World Men’s Athlete Of The Year — Karsten Warholm

Karsten Warholm became only the second Norwegian ever to make the Top 10; more importantly, he became the first No. 1. (JIRO MOCHIZUKI/IMAGE OF SPORT)

VOTING BY OUR 36-member international panel in this annual exercise—our 61st 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. 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 is discarded…

From last year’s Top 10, only Noah Lyles was able to score again, marking just the sixth time ever—joining ’70, ’73, ’89, ’90 & ’11—that there has been a single carryover… It was a vintage campaign for the U.S., joining ’66, ’67 & ’10 as years with 6 of the Top 10 being Americans.

The 2019 Top 10 (the voting chart appears at the end of the article):

1. Karsten Warholm (Norway)

The only thing that kept Karsten Warholm from having a perfect-perfect season was the lack of a World Record. As it was, he produced the No. 2 performance ever, 46.92, and had to settle for a merely perfect season, one in which he never lost, won the Diamond League Trophy and finished off with the World Championships gold medal. His sequence of times was stunning: his 7 finals—sequentially 47.85, 47.33, 47.12, 47.43, 47.26, 46.92, 47.42—averaged 47.33, a mark only 2 others reached in a single race all year. Indeed only about a dozen have ever had one race that fast. The 23-year-old Norwegian is only the second from his nation to make the Top 10, javelin thrower Andreas Thorkildsen having done it 3 times (5th, 7th & 9th).

2. Noah Lyles (United States)

Once again the best combination sprinter of the year, Noah Lyles topped the 200 rankings and added a No. 2 in the 100. He dominated the half-lapper, recording yearly performances 1, 2, 4, 6, 8 & 10, with his PR 19.50 moving him to No. 4 on the all-time world list. The slowest of his 6 finals was 19.83. He won both WC gold and the Diamond Trophy. Although the 22-year-old Virginian skipped the century in Doha, he won the Diamond Trophy there as well and ran a PR 9.86 in Shanghai to hand world No. 1 Christian Coleman his only defeat of the year.

3. Daniel Ståhl (Sweden)

It’s not easy for discus throwers to get love. See Diamond League for a current expression of that, but our AOY voting panel hasn’t been all that kind either. Only a single platter-pusher—Virgilijus Alekna in ’00—has ever been voted No. 1, none have been in the Top 10 since Robert Harting in ’14 and none have been as high as No. 3 since Harting in ’11. So world champ Ståhl, relatively speaking, got a lot of love this year, particularly since he even got a vote for No. 1. In moving to No. 4 on the all-time list with his 235-9 (71.86) the 27-year-old Swede also claimed 14 of the year’s 15 longest throws.

4. Steven Gardiner (Bahamas)

He only ran in a single Diamond League meet, Monaco, but Steven Gardiner caught the selectors’ collective eye with his undefeated 400 season, one in which he never failed to break the 45-second barrier in a final. Most importantly, he also chose the World Championships in which to also break the 44-second barrier, moving to No. 6 on the all-time list with his 43.48 (which is also the =No. 8 performance ever). The 24-year-old speedster became the first Bahamian ever to crack the overall Top 10.

5. Timothy Cheruiyot (Kenya)

A dominant 1500 season by Timothy Cheruiyot was so good that one voter thought he was the year’s best overall, but he ended up No. 5, moving up 4 spots from last year. In the space of 6 days he ran the year’s fastest mile (3:50.49) at Stanford and the fastest 1500 (3:28.77) in Lausanne. In a year when nobody else could break 3:30 in the 1500, he did it 3 times. The 23-year-old Kenyan suffered only a single loss in his 9 races, winning 5 DL meets and the WC gold. For good measure he was No. 6 on the yearly 800 list, PRing at 1:43.11.

6. Sam Kendricks (United States)

The busiest of this year’s Top 10, Sam Kendricks vaulted in no fewer than 25 meets. He won no fewer than 17 of them, including 4 DLs and the WC gold. Never once did he no-height, and he topped the 19-foot barrier in 20 meets, including his last 14 in a row. His American Record 19-10½ (6.06) moved him to =No. 3 on the all-time list, trailing only WR setters Renaud Lavillenie and Sergey Bubka. This is the 27-year-old American’s second appearance in the Top 10, having occupied the runner-up spot in ’17.

7. Donavan Brazier (United States)

Talk about a drought: Donavan Brazier is the first American 800 runner to earn a Top 10 spot since Rick Wohlhuter was No. 1 way back in ’74. The 22-year-old Michigander called to mind another legendary name, that of Dave Wottle, when he made a phenomenal come-from-impossibly-behind move to win the DL Final in Zürich. And yet another great American 2-lapper was mentioned when Brazier broke Johnny Gray’s 35-year-old AR with his 1:42.34 win in Doha. For good measure Brazier also tossed in a PR 3:37.18 in the 1500.

8. Christian Coleman (United States)

Like Noah Lyles, Christian Coleman was a double sprint ranker, taking No. 1 in the 100 and adding a No. 8 in the 200, at which he just dabbled. His whole season was somewhat truncated when he had to sit out the August and September circuit meets waiting out a missed-tests charge of which he was eventually cleared. He had the 3 fastest 100s of the year, with his PR 9.76 to win WC gold moving him to No. 6 on the all-time list.

9. Rai Benjamin (United States)

Rai 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, Karsten Warholm’s was that much better. Like the AOY’s, Benjamin’s sequence of times was fabulous: 47.80, 47.58, 47.16, 47.23, 46.98, 47.66 for an average of 47.41. He also joined another significant club, that of sub-47 performers, which now numbers four all-time. In his spare time he cranked out a 44.31 on the flat, making him No. 9 on the yearly list.

10. Christian Taylor (United States)

The world’s top triple jumper shows up here for the fifth time, following appearances in ’11 (No. 10), ’15 (No. 2), ’16 (No. 7) & ’17 (No. 5). He didn’t have the year’s farthest jump, but he had the most long ones, including 5 of the top 7. He finished his season on the strongest of notes, winning both the DL Final in Brussels and the World Championships, the latter with his farthest legal jump of the year. And while it didn’t count for any points here, he gets special kudos for his athlete-organizing efforts in the wake of his event’s downgrading by the IAAF.

 

The Voting Chart

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Tot. %
1. Karsten Warholm 34 1 1 357 99.2%
2. Noah Lyles 13 14 2 5 2 281 78.1%
3. Daniel Ståhl 1 5 4 5 3 8 3 1 2 3 202 56.1%
4. Steven Gardiner 5 1 8 7 7 2 2 1 199 55.3%
5. Timothy Cheruiyot 1 2 6 6 4 1 4 4 3 2 183 50.8%
6. Sam Kendricks 4 2 6 6 2 1 4 4 2 166 46.1%
7. Donavan Brazier 2 4 2 2 5 5 8 4 2 155 43.1%
8. Christian Coleman 3 2 3 8 7 7 1 2 149 41.4%
9. Rai Benjamin 1 2 2 1 4 2 5 2 73 20.3%
10. Christian Taylor 1 2 1 3 3 6 7 64 17.8%
11. Joshua Cheptegei 51; 12. Paweł Fajdek 33; 13. Ryan Crouser 31; 14. Toshikazu Yamanishi 17; 15. Yusuke Suzuki 10; 16. Kenenisa Bekele 9.
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