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The leading athletes of 2021 will be crowned later this year at the World Athletics Awards 2021.
Following last week’s announcement of the 10 nominees for the Female World Athlete of the Year 2021, we take a closer look at their seasons.
Valarie Allman (USA) discus
In 2021 the US thrower built on the breakthrough she made last year to establish herself as the world’s No.1 in the discus.
She broached the 70-metre line in the qualifying round of the US Trials and then secured the title one day later with 69.92m. Allman then earned Olympic gold in Tokyo with her opening-round effort of 68.98m, ultimately winning by more than two metres. She then went on to win the Wanda Diamond League title, followed three days later by a world-leading throw of 71.16m, breaking the long-standing North American record.
In total, Allman won nine of her 12 competitions in 2021 and ended the year with 13 of the top 16 throws in the world, all of them beyond 68 metres.
Jasmine Camacho-Quinn (PUR) 100m hurdles
The Puerto Rican went undefeated for the duration of the 2021 season in all 15 100m hurdles races that she finished, including heats.
Her streak included winning Olympic gold in 12.37, having set an Olympic record of 12.26 in the semifinals. She also picked up victories at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Florence and the Continental Tour Gold meetings in Eugene, Hengelo and Szekesfehervar.
Her world-leading 12.26 clocking moves her to equal fourth on the world all-time list. She ends 2021 with the five fastest times in the world this year, all of them inside 12.40.
Sifan Hassan (NED) 1500m, 5000m and 10,000m
The Dutch distance runner was one of the stars of the Games as she emerged from Tokyo with three medals, two of them gold.
In an audacious bid for three golds, Hassan landed her first Olympic title in the 5000m, having contested the heats of the 1500m earlier that day. She went on to race two more rounds of the 1500m, eventually securing the bronze medal, then 24 hours later she was back on track for the 10,000m – the discipline in which she’d broken the world record earlier in the year – and she triumphed in 29:55.32 in what was her sixth race of the Games.
Had Hassan entered the Olympics as an individual one-woman team, she’d have finished 11th on the medals table.
Faith Kipyegon (KEN) 1500m
In a near-perfect season, the Kenyan middle-distance runner dominated the 1500m.
Her only defeat of 2021 came in her first race of the year over her specialist distance. In an enthralling duel with Sifan Hassan at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Florence, Kipyegon finished a close second in a national record of 3:53.91.
From there on, Kipyegon went undefeated, winning in Monaco with a world-leading national record of 3:51.07 – just one second shy of the world record – and then notching up victories at the Olympics with a Games record of 3:53.11 and at the Wanda Diamond League final in Zurich.
Mariya Lasitskene (ANA) high jump
The three-time world champion made her long-awaited Olympic debut in 2021 and grasped the opportunity to win high jump gold.
In a gripping final, Lasitskene cleared 2.04m to land the high jump title in Tokyo. She went even higher one month later, sailing over a world-leading 2.05m to secure the Wanda Diamond League title in Zurich.
In what turned out to be a busy season, Lasitskene won 14 of her 18 competitions between January and September.
Sydney McLaughlin (USA) 400m hurdles
The uber-talented US athlete came of age in 2021, securing her first senior global title and setting two world records along the way.
Having started her season with a handful of races in the 100m hurdles, reducing her best to 12.65, McLaughlin opened her 400m hurdles campaign with a 52.83 clocking in Nashville – the fastest season opener in history for the event. It provided a small taste of what was to come as she went on to win the US Olympic Trials in a world record of 51.90, producing the first sub-52-second time in history to defeat world champion Dalilah Muhammad.
The pair faced off again in the Olympic final in another mouth-watering clash, and once again the world record fell as McLaughlin triumphed in 51.46. She added another gold medal to her collection three days later as part of the victorious USA 4x400m squad.
Shaunae Miller-Uibo (BAH) 200m and 400m
A mid-season change of plans paid dividends for the Bahamian sprinter.
Having started the year by focusing on the 200m, Miller-Uibo gravitated back towards her specialist event, the 400m, as the season went on. She contested both disciplines at the Olympics and reached the finals of both, but she excelled over one lap of the track.
Producing the race of her life, Miller-Uibo stopped the clock at 48.36 to successfully defend her Olympic title. Not only was her time a world-leading mark, it was also an improvement on her own continental record.
Athing Mu (USA) 400m and 800m
The 19-year-old US athlete achieved more in one season than what many older and experienced athletes achieve in a lifetime.
At the start of the year, Mu set a world U20 indoor record of 1:58.40 for 800m. Outdoors, she broke 50 seconds for 400m three times, topped by a North American U20 record of 49.57, but it was over 800m where she made a name for herself. Having won the US Trials with a world-leading 1:56.07, she went even faster at the Tokyo Games, winning gold in 1:55.21. Four days later, she anchored the USA to victory in the 4x400m with a 48.32 split, producing a winning time of 3:16.85 – the fastest in the world for 28 years.
She ended her season with victory at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Eugene in a world-leading 1:55.04, once again breaking her own North American U20 record.
Yulimar Rojas (VEN) triple jump
The Venezuelan triple jumper’s 2021 campaign has been even better than last season when she ended the year being named the World Female Athlete of 2020.
Not including qualifying rounds, Rojas jumped beyond 15 metres in all eight of her competitions, indoors and outdoors. She set a PB of 15.43m in her second competition of the year, but went even farther at the Olympic Games, taking gold with a stunning world record of 15.67m.
She came close to that mark in her final two competitions of the year, leaping a wind-assisted 15.56m and a wind-legal 15.52 in Lausanne, followed by a 15.48m victory at the Wanda Diamond League final in Zurich. In this year alone, Rojas has produced seven of the eight best jumps in history in all conditions.
Elaine Thompson-Herah (JAM) 100m and 200m
In 2021 the Jamaican enjoyed one of the finest sprint seasons in history.
She clocked 10.78 over 100m at an early season meeting in Clermont, but she started to move up a gear in July when winning in Szekesfehervar in 10.71. By the time she reached the Olympics, Thompson-Herah was in a class of her own as she retained her 100m and 200m titles in 10.61 and 21.53. She added another gold medal to her collection in the 4x100m, which she and her Jamaican teammates won in a national record of 41.02.
In her first race after the Olympics, she won the 100m in Eugene in a world-leading 10.54. She now ranks second on the world all-time lists for the 100m and 200m.