Why Thompson and Warholm won World Athlete of the Year awards

Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica and Karsten Warholm of Norway. [Courtesy]

There's no denying that Olympic champions Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica and Karsten Warholm of Norway deserved being named the World Athletes of the Year.

In a ceremony held virtually on Wednesday night, the two crowned what has been an impressive year on the track.

Kenyans in world marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge, Olympic 1500m champion Faith Chepng’etich Kipyegon and 800m specialist Emmanuel Wanyonyi missed the prestigious titles.

World 800m record holder David Rudisha (2010) and Kipchoge (2018 and 2019) are the only Kenyans who have won the global awards. Former world 5000m champion Daniel Kipng’etich Komen missed the title by one vote in 1996.

In 2011, Vivian Cheruiyot narrowly missed the crown as she lost to Australia’s 400m hurdler Sally Pearson.

In an outstanding year for sprinting, Elaine Thompson-Herah was the top performer in the world and became the first woman in history to win back-to-back Olympic sprint doubles.

The Jamaican got her 2021 season off to a strong start, speeding to a wind-assisted 10.76 and a wind-legal 10.78 in early May.

Many would have forgiven Thompson-Herah for taking her foot off the gas after the euphoria of her Olympic triple triumph, but she stunned the world yet again in her first race after the Games.

Up against another high-quality 100m field at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Eugene, she stormed to victory in 10.54, consolidating her position as the second-fastest woman in history for the event.

She rounded off her season with a 10.64 run in Lausanne, finishing a close second to Fraser-Pryce, and victories in Paris (10.72) and at the Wanda Diamond League final in Zurich (10.65) – her 15th sub-11-second performance of the year.

Warholm uncorked one of the most remarkable performances in athletics history when he stormed to gold in the 400m hurdles at the Tokyo Olympics.

Having already broken the world record with 46.70 in Oslo in the lead-up to the Games, Warholm exceeded all expectations in the Japanese capital to claim gold in a stunning world record of 45.94.

Kipyegon, 27, won the Olympic 1500m title in August, becoming only the third woman to retain her title after becoming a mother in-between the Games. She won the World Athletics Diamond League trophy and set the national 1500m record.

Kipyegon enjoyed a near-perfect season in 1500m in what excited athletics fans, given that she overcame strong challenge from Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan.

She won the Monaco meeting with a world-leading and national record of 3:51.07 – just one second shy of the world record – and then notched up victories at the Olympics with a Games record of 3:53.11 and at the Diamond League final in Zurich.

Kipchoge won the NN Mission Marathon in Enschede, The Netherlands, in April, beating 45 world-class marathoners who were seeking to qualify for Tokyo Olympic Games. He won by almost two minutes in 2:04:30.

He also retained his Olympic title.

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