Olympic champions Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica and Karsten Warholm of Norway have been named the World Athletes of the Year at the World Athletics Awards 2021, a ceremony held virtually on Wednesday.

Thompson-Herah produced one of the finest sprint seasons in history this year, retaining her Olympic 100m and 200m titles in Tokyo and adding a third gold medal in the 4x100m relay. On top of her Olympic triple, she also clocked world-leading times of 10.54 and 21.53 over 100m and 200m respectively, moving to second on the world all-time lists and coming within touching distance of the long-standing world records.

“I just take it year by year,” said Thompson-Herah. “I went very close to the world record so you know, anything is possible. No spikes hanging up any time soon!
“The World Championships in Oregon is most definitely my next big target,” she added. “It is close to home, I hope friends and family can come out and watch. I hope I get some crowd as well. That couldn’t happen in Tokyo but hopefully, in Eugene,I can get my friends and family to come and cheer me on.”

Warholm uncorked one of the most remarkable performances in athletics history when he stormed to gold in the 400m hurdles at the Tokyo Olympics. Having already broken the world record with 46.70 in Oslo in the lead-up to the Games, Warholm exceeded all expectations in the Japanese capital to claim gold in a stunning world record of 45.94. In a race of incredible depth, the top three athletes finished inside the pre-2021 world record.

“I’m so happy for this,” said Warholm. “First when I saw the time (in Tokyo), I was like, ‘This must be a mistake!’ Because I didn’t see that one coming. And I didn’t see the victory coming before crossing the finish line.

“It was a very intense race, I knew the American and the Brazilian and all the other guys were really chasing me. I always go out hard and I never know what is going on behind me. I was just fighting all the way to the finish line. When I realised 45.94 was the reality, I was thinking: ‘This is not too bad. I’ll take it!’"

World Athletics President Sebastian Coe congratulated all of tonight’s winners and finalists on their extraordinary achievements this year.
"We have this year celebrated some jaw-dropping performances in Tokyo, at the World Athletics U20 Championships in Nairobi and through our one-day meeting circuits – the Wanda Diamond League and the Continental Tour. So we’re delighted to recognise some of our stars at tonight’s awards.

"As a sport, we are in an incredibly strong position. 2021 has been an excellent year. We cemented our position as the number 1 Olympic sport coming out of Tokyo, we have the most God-given talented athletes on the planet and our sport is the most accessible of all sports. Thank you to all our athletes around the world. I am looking forward to watching what you can all do in 2022."


The other award winners were:

Female Rising Star
Athing Mu
The US teenager was undefeated at 800m all year, winning Olympic gold at the distance following a long but successful collegiate season. She broke the senior US 800m record with her triumph in Tokyo and then improved it to 1:55.04 just a few weeks later. She also excelled at 400m, clocking a North American U20 record of 49.57 for the distance.
“It means the world to know that my support goes beyond friends and families and extends worldwide,” said Mu. “This award shows all young girls that your dreams can, indeed, come true."

Male Rising Star
Erriyon Knighton
Throughout 2021 the 17-year-old took down several marks that had belonged to sprint legend Usain Bolt. Knighton first set world U18 bests of 20.11 and 20.04 over 200m, but his rapid rise continued and he broke Bolt’s world U20 record for the distance with 19.88 and 19.84. He went on to finish fourth in the Olympic final with 19.93.
“I’m really thankful for this award,” said Knighton. “One of my most memorable moments of this year was making it to the Olympic final in Tokyo and finishing fourth at the age of 17.”

Member Federations Award
Federacion Costarricense de Atletismo (Costa Rica)
In recognition for their outstanding training, competition and development programme roll-out over the past 12 months, for their consultative work on the World Athletics Kids’ Athletics programme, and for successfully staging a host of international events over the past year.

Inspiration Award
Mutaz Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi
The shared high jump victory between Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi became one of the biggest talking points of the Olympic Games – not only for everything it represented in their own individual careers, having both battled serious injuries since the last Games, but mainly for the act of respect and sportsmanship between two friends.
“It is just crazy if I think about this story,” said Tamberi. “Thank you very much for this trophy.
“I now call Mutaz like five times a week because I need to speak with him. I feel that now we are not just friends, we are really like blood brothers.”
Barshim added: “I hope to inspire more people to love our sport and maybe share a gold one day!”

President’s Award
Peter Diamond, Executive Vice President of NBC Olympic programming
“Athletics owes Peter a massive debt of gratitude,” said World Athletics President Sebastian Coe. “Peter has worked alongside us for effectively 40 years and has been a constant source of great advice and wise counsel, and occasional humour that has softened the edges of any particular situation. And he has made athletics a lot better.”

Coaching Achievement Award
Bobby Kersee
The US coach has guided the careers of many legendary athletes over the years, but this year two of his charges made history. Allyson Felix became the most decorated female track and field Olympian in history after winning her 10th and 11th Olympic gold medals in Tokyo, while training partner Sydney McLaughlin broke two world records in the 400m hurdles and claimed Olympic gold in the discipline.

Woman of the Year Award
Anju Bobby George
The former international long jump star from India is still actively involved in the sport. In 2016 she opened a training academy for young girls, which has already helped to produce a world U20 medallist. A constant voice for gender equality in her role as Senior Vice President of the Indian Athletics Federation, Bobby George also mentors schoolgirls for future leadership positions within the sport.

Jean-Pierre Durand World Athletics Photograph of the Year
Ryan Pierse’s photograph of the women’s high jump qualifying at the Tokyo Olympic Games

 

This year’s award is dedicated to the memory of Jean-Pierre Durand, one of the sport’s most prolific photographers and photo chief for a number of World Athletics Series events, who died in October.
“This winning image was taken on one of the morning sessions in Tokyo and it was a hot one,” said Pierse, who is from Australia. “I wanted to illustrate the heat and how it was affecting the athletes. It is a picture that I worked on for a while, and it all came together. I am really happy with it.
“I think it’s incredibly fitting that this award is named in memory of Jean-Pierre Durand,” added Pierse. “I had the pleasure of working alongside him, most recently at the Tokyo Olympics.”

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Former hurdles star Edwin Moses believes he would have matched Karsten Warholm's world record time at the Tokyo Olympics had the same technology been available to him during his time on top.

One of the more remarkable moments of the 2020 Games was Warholm's victory in the men's 400 metre hurdles, the Norwegian knocking a huge 0.76 seconds off his record pace of 46.70s.

Warholm was not alone in setting a new Games best at this year's showpiece, with the United States' Sydney McLaughlin also doing so in the women's equivalent with a time of 51.46s.

That has prompted some concerns over the design of the Tokyo track, which is said to have given athletes a one to two per cent performance advantage compared to previous years.

The track technology, footwear and indeed training has come a long way since Moses dominated the men's 400m hurdles between 1977 and 1987 when winning 107 successive finals, during which time he set four world records in the sport.

And two-time Olympic gold medallist Moses, whose fastest time was clocked at 47.02s, has told Stats Perform that he could have held his own against today's crop if the playing field was level.

"I would like to think I could," he said. "When I ran 47.02 I had no competition, no one else was running under 49. It was very, very different," he said.

"I was reading an article recently about the track and technology and they built in a two per cent increase in performance. 

"It changes things. It makes it very difficult to look back at Kevin Young or mine that had no assist. With tracks and shoes it becomes a statistically significant difference. 

"If Kevin Young was running on that then he'd have had run 45.86, my 47.02 would have been a 46.08. 

"I wish I had the opportunity to run on that track and to have that competition. I was way out in front of everyone else. The track has been programmed for speed. They've changed the paradigm."

 

This year's Olympic men's 400m hurdle final was labelled arguably the greatest ever, with USA's Rai Benjamin hot on Warholm's heels to win silver having also beat the previous world record.

Brazil's Alison dos Santos took the bronze medal with a time of 46.72s, meaning three of the top four fastest times ever posted in the event were set in Tokyo.

"I thought it was a very good race," Moses said. "Rai Benjamin made a couple of errors that probably cost him. Warholm made no mistakes. It always comes down to who makes the least. 

"The race could have gone either way. Benjamin could have won by a metre.

"Not many races have come down to the wire like that, especially in a dramatic race like the hurdles. It was a great race, as was the women's."

Warholm may remain the world's best in his discipline, but Moses has tipped compatriot Benjamin to potentially set another world record time in the near future.

"It's possible," he said. "I think Rai could beat the world record this summer. He was still competitive even with those mistakes. Even second placed smashed the record."

Simone Biles provided further inspiration when she returned to action on Tuesday and secured a bronze medal on the balance beam.

China enjoyed success with a Guan Chenchen and Tang Xijing one-two, but the American gymnast stole the headlines on her first appearance back after withdrawing from the team final last week.

Mental health concerns were cited as the reason for Biles stepping away from the team events and other individual disciplines, though the 24-year-old excelled in her sole event on the beam.

The four-time Rio Olympics gold medallist reminded the world of her quality with a 14.000 score, and, despite Chenchen's last-ditch 14.633, she produced an emphatic return for the United States.

"I was just happy to be able to perform, regardless of the outcome," Biles explained after Tuesday's event. "I did it for me, and I was just proud of myself for being able to compete one more time.

"Just to have the opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games meant the world, because training for five years and then coming here, then kind of being triggered and not being able to do anything, it wasn't fun.

"To go out there and compete one more time and have everyone's support meant the world."

To add to Biles' memorable comeback, the USA's basketball stars nudged past Spain 95-81 to reach the Olympic semi-finals, with Kevin Durrant netting a team-high 29 points to drive his side towards victory.

It was a far from convincing performance from the USA, however, as they trailed 39-25 at one point in the second quarter before rallying impressively to level at 43-43 at the halfway stage.

THOMPSON-HERAH COMPLETES DOUBLE-DOUBLE

Elaine Thompson-Herah motored to sprinting history as she won the 200 metres women's final to complete the sprint double-double.

The Jamaican set a new national record with 21.53 seconds, the second-fastest time in the history of the event, making herself just the second athlete ever, after Usain Bolt, to win both titles at consecutive Games.

Thompson-Herah, who claimed 100-metre gold on Saturday after doubling up for the first time at Rio 2016, just missed out on Florence Griffith-Joyner's 1988 world record by 0.19s.

"Oh my god, it's amazing that I have ever seen this day. That I could complete another double. I can't believe it," the 29-year-old said after the 200 metres final.

"I really had to pull it out to win the 200m. It's a new PB [personal best] and a national record. I am so, so happy.

"Honestly I am so tired, my legs just need some rest. I've done so many races in the last few days, but I am very grateful."

WARHOLM'S WORLD

Karsten Warholm demolished the world record with a remarkable 400 metres hurdles triumph, smashing the previous record run for a second time in five weeks.

At the start of July in Oslo, Warholm cut 0.08 seconds off Kevin Young's longstanding record that was set at the Barcelona Games in 1992, though the 25-year-old slashed even more off in Tuesday's final.

The Norwegian star powered through in 45.94s, hacking an astounding 0.76s off the global mark to secure a memorable victory.

"It's just so big. It's almost like history here. It was the only thing missing from my collection," the 25-year-old said after his win. "I had a World Championships [gold medal]. I had European Championships, I had the world record, the European record.

"The Olympic gold medal is what everybody talks about. I knew this race was going to be the toughest of my life, but I was ready."

The top three finishers all beat the previous Olympic record, with American silver medallist Rai Benjamin running 46.17, yet the performance of Benjamin's life was simply no match for Warholm.

 

BRAZIL PREPARE TO DEFEND TITLE

Brazil inflicted shoot-out heartbreak on Mexico after a 0-0 stalemate in 120 minutes to set up a final showpiece with Spain.

Reinier converted the crucial spot-kick and, with Eduardo Aguirre and Johan Vasquez missing, the defending Olympic champions ran out 4-1 victors.

"Playing the final match in the Olympics is a dream," said Brazil's head coach Andre Jardine. "The film I saw was the film of life. Everything we’ve gone through. Although we didn’t win in the 90 minutes, we took more risks."

Japan suffered extra-time agony in their semi-final against Spain as Marco Asensio's late winner sunk the host nation to tee up a mouth-watering prospect for Saturday's final.

Despite footballing disappointment, women's boxer Sena Irie provided the host nation reason to celebrate as she edged past the Philippines' 2019 world champion Nesthy Petecio to achieve gold.

Irie's win in the women’s featherweight class final means she is Japan’s first female boxing champion at the Olympics.

CYCLING CHAOS

Germany twice recorded world record rides to earn their first gold – and, in fact, their first ever medal – in the women's team pursuit cycling track event.

A strong Great Britain side, including Laura Kenny, awaited Germany in the final but the team of Mieke Kroeger, Franziska Brausse, Lisa Brennauer and Lisa Klein produced the ride of their lives to finish in 4:06.159, almost two seconds quicker than the previous record.

In a dramatic day of cycling, the reigning world champions Netherlands won their first gold since 1936 in the men's team sprint as Team GB again had to settle for silver inside the velodrome.

That silver for Jason Kenny meant he became the first athlete to win eight Olympic medals in cycling track events and also equalled the total medal haul of Britain's most successful Olympian Sir Bradley Wiggins.

More controversy filled Tuesday's track events, with Denmark's Frederik Madsen crashing into the back of Team GB's Charlie Tanfield inside the closing kilometre of the men's team pursuit heats.

The UCI later deemed the Danes, who were near two seconds ahead of their opponents, to have completed a successful catch to make it through to Thursday's final against Italy, despite the incident.

Norway's Karsten Warholm smashed the world record in the men's Olympic 400 metres hurdles final, breaking the 46-second barrier on the way to gold medal glory.

Warholm finished in 45.94 seconds, well ahead of his own previous record mark of 46.70. USA's Rai Benjamin claimed silver in 46.17, also beating the old world record, with Alison dos Santos taking bronze in 46.72.

"It's by far the biggest moment of my life," Warholm said. "It defines everything, all the hours I put in, everything that my coach has been working for.

"With all the respect for all the athletes, there are athletes that were not good that will get an Olympic gold. Rai running 46.17 would deserve a gold medal. It is crazy, it is just an honour to be a part of it. I never thought in my wildest imagination that this would be possible."

Asked about his dash to the line in the closing metres, Warholm added: "I couldn't even feel my legs. I knew I had a crazy American trying to catch me, so I ran for my life."

Germany's Malaika Mihambo admitted she could not watch the finale to the women's long jump as she won gold.

Mihambo took the lead with a jump of 7.00m with her final attempt before USA's Brittney Reese and Nigeria's Ese Brume had their last jumps.

Neither could better the leading mark, with Reese settling for silver with 6.97 metres on countback ahead of Brume.

"It was really hard to watch, so I tried to just have a sneak peek on the display and see how far it was," Mihambo said.

"I really don't like this position where you cannot do anything about it, and you just have to let the girls do what they're able to do. You have to wait, so it was a horrible moment, but at least it was short.

“I feel overwhelmed. It was, I think, the most exciting women’s long jump competition in history."

DURANT DOMINATES AS USA SURVIVE SCARE

The United States did not have it all their way but triumphed 95-81 over Spain to seal a spot in the men's basketball semi-finals.

Spain led by as much as 10 points in the second quarter before USA drew level by half-time and accelerated in the second half. Spain again closed within four points of the gold medal favourites in the final quarter, inspired by Ricky Rubio's 38 points.

Kevin Durant excelled for Team USA, with 29 points and four assists, while Jrue Holiday contributed 12 points and five assists as they capitalised on a 17-9 turnover differential.

USA lost to Australia and Nigeria in exhibition games prior to Tokyo 2020 before losing their Olympics opener to France but have since steadied.

The winner of Australia-Argentina will play USA in the semi-finals on Thursday.

NBA duo Zoran Dragic (27 points, six rebounds and four assists) and Luka Doncic (20 points, eight rebounds and 11 assists) starred as Slovenia also progressed to the semi-finals with a 94-70 win over Germany.

CARRINGTON'S GOLD KAYAKING DOUBLE

New Zealand's Lisa Carrington had a golden day in the kayaking, remarkably winning two gold medals within an hour.

Carrington won her third straight gold in the women's kayak single 200m with an Olympic best time of 38.12 seconds, ahead of Spain's Teresa Portela and Denmark's Emma Jorgensen.

The New Zealander backed up alongside Caitlin Regal to win the women's kayak double 500m final with a world best time of 1:35.785.

Carrington joined fellow kayakers Ian Ferguson and Paul MacDonald and equestrian great Sir Mark Todd as the only New Zealanders to have won five medals at the Olympic Games.

The 32-year-old may win more medals too, competing in the K1 500 event which starts on Wednesday.

“Today was about taking just one race at a time," Carrington said. "There's a plan, and it was just about executing it. For me, it was just trying to stay in the moment and doing the best I can. We've worked really hard and knew today was going to be a big day.”

HENDRICKX POWERS BELGIUM INTO HOCKEY FINAL

World champions Belgium qualified for the gold medal match of the men's hockey after a commanding final quarter sealed a 5-2 win over India.

Belgium piled on three fourth-quarter goals to guarantee a medal in the decider where they will face either Australia or Germany.

Alexander Hendrickx scored a hat-trick including two of the Red Lions' goals in the final quarter after India had fought back from an early deficit to lead 2-1 at quarter-time.

Drag flick expert Hendrickx has scored an unrivalled 14 goals during Belgium's Tokyo 2020 campaign, eight clear of the next best, Australia's Blake Govers.

Hendrickx said: "It's really a team job that comes together. It's my name on the scoresheet, but it's a team job."

World number one Australia and sixth-ranked Germany meet later on Tuesday to determine the other gold medal match finalist.

Karsten Warholm revelled in the "wow" factor of his astonishing 400 metres hurdles triumph as the world record was obliterated at the Tokyo Olympics.

The 25-year-old Norwegian ran 45.94 seconds, breaking the record for a second time in five weeks, after Kevin Young previously held the global mark for 29 years.

"I didn't touch one hurdle. I was even able to find another gear coming home, so 'wow'," Warholm said.

"It's just so big. It's almost like history here. It was the only thing missing from my collection. I had a World Championships [gold medal]. I had European Championships, I had the world record, the European record.

"The Olympic gold medal is what everybody talks about. I knew this race was going to be the toughest of my life, but I was ready."

The top three in the race all went under 47 seconds and beat the previous Olympic record, with silver for American Rai Benjamin in 46.17 and bronze going to Brazilian Alison dos Santos in 46.72.

 

Warholm ran 46.70 in Oslo at the start of July to slash 0.08 seconds off Young's long-standing record, which was set at the Barcelona Olympics.

There were many ways to dissect the magnitude of this latest record, and one was to look at how the world record shifted by just 0.75 seconds from Ed Moses running 47.45 in 1977 until Warholm's 46.70 in July.

To now scythe a further 0.76 seconds off the all-time mark represented a staggering achievement.

"I mean, man it’s so crazy. It’s by far the biggest moment of my life," Warholm said.

"It defines everything, all the hours I put in, everything that my coach has been working for.

"I dream about it like a maniac, I tell you. I sleep all night on it. I spend all my time thinking about this, so just getting this last medal into my collection, it’s complete.

"I can't sleep. I've spent thousands of hours thinking about this.

"I had this special feeling in my chest, you know when you are nervous. I was just thinking this is the feeling that I had when I was six years old. I've never had that feeling since I got older, but yesterday I had it."

Warholm had a healthy lead heading into the final 150 metres but came under pressure from Benjamin over the final two barriers, the gap closing.

The 25-year-old from Ulsteinvik held his nerve and maintained his rhythm, though, sprinting away to post a record that could stand for many years to come.

Some even compared it to Bob Beamon's 1968 long jump world record in Mexico City, which stood for 23 years and remains the second longest leap of all time.

Benjamin was reduced to tears after the race, having delivered the performance of his life but still finished on the second step of the podium

"Knowing that you want to be the best, this is what it costs. It's hard. It hurts. But it is what it is," Benjamin said.

"I always give myself 24 hours to process things. Right now I am just full of emotion. I have worked so hard. This is what matters. I got a medal but it just hurts to lose."

He added: "I'm a dog. I'm a fighter. It's my first Olympics. I made some mistakes that cost me, but it's all right. I'll fix it."

Karsten Warholm set a massive world record in the men's 400 metres hurdles as the Norwegian landed gold at the Tokyo Olympics.

He became the first man to dip under 46 seconds, setting a startling time of 45.94 seconds as he fended off American Rai Benjamin, who clocked 46.17.

The top three in the race all went under 47 seconds and beat the previous Olympic record, with bronze going to Brazilian Alison dos Santos in 46.72.

Warholm was already the world record holder, setting a time of 46.70secs in Oslo at the start of July to break the previous best of 46.78 that had been held by Kevin Young since the 1992 Barcelona Olympics..

Now he has demolished his own mark, helped by being pushed all the way by Benjamin.

Warholm had a healthy lead heading into the final 150 metres but then came under pressure from the USA star over the final two barriers, the gap closing.

The 25-year-old from Ulsteinvik held his nerve and maintained his rhythm, though, sprinting away to post a record that could stand for many years to come.

All three medallists went under the previous Olympic record.

Gold in the women's long jump went to Germany's Malaika Mihambo, whose final-round effort of 7.00 metres saw her edge ahead of America Brittney Reese and NIgerian Ese Brume, the silver and bronze medallists, who both posted best leaps of 6.97m.

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