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Last week, we dissected the men’s field for the IAAF Athlete of the Year. Today, I’ll run through the final 11 for the women’s award. It’s a competitive group, with at least four with a compelling cases to win. Here are the nominees:
Beatrice Chepkoech, Kenya: Steeplechase
Chepkoech dominated her event, losing only one race all year and winning the Diamond League and World Championships titles. Her fastest mark of the season was the 5th quickest in history (8:55.58), but 11 seconds off her own world record in the event. Competing against yourself in this instance is close to impossible and in retrospect, Chepkoech’s 2018 should have deserved more consideration.
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Jamaica: Sprints
Fraser-Pryce had one of the best seasons of her career, and did it two years after giving birth. Her 10.71 at the World Championships was the best time of the year and the perfect end to a season where she broke 10.80 on four occasions. She did lose three times in the 100m, once at the Jamaican Championships in Kingston, a puzzling 8th-place finish at the Prefontaine Classic and runner-up at the Diamond League final in Brussels.
Malaika Mihambo, Germany: Long Jump
Probably the most underrated of all the finalists, Mihambo was undefeated outdoors, winning all 10 of her competitions including the Diamond League and the World Championships. Her best jump, 7.30m, came at the biggest meet of the year in Doha--a mark only three women have bettered in the 2000s.
Female Athlete of the Year nominee Malaika Mihambo:— IAAF (@iaaforg) October 25, 2019
- won the world long jump title with a world-leading 7.30m
- won the #DiamondLeague title
- undefeated outdoors
Have your say - voting closes November 5th🗳 pic.twitter.com/7Oket4YqEm
Katarina Johnson-Thompson, Great Britain: Multi-events
Multi-event athletes share similar traits to marathon runners. They compete sparingly at their event and their margin for error is basically zero when it comes to these awards. KJT did all she could in 2019. She took gold in the European indoor pentathlon. She won in Gotzis. And she defeated Nafi Thiam to become world champion in Doha. Her score of 6981 broke the British record and put her behind only five women on the all-time list.
Sifan Hassan, Netherlands: Distance
Where to begin…..she pulled off the Sifanathon in Doha, dominating both the 1500m and 10,000m. She only attempted those two races because of a quirk in the schedule, but I think it helped strengthen her case for an award like this.
Her 3:59 split in the final 1500m of the 10,000m and her front-running 3:51 to destroy the field in the 1500m added some panache. These weren’t regular wins and this wasn’t a regular double. There’s a reason nobody has done it before.
She also won Diamond League titles in the 15000m and 5000m and broke the world record in the mile. If a world record isn’t in your top list of accomplishments, you’ve had a good year. She did lose, so if you're going to make the case against Hassan you can point out three early season defeats in the 1500m as well as two losses in the 5000m. To me, those are drowned out by what she did later in the season, not to mention running 8:18 in the 3000m and putting up a 65-minute half marathon.
Brigid Kosgei, Kenya: Marathon/Half Marathon
Kosgei most recently set the women’s world record on fire in Chicago, running 2:14:04 and maybe/kind of/possibly taking some of the attention away from Eliud Kipchoge on a weekend where he ran 1:59:40. That alone is worthy of the award.
Outside of that run in Chicago, Kosgei also won the London Marathon and ran the fastest time ever recorded for a half marathon, 1:04:28.
Dalilah Muhammad, USA: 400m Hurdles
Muhammad broke the world record twice, with both coming in championship settings when the pressure was at its highest. To win gold in Doha, she had to beat the second-fastest woman in history, Sydney McLaughlin. Muhammad did lose twice on the year, losses that ended up not being consequential in her quest for gold, but could be used as comparison points with others in this list.
Female Athlete of the Year nominee @DalilahMuhammad:— IAAF (@iaaforg) October 28, 2019
- broke world record with 52.20 at the US Championships
- improved her own world record to win the world 400m hurdles title in 52.16
- won world 4x400m title
Have your say - voting closes November 5th🗳 pic.twitter.com/yyGjiU9Y0a
Mariya Lasitskene, Authorized Neutral Athlete: High Jump
Lasistskene was great as usual this year. She went 21 for 23, including the gold medal in Doha and the highest jump of the year, 2.06m. She even took some attempts at the world record. Unfortunately, in an event that doesn’t allow for doubling, I think it would have taken a world record and an undefeated record for a high jumper to crack into the top three this year.
Salwa Eid Naser, Bahrain: 200m/400m
Naser had perhaps the most stunning performance of the World Championships, a 48.14 to upset Shaunae Miller-Uibo and win 400m gold. The mark was the third-best of all-time, venturing into territory controlled by women from decades ago. All total, she won all nine of her 400m finals. The only thing that might keep her from finishing the top three was her depth of performances. Yes, she won them all, but she only ran under 50 seconds on two other occasions.
Female Athlete of the Year nominee Salwa Eid Naser:— IAAF (@iaaforg) October 29, 2019
- won world 400m title in 48.14, the third-fastest time in history
- won the #DiamondLeague title and three gold medals at the Asian Championships
- undefeated at 400m outdoors
Have your say - voting closes November 5th🗳 pic.twitter.com/TQnEnbXRvq
Hellen Obiri, Kenya: Distance
Obiri had an interesting year. She won the World Cross Country Championships in the spring and had up-and-down performances on the track. She did, however, end the year as a 5000m gold medalist and the owner of the fastest 5000m of the year, 14:20.36. The latter she ran against Sifan Hassan, but after Hassan took Obiri apart in the 10,000m in Doha, it was clear that Hassan would have won the 5000m if it was possible.
Yulimar Rojas, Venezuela: Triple Jump
Rojas got dangerously close to the world record, jumping 15.41m in Spain before the World Championships. She won comfortably in Doha with a mark of 15.37m, but did have three losses on the year.