Olympic champions Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica and Karsten Warholm of Norway have been named the World Athletes of the Year at the World Athletics Awards 2021, a ceremony held virtually on Wednesday.
World Athletics said that Thompson-Herah produced “one of the finest sprint seasons in history this year,” retaining her Olympic 100m and 200m titles in Tokyo, and adding a third gold medal in the 4x100m relay.
On top of her Olympic triple, World Athletics noted that Thompson-Herah also clocked world-leading times of 10.54 and 21.53 over 100m and 200m respectively, moving to second on the world all-time lists and coming within touching distance of the long-standing world records.
“I just take it year by year,” Thompson-Herah told the ceremony. “I went very close to the world record; so, you know, anything is possible. No spikes hanging up any time soon.
“The World Championships in Oregon is most definitely my next big target,” she added. “It is close to home. I hope friends and family can come out and watch. I hope I get some crowd as well. That couldn’t happen in Tokyo but, hopefully, in Eugene (Oregon), I can get my friends and family to come and cheer me on.”
World Athletics said 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, World Athletics said Warholm “exceeded all expectations in the Japanese capital to claim gold in a stunning world record of 45.94.
“In a race of incredible depth, the top three athletes finished inside the pre-2021 world record,” World Athletics said.
“I’m so happy for this,” said Warholm. “First, when I saw the time (in Tokyo), I was like, ‘This must be a mistake,’ because I didn’t see that one coming. And I didn’t see the victory coming before crossing the finish line.”
World Athletics President Sebastian Coe congratulated all of the ceremony’s winners and finalists on their extraordinary achievements this year.
“We have this year celebrated some jaw-dropping performances in Tokyo, at the World Athletics U20 Championships in Nairobi and through our one-day meeting circuits – the Wanda Diamond League and the Continental Tour,” he said. “So, we’re delighted to recognize some of our stars at tonight’s awards.
“As a sport, we are in an incredibly strong position,” he added. “2021 has been an excellent year. We cemented our position as the number 1 Olympic sport coming out of Tokyo, we have the most God-given talented athletes on the planet and our sport is the most accessible of all sports.
“Thank you to all our athletes around the world,” Coe continued. “I am looking forward to watching what you can all do in 2022.”
With two World records, two Olympic records, four Olympic gold medals, and two Diamond League titles between them, the North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletics Association (NACAC) said “it’s fair to say that Ryan Crouser and Elaine Thompson-Herah have dominated 2021.
“Their performances this year have seen them named as Athletes of the Year,” said NACAC on Nov. 8.
It said Crouser owns both World records, resetting the men’s shot put standard indoors and out this past season.
The 28-year-old American champion also captured the NACAC Indoor Male Athlete of the Year, which he followed up with gold at the Tokyo Olympics and the Diamond League trophy.
“But it was the 29-year-old Jamaican, Thompson-Herah, who truly captured the public imagination,” NACAC said. “The double women’s sprint champion from the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, she turned in performances the likes of which have not been seen since at least four years before her birth.
“Thompson-Herah’s 2021 season will go down in history, as she produced one of the greatest runs of excellence of all time,” it added. “Within the span of just over three weeks, between the end of July and late August, she won two individual gold medals at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
“Her 100m win came in an Olympic record time of 10.61, while her 200m victory four days thence yielded a national record time of 21.53 seconds,” NACAC continued.
It said that, shortly after her double Olympic triumph, which she topped off by winning the sprint relay with Jamaica, Thompson-Herah lined up at the Prefontaine Classic, in Hayward Field, Eugene, Oregon.
“She stamped her class with a run of 10.54 seconds, a new national record, and–like her 200m Olympic win–the fastest time in the world since Florence Griffith-Joyner’s World record in 1988,” NACAC said.
It said Thompson-Herah would go on to take her third Diamond League title, winning the women’s 100m final in Zürich with a time of 10.65 seconds. It was the seventh Diamond League title for Jamaica in the women’s 100m, NACAC said.
It said only five women this century have ended a season with the fastest times in both the 100m and 200m.
Coming into the season, four of those five were Jamaican, NACAC said, adding that “this season, Thompson-Herah became the first woman ever to repeat that feat following her 2016 success.”
In the process, NACAC said Thompson-Herah went under the 10.80-second barrier 15 times.
“Only her compatriot Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, has more such runs,” it said. “But Thompson-Herah is the queen of sub-10.70 runs, with four such, more even than Flo Jo.
Thompson-Herah, Fraser-Pryce, and Shericka Jackson completed the Tokyo women’s 100m medal podium, and the three Jamaicans have combined for 34 runs under 11 seconds this year, NACAC said.
“The athletics fraternity will be eager to see what Thompson-Herah can produce in 2022,” it said. “The World Championships beckon. She is defending champion. The event will be held at the venue where she ran closer to the World record than anyone has done in over 30 years.
“It’s the first time the United States will host the World Championships, and excitement is sure to be at a fever pitch,” NACAC added. “Whatever happens next year will be for another article.
“Suffice it to say that beyond a shadow of a doubt, as far as athletics goes, 2021 belonged to Elaine Thompson-Herah,” NACAC continued. “In uncertain, challenging times, she treated the world to superlative displays that will mark this as one of the greatest years ever in women’s sprints.”