Have your say and cast your votes for the standout athletes of the past 12 months
Most end-of-year honours are picked by small panels of experts, but the AW athletes of the year awards are chosen by you, the readers.
There are categories that cover the leading British and international athletes, plus sections for under-20 athletes, para-athletes and masters performers.
These accolades are just a bit of fun with no real hardware up for grabs, but what better honour is there than knowing you have impressed the most knowledgeable athletics readership in the world?
Voting closes at midnight (BST) Thursday November 11 with the results published in the December edition of AW magazine.
Read about the nominees here and then cast your votes at the end of this article.
International male athlete
Ryan Crouser: Olympic champion and Diamond League winner was in a class of his own once again in the shot put. He broke the indoor world record in January and then, in June, took down Randy Barnes’ outdoor mark of 23.12m, which had stood since 1990, with a throw of 23.37m. Undefeated all year, the American also successfully defended his Olympic title with a longest throw of 23.30m.
Andre De Grasse: So often the nearly man, the Canadian raced to top spot on the Olympic podium with 200m victory in a national record of 19.62. That performance followed up his bronze medal-winning run in the 100m.
Mondo Duplantis: There were a few attempts but no pole vault world records for the young superstar Swede this year, however he did become European Indoor Champion, dominated the Diamond League and became Olympic champion for the first time.
Jakob Ingebrigtsen: Began his year by breaking the European Indoor 1500m record, with a run of 3:31.80 in February before blowing the competition away at the European Indoor Championships as he won an historic 1500m/3000m double. Another European record came his way in June thanks to his 12:48.45 for 5000m, but the crowning glory came with Olympic 1500m gold in Tokyo – breaking another continental mark in the process!
Lamont Marcell Jacobs : The Italian took the European Indoor 60m title but then produced one of the biggest shocks of the Olympics by winning the 100m in a European record-breaking 9.80. He also featured in the Italian side which clinched 4x100m relay gold in Tokyo.
Eliud Kipchoge: Following his below-par showing in London last autumn, some wondered if the marathon great’s powers might be waning. Not so. He raced only twice in 2021, winning the Enschede marathon in 2:04:30 before then producing a masterclass to dismantle his opposition in Japan and clinch the second Olympic title of his career.
Gianmarco Tamberi and Mutaz Essa Barshim: This has to be a joint entry given that there was no separating them in Tokyo! The joint Olympic gold medallists produced an unforgettable high jump competition this summer, while the Italian also captured a European Indoor silver medal and won the Diamond League title.
Karsten Warholm: The Norwegian didn’t run his first 400m hurdles race of the year until July but it was worth the wait as he ran 46.70 in Oslo to break Kevin Young’s 25-year-old world record. Warholm then produced one of the greatest Olympic performances of all time as he lowered his mark to 45.94 on his way to gold.
International female athlete
Valarie Allman: The American discus thrower enjoyed the perfect season, winning the Olympic title and the Diamond League title. She saved her best until the end of the season, however, when she broke the American record with a distance of 71.16m.
Sifan Hassan: Many observers were astonished that the Dutchwoman would even attempt an unprecedented Olympic 1500m/5000m/10,000m treble but she almost pulled it off. Golds came her way over the longer distances, while it was the brilliance of Faith Kipyegon and Laura Muir which mean she had to ‘settle’ for 1500m bronze.
Faith Kipyegon: The remarkable Kenyan became arguably the greatest female 1500m runner of all time in 2021. She was second in her opening race over the distance this season but was unbeatable from that point onwards. A successful defence of her Olympic title was secured in an Olympic record of 3:53.11, while the Diamond League title also followed.
Sydney McLaughlin: Like Karsten Warholm on the men’s side, the American rewrote history in the 400m hurdles. Her astonishing world record run of 51.46 just saw off Dalilah Muhammad and Femke Bol in the Olympic final. The 21-year-old had become the first woman ever to break 52 seconds with a run of 51.90 in winning the American trials back in June.
Athing Mu: Still just 19, Mu spent the year meeting the huge expectations being placed on her. She stormed to the 800m Olympic title in 1:55.21, the fastest ever time by a woman from the US, and became the first American to win the event since 1968.
Yulimar Rojas: The Venezuelan is the dominant force in triple jumping and she underlined that fact by breaking the world record with a leap of 15.67m in the Olympic final. It was her country’s first Olympic gold in athletics. She also won the Diamond League final.
Elaine Thompson-Herah: With the competition in female sprinting so fierce, to stand out in such a manner spoke volumes for the Jamaican. She completed the ‘double double’ by successfully defending her Olympic 100m and 200m titles and also won 4x100m relay gold. The Diamond League winner then followed that up by clocking 10.54 in Eugene, the second-fastest women’s 100m time in history.
Anita Wlodarczyk: The Pole cemented her position as the greatest female hammer thrower of all-time after claiming the third consecutive Olympic title of her career in Tokyo thanks a throw of 78.48m.
British male athlete
Harry Coppell: The British record-holder who retained his national pole vault title cleared 5.80m as he finished seventh in the Olympic final in Tokyo.
Elliot Giles: With 1:43.63 he took down Seb Coe’s long-standing UK indoor 800m record and went No.2 on the world all-time lists behind Wilson Kipketer. Outdoors his best was 1:44.05 and he won British outdoor gold but was third in his Olympic semi-final.
Jake Heyward: The Welshman went from strength to strength, reaching the Olympic 1500m final and setting a PB of 3:32.82. He also broke the Welsh Mile record with a run of 3:52.15 in Eugene.
Josh Kerr: Won Olympic 1500m bronze with a time of 3:29.05 which places him No.2 on the UK all-time rankings behind Mo Farah. Raced lightly during the Tokyo build-up but his range included 1:45.74 for 800m and 13:23.78 for 5000m, not to mention a narrow British title win over Jake Wightman.
Nick Miller : The Commonwealth hammer throwing champion produced a fine performance at the Olympics, reaching a distance of 78.15m to finish sixth.
Andy Pozzi: Indoor campaign saw him equal his PB with a run of 7.43 to take European 60m hurdles silver in Toruń, while there was a seventh-place finish in the 110m hurdles Olympic final.
Marc Scott: Started the year with 27:10.41 for 10,000m to go No.2 on the UK all-time rankings and 13:05.13 to go No.3 on the UK lists for 5000m. Not at his best in Tokyo where he finished 14th in the 10,000m final and sixth in his 5000m heat but he bounced back to win the Great North Run.
Chris Thompson: Aged 39 and after an injury-hit build-up which included smashing his hand in an accident, the marathon runner won the Olympic trial in dramatic and emotional style in 2:10:52. He later became the only British man to finish the Olympic marathon, placing 39th.
British female athlete
Holly Bradshaw: The pole vaulter captured bronze medals at both the Olympic Games and European Indoor Championships. In addition, she set a UK record of 4.90m when winning the British title in Manchester.
Keely Hodgkinson: Finished Olympic 800m runner-up to fellow teenager Athing Mu in Tokyo as she improved Kelly Holmes’ British record to 1:55.88. Broke two minutes a total of nine times and won the European indoor title in Poland, as well as the Diamond League final.
Eilish McColgan: Beat Paula Radcliffe’s UK 5000m record with 14:28.55 in Oslo and later improved Radcliffe’s 10-mile mark at the Great South Run, where she set a European best of 50:43. Her half-marathon debut brought a runner-up spot at the Great North Run in 67:48, whereas at the Olympics she went out in her 5000m heat and came ninth in the 10,000m final.
Laura Muir: Finally won the outdoor global championship medal she so craved with Olympic 1500m silver in a UK record of 3:54.50 behind Faith Kipyegon in Tokyo. She also ran 1:56.73 for 800m to win in Monaco and go No.3 on the UK all-time rankings.
Daryll Neita: Broke the 100m 11-second barrier for the first time with 10.96 in the Olympic heats on her way to the final. Finished the season by moving to second on the British all-time lists with a PB of 10.93. Also part of the Olympic bronze-winning 4x100m relay team.
Jemma Reekie: Topped the world 800m rankings earlier this year and narrowly missed out on an Olympic medal, finishing fourth. Set a PB of 1:56.90 which moved her to fourth in the UK all-time rankings.
Jazmin Sawyers: Eighth in the Olympic long jump final after leaping 6.90m to go equal fourth on the UK all-time rankings earlier in the season. Finished fourth in the Diamond League final, plus had notable victories in Berlin and at the British Championships.
Jodie Williams : Started the year strongly with European Indoor 400m bronze and impressed at the British Championships, completing the 200m/400m double in Manchester. Her PB run of 49.97 brought with it sixth place in the Olympic 400m final.
International junior male
Mykolas Alekna: The Lithuanian achieved the second-longest discus throw of all-time by an under-20 athlete to break the World U20 Championships record with 69.81m.
Jonathan Kapitolnik: The Israeli high jumper was one of a select group to win both the European and world under-20 titles, dominating his event and securing a PB of 2.26m.
Erriyon Knighton: The 17-year-old American’s run of 19.84 at the US Trials broke Usain Bolt’s World under-20 200m record and the World U18 best. He won his semi to reach the Olympic 200m final, finishing fourth.
Gabriel Wallmark: There was a Swedish record of 16.43m for the 19-year-old as he swept his way to world under-20 triple jump gold, adding to the European title he had secured a month earlier with 16.39.
Tadese Worku: The Ethiopian teenager won 3000m world under-20 gold and 5000m silver in Nairobi. The fastest junior in the world this year over 3000m, 10,000m and 10km.
Sasha Zhoya: The Frenchman ran faster than the world under-20 110m hurdles record on his way to the European title, albeit with an illegal tailwind. He made sure at the World Under-20 Championships, breaking the mark twice and clocking 12.72 to take gold.
International junior female
Maja Askag: The Swede won the long jump and triple jump titles at the European Under-20 Championships in Tallinn, before repeating the feat at the World Under-20 Championships in Nairobi.
Silja Kosonen: The Finnish hammer thrower made her Olympic debut at the age of 18, as well as winning both European and world under-20 titles, setting a championship record of 71.64m in the latter
Christine Mboma: The Namibian who had to switch from 400m to the 200m due to DSD regulations prior to the Olympics won silver in the half-lap event with a world junior record-breaking time of 21.81. She followed it up by taking gold at the World U20 Championships and winning the Diamond League final.
Athing Mu: The American 19-year-old has not only been unbeatable over 800m this year, becoming Olympic and national champion in some style, but she also won 4x400m relay gold in Tokyo.
Saga Vanninen: Another exciting Finnish talent, the heptathlete was also part of the club of athletes to win European and world under-20 gold.
Briana Williams: The fastest under-20 in the world this year over 100m with her Jamaican under-20 record-breaking time of 10.97. Also won her first Olympic gold medal as part of the triumphant 4x100m team.
British junior male
Sam Brereton: High jumper won bronze at the European Under-20 Championships with a season’s best of 2.17m. Also took his fourth English Schools title.
Max Burgin: Only raced once before injury curtailed his season but what a run it was as he set a European under-20 800m record of 1:44.14 to win in Ostrava against a line-up that included Jake Wightman and Olympic medallist Patryk Dobek.
Edward Faulds: Two golds at the European Under-20 Championships – winning the 400m in 45.72 to go No.8 on the UK all-time junior rankings before anchoring the GB team to the 4x400m title with a sub-45sec split.
Derek Kinlock: Became the first British winner of the men’s 200m at the European Under-20 Championships for a decade with 20.72 after arriving at the event with a PB of only 21.22.
Toby Makoyawo: Gold in the 100m at the European Under-20 Championships in Tallinn in 10.25. Won the England Athletics 100m title as well while running 6.77m for 60m indoors and 21.05 for 200m.
Henry McLuckie: The 1500m runner’s best time of 3:40.82 from 2021 is slightly slower than Kane Elliott but McLuckie was top Brit at the European Under-20 Championships with bronze. At 5000m, meanwhile, he ran 13:56.20 to sit No.2 on the UK 2021 rankings behind Osian Perrin.
British junior female
Mary John: Runner-up to Kornelia Lesiewicz of Poland in the 400m at the European Under-20 Championships in Tallinn with 53.06. Also won the English title and ran 24.16 for 200m.
Success Eduan: Still an under-17, she won 200m bronze in 23.62 and 4x100m gold at the European Under-20 Championships plus 100m gold at the UK School Games.
Joy Eze: Bronze in the 100m at the European Under-20 Championships with a 100m PB of 11.44 before later being part of the gold medal-winning sprint relay team in Tallinn.
Keely Hodgkinson: Soon after turning 19 she won the European indoor 800m crown and went on to claim a stunning silver at the Olympics in a UK senior record of 1:55.88. That time was also a European under-20 record and she achieved the same feat indoors with 1:59.03. What’s more, she leads the UK 2021 400m under-20 rankings with 52.61.
Megan Keith: With 9:16.50 she finished fourth at the European Under-20 3000m and clocked 16:08.88 for 5000m to go No.15 on the UK all-time junior rankings. Started this winter in winning form on the country too.
Charlotte Payne: Went No.2 on the UK all-time junior rankings for the hammer behind Olympic medallist Sophie Hitchon with 64.09m at Milton Keynes. Then in Tallinn she was fourth at the European Under-20 Championships.
British masters – men
Tony Bowman: The versatile Leeds grandfather, who ran in the first London marathon in 1981, has survived two heart attacks and this year set British over-85 records at 200m (36.67), 80m hurdles (17.33), 200m hurdles (43.22), pentathlon (2803) and high jump (1.10m).
Mike Sheridan: At the age of 72, the Newbury athlete became the oldest British runner to break three hours for the marathon when he won the M70 category at London and the Abbott World Marathon Majors Wanda Age Group Champs title by over 20 minutes by running a UK age-group best of 2:59:37.
Alastair Walker: The Scot who won world and European masters titles as a M60 made an immediate impact when he turned 65 this summer. He set British M65 marks on the road at 5km (17:09) in Carlisle and 10km (35:37) in Kilmarnock, as well as 5000m on the track (17:03.10).
Joe Appiah: The multiple world and European masters champion made his debut this summer in the M50 category by taking the British 100m hurdles record with a stunning 13.85. He is also a fine jumper and tops the M50 2021 rankings at both long jump (6.07m) and triple jump (a windy 12.22m).
Warwick Dixon: The 86-year-old Cambridge Harrier’s best event in a very long career has traditionally been the hammer but his M85 British records this summer came in the Discus (23.84m), javelin (20.95m) and weight (9.95m) and weight pentathlon (3338).
Derek Jackson: Turning 70 in May, he has quickly made a mark and set UK M70 records at both 1500m (5:07.98) and Mile (5:29.57). He won the British Masters title this summer at 1500m in a then UK record 5:08.27.
British masters – women
Julia Machin: The former international heptathlete and high jumper added the W50 UK record to the W35, W40 and W45 marks she already owns. Her jump of 1.68m broke the UK and world record but she also had a 1.70m mark which wasn’t ratified and also bettered the UK W50 pentathlon record despite not even finishing the 800m.
Fiona Matheson: The Scot still holds a number of W50 records, including a world mark, but she made the most of turning 60 this summer with a string of UK W60 age group records at 1500m (5:08.10), mile (5:41.65), 5000m (18:38.75) and 10,000m (39:07.46) and 5km (18:43).
Sally Cooke: Moved up a level this summer to run a stunning hand-timed 400m of 57.9 (to score 101.39% on age-grading) though it was her 58.43 win in the British Masters that now stands as the UK W50 record. She also equalled the 100m age group record with a 13.10 clocking.
Yuko Gordon: The former Hong Kong Olympic marathoner turned 70 in February and has set UK age group records at Windsor (3:29:01) then Boston (UK, 3:26:29) and London (3:25:30). All are well within the currently listed W70 world record of 3:35:29.
Lisa Thomas: It has yet to be ratified as a world mark but her British 2000m steeplechase record 7:51.91 set in a Southern League (backed up by a 7:52.12 in the British Masters) are superior to the current listed 24-year-old world all-time mark of 7:58.43. She also tops the age group at 300m hurdles and mile and ran the fourth fastest ever 400m in her age group of 63.58.
Anne Martin: A versatile athlete who still holds a number of younger steeplechase marks, celebrated her move into the W85 age group with age group records at long jump (1.88m), triple jump (3.98m), hammer (22.09m) and weight (7.82m) and weight pentathlon (3415).
Para athlete – men
Jonathan Broom-Edwards : The summer began with European silver for the British T44 high jumper, but the world champion added Paralympic gold to his collection with a leap of 2.10m.
Aled Davies: With a European title won in Poland, the British thrower took the third Paralympic title of his career, successfully defending his F42 shot put title with a distance of 15.33m and adding to his discus victory from London 2012.
Felix Streng : The men’s T64 100m final was one of the great Paralympic moments and the race was won by the narrowest of margins. Streng took the honours in 10.76 to beat Sherman Isidro Guity Guity of Costa Rica, who ran 10.78. Another German, Johannes Floors, and defending champion Jonnie Peacock had to share bronze after both clocking 10.786 seconds.
Marcel Hug: The Swiss wheelchair superstar won three European titles followed by no fewer than four Paralympic golds in Tokyo – the 800m, 1500m, 5000m and T54 marathon. Not done there, he set about the task of winning every major autumn marathon. He won Berlin, London and Boston, finishing second in Chicago and is now aiming for top spot in New York.
Ntando Mahlangu: South Africa’s star Para athlete clinched Paralympic gold in the men’s T61 200m as he defeated Britain’s Richard Whitehead. He also broke the world record for the T63 long jump with his final leap of 7.17m.
Owen Miller: The 30-year-old who only made his British debut at the 2019 world championships, sprang a shock in the T20 1500m when he defeated Russian world champion Alexandr Rabotnitskii with a time of 3:54.57.
Dan Pembroke: The javelin thrower’s decision to return to the sport paid off handsomely when he won European and Paralympic F13 gold, breaking the Paralympic record with a throw of 69.52m.
Thomas Young: The 21-year-old defeated Chinese pre-race favourite Zhu Dening of China to win a surprise T38 Paralympic 100m gold. An inspired second half to his race saw the Briton speed past his rivals, crossing the line in a European record of 10.94.
Para athlete – women
Kare Adenegan: Only the top form of her rival and compatriot Hannah Cockroft meant the Briton missed out on the Paralympic double at T34 100m and 800m, taking silver in both events.
Hannah Cockroft: The British wheelchair racer won the sixth and seventh Paralympic gold medals of her illustrious career, improving her own world record with a time of 16.39 in clinching the T34 100m, and then finishing just 12 hundredths of a second away from breaking her own 800m world record in a winning time of 1:48.99
Omara Durand: The 29-year-old Cuban sprinter won three titles in Tokyo – the T12 100, 200m and 400m – to take her career tally of gold medals to eight.
Sophie Hahn: The British sprinter won the European T38 title before successfully defending her Paralympic title in impressive style as she beat Darian Jimenez Sanchez of Colombia. The Briton clocked 12.43 to win after having earlier set her stall out by equalling her own world record of 12.38 in the heats.
Fleur Jong: In June the Dutch athlete won European titles with world records at both the T64 100m and long jump events. She improved her record in the field as she reached the Paralympics, however, landing long jump gold with a leap of 6.16m.
Sammi Kinghorn: The Scot won the first Paralympic medals of her career as she took silver in the T53 400m and bronze in the 100m. She was also fourth in the 800m final.
Manuela Schär: The Swiss wheelchair racer took home five medals from her fifth Paralympic Games, winning T54 400m and 800m gold, as well as bronze in the 1500m, 5000m and marathon. Like compatriot Marcel Hug she has also impressed on the roads, winning the Berlin, London and Boston marathons.
Raoua Tlili: The Tunisian bettered the F41 discus world record by more than two and a half metres when she threw a distance of 37.91m to secure her sixth Paralympic gold.
Mel Watman Award for Performance of the Year
Mel Watman loved athletics excellence and devoted his life to recording it in the pages of AW. It seemed fitting, therefore, to remember the once long-time editor of this magazine by way of a new awards category to determine the Performance of the Year. There are a number of seriously strong contenders too!
Some called Karsten Warholm’s world record-breaking, Olympic gold medal-winning 400m hurdles performance in Tokyo as the greatest race ever. Even the man himself was left open-mouthed by what he’d achieved. Arriving in Japan having just taken down Kevin Young’s 25-year-old mark thanks to a time of 46.70m, the Norwegian then lowered it in the Olympic final to 45.94. He was pushed all the way by American Rai Benjamin, whose run of 46.17 to come second was also well inside the previous record.
Barely 24 hours after the jaw-dropping men’s 400m hurdles final, it was the turn of the women to put on another epic Olympic final. Once again, it was a fight right to the death and, once again, the world record-holder lowered their mark on their way to gold. America’s Sydney McLaughlin destroyed her record of 51.90 by almost half a second when she ran 51.46, while compatriot Dalilah Muhammad was right behind her in 51.58 and the Netherlands’ Femke Bol ran a European record of 52.03 in third.
Going into the Olympics you would have struggled to find a hotter favourite than Yulimar Rojas. The triple jumper was a class apart and she took down Inessa Kravets’ world record of 15.50m which had stood since the 1995 World Championships. Rojas effectively sealed gold with an Olympic record of 15.41m in the first round and then jumped out to 15.67m (0.7) in the sixth round to finally beat the Ukrainian’s global record. Breaking down Rojas’ effort, she produced a 5.86m hop, 3.82m step and 5.99m jump.
Both Mutaz Essa Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi had cleared 2.37m in the Olympic high jump final and were now in the throes of a battle for gold. As the competition heated up, they could not be separated – neither was able to get that tiny extra percentage out of themselves. A jump-off – in which the bar would incrementally come down until a winner was decided – loomed. There was another option, however. “Can we have two golds?” enquired Barshim. They could.
Not content with completing the “double double” of Olympic 100m and 200m gold, Elaine Thompson-Herah arrived in Eugene for the Prefontaine Classic in mid-August with confidence levels soaring. She flew to 100m victory in 10.54, overhauling her previous best of 10.61 to record the second-fastest time ever.
Back in March, an already memorable week got even more special for Chris Thompson as the new father produced an astonishing performance to win the British Athletics Olympic Marathon Trials at Kew Gardens and book his place for Tokyo. The 39-year-old looked to have fallen out of the running not long after the 15km mark but had instead opted to follow his own plan and bide his time. A beautifully paced run saw him execute the perfect race as he stormed away to hit the tape in a personal best of 2:10:52, well inside the qualifying time of 2:11:30, to secure a first Olympic appearance since competing in the 10,000m at London 2012.
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