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Anita Wlodarczyk goes airborne, Rio 2016, photo by PhotoRun.net

Polish Hammer Thrower Did It All

Now that the 2016 track & field season has concluded and while memories of the many electrifying performances of this Olympic year still linger, it is the perfect time to look back on a terrific year for our sport on the track and in the field and determine who is worthy to be named the Track & Field Female Athlete of the Year.

And before we begin to assess the credentials of the best candidates, we would do well to remind ourselves of the generally-accepted evaluation criteria: (i) Progression Of Marks: How fast an athlete ran, how far an athlete threw, and how high an athlete jumped - and the progression achieved throughout the season - are given influential, but not overwhelming weight; (ii) Head-To-Head Competition: More important than mere marks, did the candidate compete against the world's best? And how well did the athlete compete against world class peers?; and (iii) Honors Won: Most importantly, how did the athlete perform in the year's most celebrated and important competitions? Did the athlete perform best on the world's biggest stages when it counted the most?

In an Olympic year where all athletes strive to produce career-best performances, those seeking AOY recognition are up against a daunting task. Near perfection throughout the year is required. Did your performances include a personal best, maybe a national, or even a world record? Were you undefeated in your event? Did you win a Diamond League trophy? Did you capture that Olympic gold medal? "No's" to even a few of these inquiries suggest your great year was not the best year and are enough to send you to the sidelines.

This annual process of subjective evaluation quite frequently promotes consternation in our sport where success is precisely measured by the objective criteria of Citius, Altius, Fortius. But press on we must - ladies first, with the men to follow. Feel free to disagree, but here is my listing of the best track & field female athletes of this year as well as the 2016 Track & Field Female Athlete of the Year.

Honorable Mention [in alphabetical order]: Tianna Bartoletta [Olympic gold medals in a track event (leadoff leg of USA's winning 4x100 relay) and in a field event (long jump gold when she uncorked a 5th round PR leap of 7.17m/23'6¼")]; Michelle Carter [In both the indoor Worlds and Olympic Games, her 6th round American record heaves vaulted her to buzzer-beater, walk-off gold medals in the shot put]; Vivian Cheruiyot [Olympic champ at 5000m, she also took silver in the 10,000m with a clocking of 29:32.53 - 3rd fastest time ever - in the greatest-ever women's 10,000m]; Kendra Harrison [Her 12.20 clocking took down Yordanka Donkova's 28 year old 100H WR; A dominating Diamond League champion, Harrison won 10 of 11 races and posted 8 of the world's 9 fastest times this year; But for her Olympic Games absence and what might have been, she would have been able to make a strong case for this year's AOY recognition...]; and Caterine Ibarquen [This Olympic and Diamond League triple jump champion produced the15.17m / 51'8¾" world leader and 5 of the year's top 8 jumps.]

And now - in ascending order - our 5 finalists:

#5. Elaine Thompson. Another in the line of great Jamaican sprinters, Thompson copped Olympic gold in both the 100m and the 200m. Both her top sprint times of 10.70 and 21.78 were world leaders. She won the Diamond League 100m trophy. Only an Olympic or global record is missing.

#4. Ruth Jebet. The Kenyan steeplechaser had a marvelous year. Her three sub-9:00 clockings were atop this year's world leader board and are #1, #3, and #4 all-time. A clear Diamond League trophy winner, Jebet ran a late season 8:52.78 to break the 8-year old world record by over 6 seconds. How could her year have been more impressive or more dominant?

#3. Sandra Perkovic. This Croatian field star once again dominated the discus. Undefeated throughout the year, Perkovic was the discus winner in the European Championship, the Diamond League race, and the Olympic Games. She produced the 5 longest throws of the year including the world leader at 70.88m / 232'6".

#2. Almaz Ayana. In the Olympic 10,000m final, Ayana simply demolished a world class field in a race considered by many as the greatest women's 10,000m competition of all time as the top 13 finishers set either personal bests or national records. In crossing the line in 29:17.45 she took down the 1993 world record set by China's Junxia Wang of 29:31.78 - a suspicious, potentially drug-tainted mark. Later the bronze medalist in the Olympic 5000m, Ayana was the Diamond League champion at that distance. Ayana had the year's 3 best marks at 5000m and her 14:12.59 ranks #2 on the all-time list.

#1. Anita Wlodarczyk. The Polish hammer thrower began the Olympic year as the world record-holding world champion with an all-time global best of 81.08m / 266'11". During the Olympic year she compiled the top 10 throws of the year, including 3 over 80 meters - a distance never reached by any other woman. She now holds he top 9 throws on the all-time world list. During the year she broke her own world record twice - once in the Olympic final and an even better mark of 82.98m / 272'9" after the Games - while completing an undefeated season which saw her capture Olympic gold and win the European championship and IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge. Had the Diamond League offered a hammer throw competition, it seems safe to say Anita Wlodarczyk would have been its champion. By completing an undefeated season, compiling the year's top 10 throws, breaking her own world record twice, and capturing Olympic, European, and IAAF titles, Anita Wlodarczyk has shown she is the Female Track & Field Athlete of the year.

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Dunaway AwardAt the 2019 annual meeting of the Track and Field Writers of America, Dave was presented with the James Dunaway Memorial Award “for track & field journalism excellence.”

Dave Hunter

Dave HunterDave Hunter is a track & field journalist, announcer, and broadcaster.  Dave reports on the premier track & field gatherings around the globe, frequently serves as an arena or stadium announcer for championship events, and has undertaken foreign and domestic broadcast assignments in the sport.


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