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My Votes for Women’s Track and Field Athlete of the Year

posted by The Track & Field Superblog
Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 7:27am EST

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My last post listed my top five picks (out of ten) for Track and Field News’ men’s Athlete of the Year, as I’m part of the panel of experts (which is now a panel of experts plus one blowhard).

Here are my top five for the women’s Athlete of the Year, submitted earlier today.

My vote for the Track and Field News’ female Athlete of the Year…

1. Val Adams (New Zealand/Shot put)
My criteria for Athlete of the Year are a few simple: how much did the athlete dominate her event, both this year and historical terms? Did the athlete compete a lot or sparingly? Did she duck the competition or seek it out?

After we strike the notorious Nadzeya Ostapchuk from the record due to her positive doping test, it becomes obvious that Adams is tops in almost all of these categories. She won all 14 shot put competitions she entered this year*, which produced all of the top 11 marks of the 2012. If you allow for multiple marks from each competition, she holds all of the top 25 marks of the year. She entered six of the seven Diamond League meets which held the women’s shot put, plus a World Challenge meet and the World Indoor Championships. She was unbeatable.
*after .

From a historical perspective, she measures up as well as a women’s shot-putter can these days. The all-time list is dominated by athletes from the Cold War era, when what few doping controls existed were easily circumvented. So Adams doesn’t look good as compared to them, and she shouldn’t.

But if you look at only marks from the last 20 years, and exclude athletes who received a major doping ban, then Adams’ best marks this year are at #4, #7, #10 and #12 on this more reasonable all-time list. Here is my adjusted all-time list of the last 20 years, with both top ten marks and top ten individuals…

21.24 Valerie Adams NZL 2011 21.22 Astrid Kumbernuß GER 1997 21.22 Astrid Kumbernuß GER 1995 21.11 Valerie Adams NZL 2012 21.07 Valerie Adams NZL 2009 21.03 Astrid Kumbernuß GER 1997 21.03 Valerie Adams NZL 2012 20.97 Astrid Kumbernuß GER 1996 20.97 Astrid Kumbernuß GER 1995 20.97 Valerie Adams NZL 2012 (ten marks by 2 athletes) 20.84 Svetlana Krivelyova RUS 1993 20.79 Valentina Fedyushina UKR 1994 20.74 Sui Xinmei CHN 1994 20.70 Natalya Mikhnevich BLR 2008 20.57 Huang Zhihong CHN 1993 20.54 Zhang Liuhong CHN 1994 20.53 Kathrin Neimke GER 1995 20.48 Yevgeniya Kolodko RUS 2012


2. Jess Ennis (Great Britain/heptathlon)
Ennis dominated her event, both in 2012 and in historical terms. She put together the best single year in the heptathlon since the days of Jackie Joyner-Kersee. However, my opinion is that two heptathlons is not enough for an Athlete of the Year award.

Again, using my above criteria, here is my adjusted all-time list of the last 20 years, with both top ten marks and top ten individuals…

7032 Carolina Kluft SWE 2007 7001 Carolina Kluft SWE 2003 6955 Jess Ennis GBR 2012 6952 Carolina Kluft SWE 2004 6942 Ghada Shouaa SYR 1996 6906 Jess Ennis GBR 2012 6889 Eunice Barber FRA 2005 6887 Carolina Kluft SWE 2005 6880 Tatyana Chernova RUS 2011 6861 Eunice Barber FRA 1999 (ten marks by 5 athletes) 6837 Jackie Joyner-Kersee USA 1993 6831 Denise Lewis GBR 2000 6797 Sabine Braun GER 1993 6778 Nataliya Dobrynska UKR 2010 6750 Ma Miaolan CHN 1993

*Note: my exclusion of Jackie Joyner-Kersee’s marks up through 1992 is not meant as an accusation of doping. JJK is and always has been my favorite athlete of all time, track and field or otherwise, and I have the utmost respect for her. I am just attempting to be consistent across all events; the last 20 years is my cutoff.

3. Allyson Felix (USA/sprints)
Felix was unbeaten in the 200 meters, but ran in only four meets. She also ran the 100 meters (in another four meets), but was far from impressive and used it mostly as a tool for improving herself over the longer sprint.

The reason I ranked her this high is because, using the criteria I set out for Adams, Felix set the 200 meter world record. Not an official one, of course, but the only woman in the last 20 years to run faster than Felix’s 21.69 Olympic Trials victory was the nefarious Marion Jones.

21.69 Allyson Felix USA 2012 21.74 Veronica Campbell-Brown USA 2008 21.77 Merlene Ottey JAM 1993 21.77 Gwen Torrance USA 1995 21.77 Inger Miller USA 1999 21.81 Gwen Torrance USA 1995 21.81 Allyson Felix USA 2007 21.85 Gwen Torrance USA 1994 21.86 Gwen Torrance USA 1995 21.87 Irina Privolova RUS 1995 (ten marks by 6 athletes) 21.99 Marie-Jose Perec FRA 1993 21.99 Kerron Stewart JAM 2008 22.00 Sherone Simpson JAM 2006 22.01 Lu Xuemei CHN 1997

4. Sandra Perkovic (Croatia/discus throw)
Like Adams, Perkovic’s ranking is tied up with a rival’s doping DQ. Once you strike Pishchalnikova from the record, Perkovic ends up winning thirteen out of her fourteen finals. She competed in every big meet there was: all seven Diamond League meets, the European Championships, and even the European winter throwing meet. I value that kind of fearlessness in the Athlete of the Year ranking.

Perkovic recorded the #7 mark of the last two decades. Note Muller’s presence at #9, yet Perkovic beat her in all of their head-to-head meetings.

70.00 Xiao Yanling CHN 1997 69.68 Mette Bergmann NOR 1995 69.66 Ilke Wyludda GER 1996 69.51 Franka Dietzsch GER 1999 69.20 Ilke Wyludda GER 1995 69.14 Irina Yatchenko BLR 2004 69.11 Sandra Perkovic CRO 2012 68.91 Franka Dietzsch GER 1998 68.89 Nadine Muller GER 2012 68.84 Ellina Zvereva BLR 1995 (10 marks by 8 athletes) 68.80 Nicoleta Grasu ROU 1999 68.72 Daniela Costian ROU 1994

5. Sally Pearson (Australia/100 hurdles)
Pearson had another dominating season, but not quite like her breakout year of 2011. Winning eight out of nine finals, she went to #3 and #9 on my adjusted all-time list of the last 20 years. Had she run more than nine outdoor races, I probably would have ranked her higher.

12.28 Sally Pearson AUS 2011 12.33 Gail Devers USA 2000 12.35 Sally Pearson AUS 2012 12.36 Sally Pearson AUS 2011 12.37 Gail Devers USA 1997 12.37 Joanna Hayes USA 2004 12.37 Dawn Harper USA 2012 12.39 Gail Devers USA 2000 12.39 Sally Pearson AUS 2012 12.40 Gail Devers USA 2002 (ten marks by 5 athletes) 12.42 Anjanette Kirkland USA 2001 12.43 Michelle Perry USA 2005 12.43 Lolo Jones USA 2008 12.45 Brigitte Foster-Hylton 2003 12.45 Ginnie Crawford 2007 12.46 Perdita Felicien 2004

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