I will continue to work on the series of best ever races (next will be the women’s 800) but we are closing in on the end of the year and soon the start of the 2013 indoor season. And that means end of the year lists and rankings, as well as some early indoor activity.
So as things begin to heat up it’s back to the excitement of the sport, but I will continue to use the best ever series tho fill in the gaps, as I must admit I am enjoying the research as consuming as it is.
That said following are my thoughts and selections for Athletes of the Year and Performances of the Year. I will also be doing a post on Athletes to Watch in 2013 as well as event rankings. So there will be much coming in December as we get ready to turn the corner to enter 2013.
Men’s Athlete of the Year – Aries Merritt
For my money, the decision came down to the year’s three WR setters – Ashton Eaton, David Rudisha, and Aries Merritt. Each had extraordinary seasons. Eaton setting a record in the Decathlon in less than ideal conditions. Then following that up with total domination at the Olympic Games. Then there was Rudisha with a dominating season of his own in which he set a barrier breaking record at the Games themselves – against the greatest field in history. As spectacular as their performances and seasons were, however, that of Aries Merritt was a cut above. He began by winning the World Indoor Championship title in March. Once he got outdoors and got rolling he put together a streak of 8 straight legal sub 13 runs that included a victory at the Olympics, and culminated with a sizzling WR of 12.80 in a near flawless run! Merritt’ s 2012 session was simply the greatest season ever by a hurdler. Of his 8 legal sub13′s an amazing 6 of them were 12.95 or faster! His slowest run all year was 13.26 – faster than all but 18 other hurdlers could manage all season. He also had two other windy races under 13.00, giving him 10 total for the year under all conditions. And his 3 race series at the Games was a sizzling 13.07 / 12.94 / 12.92 – just missing the OR by .01 in the final! No other athlete exhibited the standard of excellence that Merritt did in 2012. As a matter of fact, few ever have. All of the above earns Aries my nod as the Men’s AOY for 2012.
Women’s Athlete of the Year – Allyson Felix
Choosing the women’s AOY was a bit more difficult as there were no WR’s or undefeated seasons to separate the top athletes from each other. That’s because the .com women competed against each other with much more regularity than the men – giving us lots of exciting racing and fieldcx event competition – and THAT is a wonderful thing. It just makes trying to determine the year’s top athlete more of a chore – but that’s what I call a quality problem. In the end my choice came down to three women that moved up significantly on the all time lists – Olympic champions Jessica Ennis, Shelley Ann Fraser Pryce, and Alyson Felix. Ennis was superb in her two Heptathlon victories – her Olympic win moving her to # 6 all time. Fraser Pryce’s Jamaican Trials win in the 100 moved her to #4 all time. Even more impressive was her Olympic victory over Carmelita Jeter as the #3 & #4 sprinters ever locked horns in an epic battle for 100 meter supremacy. A silver medal in the 200, and silver in the 4×1 made Fraser Pryce one of the most decorated athletes in London. However, the most decorated woman at the Games, and a four event finalist, Allyson Felix, was my choice for AOY. Felix’ 21.69 win at the US Trials moved her to #4 all time in the 200 meters. Once n London she ran away from the field to win in 21.88 and earn her first Olympic gold in the event. Earlier in the meet she made the 100 final where she finished 5th in a PR 10.89. Then finished the meet with a screaming backstretch on the record shattering 4×1, and ran the fastest split of the meet in the 4×4 (48.1) to lead that squad to gold as well. While the relay legs were a factor in my choice the biggest factor was her undefeated season in her primary event the 200 – the relay work icing on an already outstanding cake! Dominance in her primary event. Success in what has become a loaded 100 meters – take note that her 5th place mark of 10.89 (=176th) compares closely on the all time list with SAFP’s 2nd place 22.09 (=156th, 22.11 being 177th). And outstanding relay running tip the scales in favor of Felix as my AOY.
Male Performance of the Year – 1:40.91, David Rudisha
This was a more difficult choice than one might think. Ashton Eaton’s decathlon record was impressive both in that he became the second man over the 9000 point barrier as well as the difficult elements that he had to compete in. Aries Merritt’s 12.80 was the largest lowering of the hurdle record since Reynaldo Nehemiah dropped the record from 13.16 to 13.00. And the Jamaican men’s 36.84 in the Olympic 4×1 was the first foray under 37.00 in the event. Rudisha’s 800 performance however, was akin to Babe Ruth or Reggie Jackson pointing out in the field then hitting a home run – on the first pitch! Rudisha told us that he was going for the record. Not in a meet with a runner paid to set the pace, but under the spotlight of the Olympic Games with no one there to help. Nor did he follow the pace of someone else. No, Rudisha showed from his first step that his “prediction” was no idle boast, but that this race was indeed a record attempt of important consequence – because to succeed was to create history. And that is exactly what Rudisha did as he broke the 1:41 barrier while pulling the field tho the best mass finish in the history of the event – on the Olympic stage no less! Rudisha took on the task of pacemaker in his own WR attempt, while seeing out to earn an Olympic gold medal. He took the race out in 49.5 and dated the rest to keep up. He crossed the line as the first man in history to run under 1:41 PR’ s galore following in his wake. This was not just the performance of the year,but one of the greatest performances in history. Thus my choice for POY.
Female Performance of the Year – 40.82, US Women 4×1
This choice was a no brainer – and not because it was the only WR set by the women in 2012. It was a no brainer because this was no simple lowering of a record. This was the demolition of an iconic piece of track and field history as one of the sport’s oldest records took a major beating! For nearly thirty years 41.37 withstood test after test. Solid passing Russian squads. Deep US squads led by stars such as Ashford, Torrence, Devers, Jones and FloJo! Several came close, but not quite close enough. Finally, in London, the record fell, no evaporated! Not by a hundredth or two; not by a tenth; but by a massive .45sec! After standing for 27 years, the team of Madison, Felix, Knight, and Jeter dismantled history and rebuilt the WR. This squad now stands as the epitome of relay excellence – team the world will now take aim at in much the same way as athletes dream of 60 ft, 8 ft, and 10.49. With a time that rivals that of many male small college teams these women set a mark that is truly “out there”. Hence my choice as Female POY.
Next I want to take a quick look at some athletes that stepped up their game in 2012 that I think will take the elevator up another floor in 2013.