VOTING BY OUR 35-member international panel in this annual exercise—our 47th year of choosing a Women’s Athlete Of The Year—was scored on a 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis… It turned out to be epically close…
JUST A SINGLE POINT separated the first 2, and placers 3 & 4 also achieved approval ratings in the 80% range, with all 4 receiving multiple votes as No. 1…
The U.S. has 4 Top 10ers for only the second time ever, matching ’85…
The 2021 Women’s Top 10 (the detailed voting chart appears at the end of the article):
1. Elaine Thompson-Herah (Jamaica)
Earning a pair of Olympic golds —and following up with a pair of No. 1 Rankings — is a good way to earn favor with our AOY voters and ETH got plenty of high-end votes. Enough for her first No. 1, in her third appearance in the Top 10, previously having been No. 3 (’16) & No. 10 (’17). Her list-leading times of 10.54 and 21.53 were historic, the 200 time being the second-fastest ever and T&FN considering her century to be the fastest wind-legal mark ever.
2. Yulimar Rojas (Venezuela)
At 25, Rojas had the finest women’s TJ season ever, bounding to 4 of the year’s 6 farthest marks, topped by her World Record 51-5 (15.67). She was undefeated in 8 meets — including, of course, the OG and DL Final — and produced the year’s 18 longest marks. No. 5 in the ’19 voting, her No. 2 this year is the highest spot ever received by a triple jumper. Note that she received the most No. 1 votes of all the candidates, beating ETH 16-10.
3. Sifan Hassan (Netherlands)
Her attempt at an audacious 1500/5000/10,000 triple in Tokyo may have fallen just short, but with golds in the two longer races before managing “only” bronze in the 1500, the 28-year-old Dutch star got plenty of support for a high-end position. She was undefeated in the two longer races and cranked out times of 3:53.60, 14:27.89 & 29:06.82. That last was a WR at the time. This is her second appearance in the Top 10, having earned the No. 2 position in ’19.
4. Sydney McLaughlin (United States)
On the surface, McLaughlin had a season with all the credentials to be the AOY, and 5 of our panel (1 more than Hassan) thought she deserved the top spot. While still just 21, she twice broke the 400H World Record, won Olympic gold and went undefeated. But unbeaten as she might have been, her season suffered a fatal flaw: it consisted of only 3 meets, none of them on the DL Circuit. It wasn’t a factor in AOY balloting (for which we only consider individual events), but she also brought a 4×4 gold back from Japan.
5. Faith Kipyegon (Kenya)
The 27-year-old Olympic 1500 champ could claim something nobody else could in ’21: she had a winning record against Hassan, taking her down in 3 of 4 meetings, including the DL Final. She produced 4 of the year’s 7 fastest times, backing up her world-leading 3:51.07 (good for the No. 2 performance in history) with clockings of 3:53.11, 3:53.23 & 3:53.91. She broke 4:00 in all 5 of her low-altitude races. She also dropped down to the 800 and won the Doha DL at 1:58.26.
6. Athing Mu (United States)
At 19, Mu erupted into true world class in both the 400 and 800. She only ran the 1-lapper twice outdoors, her 49.57 making her the year’s No. 6 performer, even though she didn’t quite Rank. It was in the 2-lapper where she really shone, producing 3 world-leading marks in 4 meets: 1:56.07 to win the OT, 1:55.21 for Olympic gold and 1:55.04 in her DL debut at the Pre Classic. She’s now No. 8 on the all-time world list. And just for kicks she also banged out a 4:16.06 in the 1500.
7. Jasmine Camacho-Quinn (Puerto Rico)
The Kentucky alum had the year of her life at age 25, banging out a bevy of fast clockings, broaching the 12.4 barrier on 5 occasions when nobody else did it even once. She saved her fastest for Tokyo, moving to =No. 4 on the all-time list with her 12.26 in the semis. Her slowest final of the year was 12.84 and her slowest prelim 12.88. She won her only DL meet, Florence, but didn’t run again after the Olympic gold.
8. Shaunae Miller-Uibo (Bahamas)
It’s a third appearance in the Top 10 for SMU, who was No. 3 in ’18 and No. 8 in ’16. Splitting her time between the two long sprints, she ran only 3 meets in the 1-lapper, but going undefeated with the year’s 2 fastest times went a long way towards her gaining No. 1. She capped her season with a 48.36 Olympic win that moved her to No. 6 on the all-time list. She also ran the half-lapper in 5 meets with a 22.03 best and a No. 7 Ranking.
9. Valarie Allman (United States)
The first U.S. woman discus thrower ever to make the Top 10, the 26-year-old Stanford alum dominated the platter in her first-ever event leadership. She won her first 7 meets of the year, climaxing that sequence with an Olympic gold. She lost her next 2, but then wrapped her season with another trio of wins featuring a raising of her own American Record to 233-5 (71.16), the yearly world list-leader. Overall she spun out 6 of the year’s 7 farthest marks.
10. Dalilah Muhammad (United States)
Muhammad has now run in 4 WR races in her career. Unlike ’19 when she won both of them and became the AOY, her pair this year were losses. But her 51.58 for Olympic silver, which finds her as No. 2 on the all-time world list, was part of an overall season which found the 31-year-old New Yorker impressing the voters enough that she became one of those rare performers who made the overall Top 10 despite not being the best in their individual event.
The Voting Chart
|1. Elaine Thompson-Herah||10||12||9||3||1||—||—||—||—||—||307||87.7%|
|2. Yulimar Rojas||16||4||6||8||1||—||—||—||—||—||306||87.4%|
|3. Sifan Hassan||4||10||11||9||—||—||1||—||—||—||285||81.4%|
|4. Sydney McLaughlin||5||8||9||11||1||1||—||—||—||—||282||80.6%|
|5. Faith Kipyegon||—||—||—||2||18||3||7||2||1||1||174||49.7%|
|6. Athing Mu||—||1||—||1||5||12||4||4||3||3||143||40.9%|
|7. Jasmine Camacho-Quinn||—||—||—||—||4||13||7||5||2||2||138||39.4%|
|8. Shaunae Miller-Uibo||—||—||—||—||2||3||5||9||7||4||92||26.3%|
|9. Valarie Allman||—||—||—||—||1||1||7||6||4||6||71||20.3%|
|10. Dalilah Muhammad||—||—||—||1||2||—||—||2||7||3||42||12.0%|
|11. Katie Nageotte 35; 12. Mariya Lasitskené 30; 13. Norah Tanui 13; 14. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce 5; 15. Malaika Mihambo 2.|
|View All Years’ Top 10 Voting||View All The Women’s AOYs||Jump To Men’s Top 10 For 2021|