Sha'Carri Richardson and Shericka Jackson trail Faith Kipyegon by a mile in Athlete of the Year race

ATHLETICS: Sha'Carri Richardson and Shericka Jackson trail Faith Kipyegon by a mile in Athlete of the Year race

Festus Chuma 11:00 - 21.09.2023

Faith Kipyegon's 2023 dominance, breaking world records, and strong competition set the stage for a thrilling World Athlete of the Year showdown.

World Athletics is gearing up to unveil the nominees for the highly anticipated World Athlete of the Year award in October, a momentous occasion that will celebrate the exceptional athletes of 2023 come November. 

Among the remarkable contenders, Faith Kipyegon, the Kenyan sensation, stands poised to trounce her competitors, Sha'Carri Richardson and Shericka Jackson, in the race for this prestigious gong.

Kipyegon, at 29 years old, boasts an illustrious track record as a multiple Olympic and world champion, previously etching her name in history with a world record of 3:49.11 in Florence. 

However, what truly sets her apart in this year's race is her astounding feat of shattering not one but three world records, a breathtaking achievement that has left the global athletics community in awe.

The first of her record-breaking exploits occurred in her specialty event, the 1500m, where she sliced nearly a second off Genzebe Dibaba's previous mark of 3:50.07. What makes this achievement all the more exceptional is the remarkable negative split Kipyegon executed during the race, showcasing her strategic brilliance. While the world celebrated her as the best middle-distance runner in history, she had even more astonishing performances up her sleeve.

A mere week later, in the bustling city of Paris, Kipyegon rewrote the history books once again, this time in the 5,000m event. In a stunning display of her prowess, she became the first athlete ever to break two world records in a single Diamond League season. Kipyegon's lightning-fast time of 14:05.20 eclipsed Letesenbet Gidey's 5,000m world standard of 14:06.62, a record that had stood since 2020.

Ordinarily, one world record coupled with Olympic or World Championship gold would be sufficient to secure a spot among the frontrunners for the World Athlete of the Year award. However, Kipyegon's extraordinary achievement of three world records before the global event has firmly established her as a frontrunner and a near-certain winner of this prestigious accolade.

In contrast, Sha'Carri Richardson, despite a strong season, faces a formidable challenge. She has undeniably been the most consistent 100m runner of the year, with five of the eight fastest 100m times of 2023 belonging to her. Her dominance began early in the outdoor season, where in May, she clocked a blazing time of 10.76.

This transformation is nothing short of remarkable, especially when one looks back just a year prior. In 2022, Richardson's best time of 10.85 placed her a modest 32nd on the year's list of top performers. She managed to register only three times in the top 100. In contrast, 2023 has seen Richardson hit her peak at precisely the right time.

Her gold-winning performance at the 2023 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, is a testament to her championship mettle. She soared to victory with a time of 10.65, displaying the heart of a true champion as she delivered her absolute best when it mattered the most.

On the other hand, Shericka Jackson, renowned as the fastest woman alive in the 200m, is determined to challenge the legacy of the late Florence Joyner, the world record holder in this category. Jackson, an American sprinter, is poised to end Jackson's reign as they prepare for the upcoming year.

A closer look at Jackson's performance in 2023 reveals the strategic timing of her achievements. Four of her top five times this year were recorded between July and August, with eight of her top 10 times occurring in the month leading up to or during the World Athletics Championships.

At just 23 years old, Jackson's list of accomplishments in 2023 is already impressive. She added a 200m bronze and a 4x100m relay gold to her collection of medals. Furthermore, her remarkable season includes three Diamond League victories in the 100m category. Jackson is even contemplating a celebratory tour to connect with her fans and share the joy of her remarkable achievements.

In the history of the World Athlete of the Year award, only two Kenyan athletes have claimed this prestigious honor. Eliud Kipchoge secured the award in consecutive years, following his world record-breaking performance at the Berlin Marathon. Similarly, David Rudisha clinched the title in 2012 after breaking the 800m world record on his way to winning the London Olympics gold.

This precedent undoubtedly bodes well for Faith Kipyegon's chances, as her incredible trio of world records and championship victories make her a standout candidate. Nevertheless, her fans and Kenyans in general remain cautious, remembering a past injustice when Vivian Cheruiyot was ‘unfairly’ denied the 2011 award despite securing gold in both the 5,000m and 10,000m at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea.