. Felix said Nike offered to pay her 70 percent less than what she had been earning before she was pregnant.
Felix did not re-sign with Nike after negotiations on a deal continued to go sour. Nike changed its maternity policies in 2019 as a result of public backlash and a congressional inquiry, according to the Washington Post. Felix later signed a deal with Gap’s Athleta brand, according to CNBC.
Since the split with Nike, Felix has become an activist for maternal protection for female athletes and for inequities for Black mothers in the health care system.
“No woman should have to choose between being a professional and being a Mother. Now, because of that fight, sponsorship contracts look different for a lot of athletes,” Felix wrote on Instagram.
She continued: “During my pregnancy, I had complications. And I realized I needed to use my voice to bring awareness to another injustice: a racial injustice in our healthcase system. I spoke to the United States Congress about my experience — and I continue to use my words for change.”
Saysh is a shoe brand designed “for and by women,” the website reads. The Saysh One sneaker is for sale at $150.
When the New Jersey native arrived at Easterwood Airport, Olympic champion Athing Mu found a crowd gathered to welcome her.
More than 200 people gathered at Easterwood Airport to watch Tokyo Olympics double gold medallist Athing Mu come back to her native Aggieland.
As she came through the doors, the Olympian became overwhelmed by the support and enthusiasm of the crowd, and graciously thanked them for welcoming her as the crowd began chanting “USA, USA!”
Texas A&M track star and Olympian Athing Mu broke records and won two gold medals in the Tokyo Olympics, which came to an end last week.
Only 19 years old, Mu was one of the breakout stars of the Tokyo Olympic games, by winning the gold medal in the 800m with a record time of 1:55.21, becoming the first American woman to win the race in 53 years.
She also became the first Aggie, regardless of gender, to win gold in an individual track game.
Her smile was infectious as she dominated a talented 800 meter field to win the gold in that event.
Then, not long before the closing of the games, she anchored Team USA in the 4×400 meter relay to win gold alongside Sydney McLaughlin, Allyson Felix and Dalilah Muhammad. With a final time of 3:16.85, Team USA beat runner-ups Poland and Jamaica by nearly four seconds.
British Athletics will be spared the embarrassment of Justin Gatlin racing at its inaugural Athletics World Cup in London next month – but the event has been hit by further indifference from athletes in the US.
Sportsmail revealed in May that the new meet at the London Stadium on July 14-15 was suffering a headache with major doubts over the participation of bigger name athletes, including US sprinter Christian Coleman.
That situation has now been heightened with almost half of the USA’s eligible gold medallists from non-relay events at the 2016 Olympics and 2017 world championships ruling themselves out of selection by skipping their national outdoors championships, which start on Thursday in Iowa.
The list of absentees includes Torie Bowie, the 100m world champion, and 2017 100m world gold medallist Gatlin, as well as Allyson Felix, LaShawn Merritt, Brianna Rollins-McNeal, Kerron Clement, Dalilah Muhammad, Brittney Reese and Tianna Bartoletta, who are all either reigning world or Olympic champions.
A spokesperson for USA Track and Field confirmed to Sportsmail that their absence from the national championships would prevent them from being selected. Coleman, the fastest man in the world last year, is also confirmed as absent.
In the cases of Merritt, Gatlin and Rollins-McNeal, who have each previously served drugs bans, it avoids any awkwardness for the British Athletics, which launched the World Cup but has no hand in the selections of the other seven nations taking part.
They have previously snubbed Gatlin for invitations to their events on the grounds of not wanting athletes who ‘bring the sport into disrepute’.
Who’s the world’s best man over 200m? Should be simple enough. Turkey’s Ramil Guliyev won the world title in London last year.
But, hold on, 10 people recorded faster times in 2017. One of them – Andre de Grasse – won silver behind Usain Bolt at Rio 2016, before a hamstring injury denied him a shot at the worlds. The Canadian, then?
But what about South African star Wayde van Niekerk who had two of the four fastest times of 2017? Or Yohan Blake who is still the second fastest of all time? Or perhaps American Christian Coleman, whose upward trajectory continues apace.
From April, the IAAF intends to sort such crowded scenes into an athletics world order.
What’s the change?
A new world ranking system – similar to those seen in tennis or golf – will provide a run-down of the best athletes in each event.
So in the same way that tennis’ tour organisers, through heavy-duty number crunching, define Roger Federer and Simona Halep as the best players in the world, the IAAF will rank their stars.
It won’t end the eternal bar-room debate, but it will attempt to provide an objective answer.
What rides on it?
Not just prestige. Qualification for IAAF events will move away from obtaining one-off qualifications times, distances and heights and instead be based on athletes’ position in the rankings.
No longer will it be possible to bank on an early-season high-altitude outlier performance as a ticket to the biggest championships.
Instead their five best performances over the previous 12 months, weighted on the profile and significance of the event where they were laid down, will be averaged out to form an athlete’s ranking.
With IAAF qualification as the lure, it is designed to produce consistently more competitive match-ups throughout the sport.
Where have the rankings come from?
They may be new to the IAAF, but the basis of the rankings has been around for decades.
The IAAF have bought up and brought in house a system used to create the previously independent and incredibly detailed All-Athletics rankings.
Essentially a family-run business inherited from his father by Hungarian Atilla Spiriev, the All-Athletics website took more than 9500 events into consideration in 2017 to decide the best of the best.
Such was the respect that they commanded in the sport that some athletes reportedly had their sponsorship deals tied to their All-Athletics ranking.
The IAAF even published the rankings themselves between 2000 and 2006, using them as a talking point for fans before the project fell out of favour with the organisation’s hierarchy.
After tweaking and fine-tuning the All-Athletics model to their own taste, the IAAF will soft-launch the rankings’ latest incarnation, before they come into full effect in September.
That will allow a full 12 months for the rankings to form the basis of qualification for next year’s World Championships in Doha.
World rankings v world records
Could the rankings do something perhaps more significant, though? Could it change the conversation around the sport – switching from historical benchmarks to present-day rivalries?
In May last year, European Athletics – the continental governing body – proposed a ‘year zero’ for world records, wiping out those set before 2005.
Svein Arne Hansen, the European Athletics president, explained that the cut-off date would help restore credibility to the sport as world records “are meaningless if people don’t really believe them”.
A ranking system fans buy into could shift the narrative away from troublesome other-worldy records to extraordinary on-track clashes.
The longest-standing world record on the books was set in Munich in July 1983 – nearly 35 years ago – when the Czech Republic and Slovakia where still one and 32-year-old national Jarmila Kratochvilova ran an eye-popping one minute 53.28 for the 800m.
For a measure, South Africa’s all-conquering Caster Semenya was nearly two seconds off that pace as she claimed gold in the event at London 2017.
Kratochvilova has denied that her extraordinary performance was assisted by the systematic doping regime that existed in her country at the time.
Paula Radcliffe’s 2003 marathon record would also fall foul of a 2005 cut-off designed to coincide with the introduction of storage of blood and urine samples for retrospective testing.
The Briton attacked the proposal as a “heavy-handed” and “cowardly” way to deal with some “really suspicious” records and the proposal seems to have been quietly ushered into the long grass.
How close have modern athletes got?
For athletics chiefs the problem remains though that some world records seem so far out of reach for today’s generation as to be all but irrelevant.
The graphic above shows how close another athlete has got to the current world-record holder over the last five years.
On the track, East German athlete Marita Koch’s 33-year-old 400m mark of 47.60 – also open to suspicion – is streets ahead of the 49.26 s run by American Allyson Felix in winning her world title in 2013.
While modern great Valerie Adams is almost two metres short of what Soviet shot-putter Natalya Lisovskaya achieved in 1987.
Beyond individual injustices, there are other reasons to be cautious about the ‘year zero’ proposal.
Not every seemingly indelible record has remained untouched in today’s era of more stringent doping controls for instance.
Most noticeably, Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana dropped jaws around the Olympic Stadium in Rio when she shattered the 10,000m world record set by China’s Wang Junxia in 1993 by a mammoth 14 seconds.
And seismic step-changes in what is possible are some of the sport’s most cherished moments.
Bob Beamon’s landmark long-jump leap of 8.90m at the 1968 Olympics was beyond the limit of the measuring equipment of the day.
“That’s not a time, it sounds like my dad’s birthday,” said rival Ato Bolden in disbelief after Michael Johnson’s 19.32-run took more than a third of a second off the 200m world record in 1996.
Jonathan Edwards, whose triple jump world record would be wiped by a pre-2005 purge, has also urged caution in presuming that improbable field world records are the product of cheating.
For him, the delicate alchemy behind his 1995 leap of 18.29 proved impossible to replicate despite apparently superior ingredients.
“I was actually faster and stronger after I set that world record in Gothenburg, “he told BBC Sport in July.
“But for whatever reason, I could not translate that into more distance. It is difficult to predict how technique and physique combine, perhaps more than in track events.”
The fear remains though that, short of a whitewash, athletics may never be rid of some marks that are more like suspicious stains on its history.