Athletics: 3 Africans among the athletes of the year

Kenyan middle-distance runner Faith Kipyegon and American sprinter Noah Lyles were among the six “Athletes of the Year” honored in Monaco on Monday evening by the International Athletics Federation (World Athletics), which also paid tribute to the marathon records broken this season.

World Athletics usually names one man and one woman “Athlete of the Year”, but this year decided to give out more awards than usual, singling out six athletes for their performances on the track, on the road, and in field events.

Faith Kipyegon, 29, was crowned in the “track” category after breaking three world records in the 1,500 m (3 min 49 sec 11), mile (around 1,609 meters in 4:07.64) and 5,000 m (14:05.20, since broken) in 2023.

“It’s been a wonderful year,” said Kipyegon, who also became the first woman to complete the 1500/5000 double, at the world championships in Budapest. “I never expected to do what I did, to break three world records and win two gold medals.”

American Noah Lyles, this year’s fastest man in the world, was also honored in the “track” category after dominating world sprinting by winning the 100 m, 200 m, and 4×100 m in Budapest.

“The 100 m was the most important because I’ve always known I was the fastest man on the planet, but nobody was going to believe me without this title,” reacted the sprinter, more of a 200 m specialist.

Next year, the 26-year-old American wants to win the Olympic gold that is missing from his list of honours, having already won six world championship titles and beat the world record for the half-lap (19.19 seconds for Usain Bolt against a personal best of 19.31).

Sweden’s Mondo Duplantis, who raised his pole vault world record to 6.23 m this year, and Venezuela’s Yulimar Rojas, world champion and world record holder in the triple jump (15m74 in 2022), were crowned in the “field event” category.

Kenya’s Kelvin Kiptum and Ethiopia’s Tigst Assefa were rewarded in the “road” category for their stratospheric marathon world records of 2:00:35 and 2:11:53 respectively. Kiptum will aim to go even faster and get closer to the mythical two-hour barrier at the Rotterdam marathon (Netherlands) in April.

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