World Women’s Athlete Of The Year — Caster Semenya

A typical ’18 finish found Caster Semenya finishing far ahead of her rivals in the 800. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

Voting by our 31-member international panel in this annual exercise—our 45th 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…Caster Semenya had a comfortable margin of victory, collecting 17 of the votes for No. 1. The other nods for the top spot went to Beatrice Chepkoech (7), Shaunae Miller-Uibo (4), Mariya Lasitskene (2) & Caterine Ibargüen (1), who finished as Nos. 2–5 in that order…

Voters are required to respect the order of our World Rankings in casting their votes. Any ballot that doesn’t follow the norms as established by their peers (for example, one as obvious as skipping Semenya entirely) is discarded. Half of last year’s Top 10 were able to score again. This year’s Top 10:

1. Caster Semenya (South Africa)

A rare triple came Semenya’s way this year. Not only did she rate No. 1 in her specialty, the 800, she also picked off spots in the 400 (No. 6) and 1500 (No. 7). The 27-year-old South African is only the second ever to rate in all three events (Soviet Nadezhda Olizarenko turned the trick in ’80)… Undefeated in the 800, she ran 1:54.25 to move to No. 4 on the all-time list (and produced all-time performances 4, 6 and 8). She also joined the sub-50 (49.62) and sub-4:00 (3:59.92) clubs… She was a clear No. 1, but her relatively low approval rating of 87.7% (most winners have historically been in the 90s) may well be chalked up to skeptics who think the pending IAAF legislation on testosterone could change the path of her career.

2. Beatrice Chepkoech (Kenya)

A crushing of the steeplechase World Record with the Performance Of The Year, 8:44.32, earned Chepkoech the second-biggest haul of votes for the top spot and clear status as No. 2 in her first appearance in the Top 10. The 27-year-old Kenyan won 6 of her 7 races in dominating the yearly list, putting up performances 1, 2, 3 & 5. She also impacted the all-time performances list significantly, with marks 1, 3 & 7 in becoming the first ever to have 4 sub-9:00s in a year (not to mention also being the first with 3).

3. Shaunae Miller-Uibo (Bahamas)

The reigning Olympic 1-lap gold medalist went undefeated, joined the sub-49 club at 48.97 and moved to No. 10 on the all-time list. But the 24-year-old Bahamian only rated No. 2 there, as she didn’t have enough races to earn the top spot. She did, however, have plenty of exposure in going undefeated in the half-lapper where she ran 22.06 and did claim No. 1 there… This is the Georgia alum’s second appearance in the Top 10: she was No. 8 in ’16.

4. Mariya Lasitskene (Russia)

“I had no problem, no injuries; it was just a bad day. These things happen,” said Lasitskene when her 45-meet high jump win streak was snapped in Rabat in mid-July. But that was the only competition in a busy season of 24 meets that the 25-year-old Russian lost. She easily led her event and like last year (when as runner-up she was only a few votes shy of being AOY) she got some recognition in the No. 1 position here… She dominated the yearly list, three times putting up the world leader of 6-8¼ (2.04). Overall, she had 11 of the 13 highest clearances.

5. Caterine Ibargüen (Colombia)

The world’s top triple jumper had a bad ’17, not only losing her Rankings leadership, but also seeing her string of appearances in the Top 10 stopped at 4. But the 34-year-old Colombian bounced back in a big way this year, going undefeated and putting up 8 of the year’s 9 longest jumps, topped by a 49-1 (14.96) that made her the year’s only 49-footer… For good measure she branched out into the long jump in a serious way, upping her PR to 22-9 (6.93) and earning the No. 3 spot in the World Rankings.

6. Salwa Eid Naser (Bahrain)

A 49.08 by the 20-year-old Bahraini that moved her to No. 13 on the all-time list was just 1 of 6 performances she put into the yearly top 10. She broke the 50-second barrier in 7 of her 10 races, losing only once. The overall Diamond League champion won 6 DL races… She makes her debut in the Top 10 as this year’s youngest member of the class.

7. Nafi Thiam (Belgium)

Last year Thiam became the first Belgian ever to crack the Top 10, entering at No. 4. The 24-year-old heptathlete dropped 3 notches this year as a truly big score (like ’17’s 7000-pointer) eluded her. But she still put up the year’s 2 highest scores, showing remarkable consistency at 6816 and 6806 in earning an easy No. 1 in her event… Thiam also showed off her high jump skills, raising the heptathlon WR in that event to 6-7 (2.01) at Götzis and also claiming 2nd at the Paris DL.

8. Sandra Perković (Croatia)

Only one other face—see No. 9—has been as familiar in the Top 10 this decade as that of the Croatian discus great, who appears for the 6th time in the last 7 years (the record for most appearances is 10 by German long jump legend Heike Drechsler, but Perković shows no signs of slowing down at age 28)… Perković won 9 of her 10 meets and produced 9 of the year’s 10 longest throws (missing only No. 8). She opened her season with what would prove to be the best of the year 234-2 (71.38), missing her own “New Millennium World Record” by an inch (3cm).

9. Anita Włodarczyk (Poland)

Obviously, making the Top 10 is no easy task. One can understand, however, if Włodarczyk might be disappointed with her position this year, given that this is the lowest of her 6 Top 10s all-time, topped by AOY crowns in ’14, ’16 & ’17 (she was also No. 4 in ’09 and No. 2 in ’15)… At 33, the Polish star continues to dominate the hammer despite a pair of out-of-character losses to open the year. She ended up with the year’s 4 farthest throws, the best of them, 261‑1 (79.59), being the No. 12 performance ever (the dozen all owned by her, of course).

10. Marie-Josée Ta Lou (Côte d’Ivoire)

At a compact 5-2½/126 (1.59/57) Ta Lou may not have the size of her fellow sprinters, but at age 30 she’s certainly emerging with the speed, PRing at 10.85 to share the yearly world lead. She also ran 10.88 and 10.89 in winning 10 of 11 races and reaching No. 1 in the 100 Rankings… She also ran 22.34 in the half-lapper and picked up a DL win in getting the No. 7 spot.


The Voting Chart

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Total %
1. Caster Semenya 17 5 3 4 1 1 272 87.7%
2. Beatrice Chepkoech 7 9 9 2 2 1 1 257 82.9%
3. Shaunae Miller-Uibo 4 10 6 1 2 3 2 1 2 225 72.6%
4. Mariya Lasitskene 2 4 5 9 5 2 1 2 209 67.4%
5. Caterine Ibargüen 1 2 4 4 5 5 1 6 1 166 53.5%
6. Salwa Eid Naser 2 3 5 3 7 4 4 102 32.9%
7. Nafi Thiam 3 3 3 4 3 5 1 90 29.0%
8. Sandra Perković 1 6 6 4 6 4 88 28.4%
9. Anita Włodarczyk 2 1 1 2 2 2 5 7 70 22.6%
10. Marie-Josée Ta Lou 1 5 1 3 1 3 4 67 21.6%
11. Lijiao Gong 51; 12. Vivian Cheruiyot 46; 13. Hellen Obiri 33; 14. Sandi Morris 13; 15. Shelby Houlihan 8; 16. Sifan Hassan 5; 17. Keni Harrison 3.
View All Years’ Top 10 Voting View All The Women’s AOYs Jump To Men’s Top 10

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