VOTING BY OUR 35-member international panel in this annual exercise — our 62nd year of choosing a Men’s Athlete Of The Year —was scored on a 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis…
In the wake of the C19 pandemic there was no voting in ’20, but this year a trio of stars — Karsten Warholm, Daniel Ståhl & Rai Benjamin — repeated from the Top 10 class of ’19… A trio of Americans — Crouser, Benjamin & Grant Holloway — scored this year, a marked drop from the record-equaling half-dozen in ’19… This year was a big one for Scandinavia, which captured 4 spots (2 for Norway, 2 for Sweden) of the first 6…
The 2021 Top 10 (the detailed voting chart appears at the end of the article):
1. Ryan Crouser (United States)
Our 29th birthday present for the world’s preeminent shot putter was the public announcement of his selection as Athlete Of The Year. That made the Oregon native the first putter to win the men’s title since legendary Randy Matson in ’70. He’s also the first thrower to reach No. 1 since Lithuanian discus thrower Virgilijus Alekna in ’20. Crouser was a very clear choice, capturing 29 of 35 votes for the top position. His dominance of the voting echoed his dominance of each of the 14 meets he was in. He was undefeated and had the year’s top 17 throws, topped by his WR 76-8¼ (23.37). That was only 1 of 2 meets with a 76-footer; he also had 4 total over 75 and 11 over 74 and 22.50.
2. Karsten Warholm (Norway)
As another measure of how good Crouser’s overall season was, consider that Warholm broke the WR not once, but twice (46.70, then 45.94), went undefeated, won Olympic gold and the Diamond League crown, and still finished as No. 2 in the balloting. The 25-year-old Norwegian got the 6 votes for No. 1 that escaped Crouser’s grasp. In winning the ’19 AOY title he had taken 34 of 36 No. 1s. If there was a flaw in Warholm’s Olympic season, a nitpicker might say that 5 meets wasn’t enough competition.
3. Mondo Duplantis (Sweden)
After the pandemic-damaged ’20 season we didn’t conduct AOY balloting, but we did select an MVP, and that was Mondo. He was almost as good this year, once again dominating the vault to claim the No. 3 spot during a season in which he was still just 21. He won 15 of 17 meets and produced 20-footers both indoors and out. Overall, he had a dozen meets in which he broached the elite 6-meter (19-8¼) barrier. He backed up his Olympic gold with 5 DL wins, including the final.
4. Damian Warner (Canada)
At 33 (now 34) Warner became not only the first Canadian ever to rate No. 1 in the decathlon, he also became the highest-rated in AOY voting from The Great White North. His wins in the Olympics (9018) and at Götzis (8995) rate as history’s Nos. 5 & 6 performances, with the gold-medal mark making him the No. 4 performer ever. Obviously a great all-around performer, he exhibited individual world-class skills in the 100 (10.12), 110H (13.36) and long jump (27-2/8.28).
5. Daniel Ståhl (Sweden)
Ståhl dominated the discus about the same as he did in ’19, but given the amazing seasons cranked by those in other events he dropped a couple of spots in AOY voting. Since we started tracking Top 10s in ’65, he’s now the only discus thrower ever to make the first 5 twice. About this year’s domination: he won 18 of 20 meets (including the Olympic gold and DL title), had 6 of the year’s 8 farthest throws — topped by a 234-3/71.40 — and finished his busy season riding a 17-meet win streak.
6. Jakob Ingebrigtsen (Norway)
The youngest member of our Top 10, having turned 21 in September, Ingebrigtsen made a big splash in both the 1500/mile and 5000. In the longer race, he ran only once, but captured the Florence DL in a year-leading 12:48.45 and earned a No. 4 Ranking. But it was in the 1500 where he made his biggest splash, earning the top spot in the Rankings after moving to No. 8 on the all-time list with his 3:28.32 for Oly gold. He also moved to No. 10 on the all-time mile list with his 3:47.24 win in the Pre Classic.
7. Rai Benjamin (United States)
To quote from this space for ’19, “Benjamin joined a rather elite club with his appearance here, becoming a Top 10 member without being the No. 1 ranker in his event. His season was that good; unfortunately, Warholm’s was that much better.” The same can be said for ’21, with the American star moving up 2 spots after claiming Olympic silver. In the process, he also broke the previous WR, following the Norwegian across the line in 46.17. He also cranked out sprint times of 20.16 & 44.97.
8. Johannes Vetter (Germany)
A popular cry among many fans in explaining all the fast running times this year was, “It’s the shoes!” In Vetter’s case it was, “It’s the runway,” but in the 28-year-old javelin star’s case that was a bad thing. He came to Tokyo riding a 10-meet unbeaten streak that featured 6 meets over 300ft (91.44), topped by the No. 3 performance ever, 315-11 (96.29)… and then he ended up 9th at only 270-9 (82.52) as the throwing apron crumbled under his powerful plant. Post-Games he also went undefeated in his 6 meets. So overwhelming was his overall season that he’s the only performer to make the Top 10 without an Olympic medal.
9. Grant Holloway (United States)
A mere 0.01 separated Holloway from equaling Aries Merritt’s World Record in the 110H. Unfortunately, he was 0.05 from garnering gold when he ran “only” 13.09 in Tokyo after coming to the final with times of 12.81, 12.96, 13.02 & 13.04w on his yearly résumé. He called it a year after getting the silver but still had an impressive enough overall season to rate No. 1 in the barriers and No. 9 here.
10. Pedro Pablo Pichardo (Portugal)
Pichardo picked the right time to be at his best, unleashing the farthest outdoor mark of the year, 59-0 (17.98) to win Olympic gold. Overall he racked up 6 of the year’s 10 longest jumps in picking up his first-ever Top 10 spot. The 28-year-old former Cuban ended his season with the trophy in the Diamond League Final. Overall he won 7 of his 9 meets and was 2nd in the 2 he lost.
The Voting Chart
|1. Ryan Crouser||29||6||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||344||98.3%|
|2. Karsten Warholm||6||29||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||321||91.7%|
|3. Mondo Duplantis||—||—||13||12||5||3||1||1||—||—||240||68.6%|
|4. Damian Warner||—||—||14||7||6||2||2||1||3||—||224||64.0%|
|5. Daniel Ståhl||—||—||2||6||10||9||2||2||1||1||180||51.4%|
|6. Jakob Ingebrigtsen||—||—||1||3||5||5||8||3||4||2||135||38.6%|
|7. Rai Benjamin||—||—||3||2||2||6||3||4||6||2||118||33.7%|
|8. Johannes Vetter||—||—||2||2||—||5||4||6||4||5||102||29.1%|
|9. Grant Holloway||—||—||—||2||2||2||6||1||3||7||76||21.7%|
|10. Pedro Pablo Pichardo||—||—||—||—||1||1||3||5||7||5||57||16.3%|
|11. Andre De Grasse 55; 12. Joshua Cheptegei 54; 13. Selemon Barega 15; 14. Lamont Marcell Jacobs 3; 15. Timothy Cheruiyot 1.|
|View All Years’ Top 10 Voting||View All The Men’s AOYs||Jump To Women’s Top 10 For 2021|