With less than a month to go, Friday 2. December, until the IAAF Athletics Awards 2016 in Monaco, the IAAF can reveal the names of the finalists for the 2016 IAAF World Athlete of the Year awards.
The finalists are (in alphabetical order):
Usain Bolt (JAM)
Mo Farah (GBR)
Wayde van Niekerk (RSA)
Almaz Ayana (ETH)
Elaine Thompson (JAM)
Anita Wlodarczyk (POL)
The finalists were determined by a three-way voting process. The IAAF Council’s vote counted for 50% of the result, the IAAF Family’s* vote counted for 25% and a public vote, conducted via social media, counted for 25% of the final result.
The World Athletes of the Year will be announced live on stage at the IAAF Athletics Awards 2016.
ALMAZ AYANA (ETH)
Picking up brilliantly where she left off in 2015 as the world 5000m champion, 24-year-old Almaz Ayana ventured into territory few would have considered a possibility this year.
Opening her season with an 8:23.11 victory over 3000m at the IAAF Diamond League series opener in Doha, Ayana proceeded to rewrite the all-time lists in the 5000m. After a 14:16.31 performance in Rabat, she threatened the world record with a 14:12.59 run in Rome, the second-fastest performance of all time.
That momentum continued in late June at the Ethiopian Olympic trials for 10,000m where Ayana triumphed in 30:07.00, the fastest ever debut over the distance. In Rio she went faster still, opening the Oympic athletics programme with a stunning 10,000m world record of 29:17.45 that knocked more than 14 seconds from a record set 23 years earlier.
At 5000m, Ayana took Olympic bronze and won the Diamond Race.
ELAINE THOMPSON (JAM)
Jamaican Elaine Thompson arrived in Rio known mainly for her exploits as a 200m runner. She left as the sport’s new sprint queen.
In the 100m she stormed to a 10.71 victory, the second-fastest winning time in an Olympic final. Her performance was just 0.01 shy of the lifetime best she set in Kingston six weeks earlier which elevated the 24-year-old to the No.4 spot on the world all-time list.
In the 200m final four days later, she was even more dominant. Well ahead in the first half, she handily fended off a late-race challenge by Dafne Schippers to win in 21.78, also a world lead, to the Dutchwoman’s 21.88 to reverse their finish from the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015.
She also earned Olympic 4x100m silver, world indoor 60m bronze, and ended the season undefeated in eight 100m finals.
ANITA WLODARCZYK (POL)
Few athletes began the Olympic season as strong a favorite for gold as was Anita Wlodarczyk in the hammer.
She lived up to expectations brilliantly, dominating the competition in Rio with three of the five longest throws in history, topped by a monster effort of 82.29m.
That throw added 1.21m to the world record she set last year in Cetniewo, Poland, and was her 11th victory of the season in as many competitions. But there was more.
In her final competition of the year before a home crowd in Warsaw, the 31-year-old broke the world record again, this time with an 82.98m effort to extend her victory streak to 30 finals, which also included a third successive European title and the IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge crown.
USAIN BOLT (JAM)
Usain Bolt went on to make history at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, but early in the season, some doubts arose if he’d even reach the Rio start line.
Opening the season with three 100m victories in as many outings, the quickest in 9.88 in Kingston on 11 June, Bolt was sidelined by a hamstring injury which struck at the Jamaican Trials. He didn’t contest the final, choosing to rest and recuperate for three weeks until his next outing.
He returned to action at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in London where he won the 200m in 19.89, a race that was his final tune-up prior to the opening round of the 100m at the Olympic Games.
In Brazil, Bolt felt very much at home. First he dominated the 100m in 9.81 and came back four days later with a 19.78 victory in the 200m to secure a third straight Olympic title over both distances, a first. The following day he anchored Jamaica to victory in the 4x100m in 37.27, the fourth fastest of all time. His 9.81 gold medal-winning performance in Rio was the second fastest in the world, his 19.78 in the 200m the third fastest.
He ended his season unbeaten in six individual finals, having made history as the first athlete to win three consecutive Olympic triples.
MO FARAH (GBR)
Setting out on a historic course of his own, Mo Farah began his 5000m/10,000m double-double Olympic gold quest in earnest at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene where he beat a solid field over 10,000m in 26:53.71, a time which would hold up as the second fastest in the world this year.
A 3000m victory followed nine days later at the IAAF Diamond League stop in Birmingham. His final pre-Rio tune-up came in London; a 12:59.29 victory and world lead signalled he would arrive in Rio ready.
Once in Brazil, the scene was similar to that in every world or Olympic final since 2012. First came victory in the 10,000m in 27:05.17; a week later a successful title defence in the 5000m, where he clocked 13:03.30 to double his lifetime Olympic gold medal haul to four.
Farah, 33, ended the season unbeaten in six races over distances from 3000 to 10,000m, and, illustrating his exceptional range, also captured bronze at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff in March.
WAYDE VAN NIEKERK (RSA)
Unlike Bolt and Farah, who set out to make Olympic history this year, Wayde van Niekerk’s primary objective was to enter the Olympic pantheon by building upon the foundation that led him to 400m world title in 2015. The 24-year-old succeeded brilliantly, by becoming one of the finest all-around sprinters in the world.
Van Niekerk ended the season unbeaten in 11 finals across three events – the 100m, 200m and 400m – but it was in the latter, his speciality, that he proved most astounding.
After a pair of routine races in the heats and semis, Van Niekerk romped home in the Olympic final, clocking a 43.03 world record from lane eight. He eclipsed the previous mark of 43.18 set by Michael Johnson 17 years earlier with a run that knocked a massive 0.45 from his previous personal best.
Earlier in the season, Van Niekerk produced a 100m PB of 9.98, making him the first man in history to run faster than 10 seconds for 100m, 20 seconds for 200m and 44 seconds for 400m. He also won the African titles at 200m and the 4x100m.
All photos: Getty Images