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The alternative athletics awards 2010

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Tom Fordyce | 19:42 UK time, Friday, 3 September 2010

And so, with a fizz and a bang, the 2010 summer of athletics comes to an end. In its place springs a desire to dish out some well-earned gongs and brickbats to sum it all up.

Yep - I know we've still got the Great North Run and Commonwealth Games to come. Hence the use of the world 'summer'. For the same reason, performances from the indoor season have also not been considered.

Everything else is fair game. So feel free to argue with my choices, suggest your own and come up with additional alternative categories too. Sadly there are no tangible prizes to dish out, but it should always be more about glory than gold, no?

Athlete of Year

So many contenders, so many big performances.

Until the last fortnight I was certain my vote would be going to Tyson Gay, not only for his 9.78 secs at a cold Crystal Palace and 19.72 secs in Monaco but for the way he pushed on where his big Jamaican rivals fell back, and won in so many different conditions and race scenarios.

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If it wasn't Gay, I reasoned, then Allyson Felix should take the crown - for dominating both the 200m and 400m at the Diamond League, and doing it all in the sort of style that could make even grizzled track and field veterans coo with pleasure.

There were other contenders, of course - Andreas Thorkildsen for his peerless performances in the javelin; David Oliver for clocking seven of the 10 fastest times in the world and coming within the thickness of a vest of matching Dayron Robles' 110m hurdles record; Nadzeya Ostapchuk owning the shot put; France's European champion pole-vaulter Renaud Lavillenie, who produced four of the top five jumps all year.

Then David Rudisha stormed to that sensational 800m in Berlin, and - even as the dust was settling - topped it a week later in Rieti.

The 800m world record does not go very often. It's both a biggie and a toughie. So for his displays in that event, and the wonder of watching how he did it, Rudisha gets my nod. Sorry, Tyson.

British Athlete of Year

Honourable mentions to Andy Turner for his European sprint hurdles title, Dai Greene for both winning the European 400m hurdles title and moving into true world-class and superwoman Jessica Ennis for triumphing in filthy conditions in Gotzis and then doing the same under balmy Spanish skies two months later.

But then there were two. First: Phillips Idowu, truly an athlete to rise to the biggest occasions, following his PB to win World gold last summer with... a PB to win European gold.

It shouldn't be possible to top that. But with a European 5,000m and 10,000 double plus a smashing of a British record that had stood for 28 years, Mo Farah does just that.

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Biggest Disappointment

Everyone likes a big gun. So the no-show of Yelena Isinbayeva throughout the summer was always going to be a miss, even if her form last year had started to show signs of stress and shonkiness.

Way beyond that, however, was the absence of the showdown to end all showdowns - Bolt, Powell and Gay, all three sprint kings in one 100m race, head to head to head.

The Diamond League was meant to make it happen. Injuries, tax bills and poor scheduling meant it didn't. Come on 2011 - spoil us.

Biggest Shock

Possibly what Jonathan Borlee experienced as he came round the top bend in Rome to be confronted with an overhead camera swooping towards him at head height.

Villain of Year

No-one likes a dope cheat. So for his three positive tests for banned steroid Dehydroepiandrosterone, reigning World and Olympic 400m champion LaShawn Merritt must get the nod.

Most Amusing Story of Year

LaShawn's explanation for his positive test? He'd been using an over-the-counter male enhancement product called ExtenZe, the most unlikely excuse since Dennis Mitchell blamed his illegal testosterone levels on "five bottles of beer and sex with my wife at least four times... it was her birthday, the lady deserved a treat."

Quote of the Year

Did I mention LaShawn Merrit? Here's what he had to say after being caught using the, ah, enlargement product: "To know that I've tested positive ... is extremely difficult to wrap my hands around."

Young Athlete of the Year

Let's start from a British perspective and doff our caps to Steph Twell. Always the cross country queen, this was the year the 21-year-old came of age on the track - reaching the European 1500m final and setting a new PB, beating that mark in Zurich and then taking 22 seconds off her 5,000m best in Brussels to go fourth on the all-time UK rankings.

On the global stage. I'm thinking of three names - first Yohan Blake, if we feel comfortable with putting to one side the ban from last year, then Czech javelin tyro Petr Frydrych for his 88.23m in Ostrava and chasing in the spike-marks of legendary compatriot Jan Zelezny, and finally French sprint sensation Christophe Lemaitre.

No easy choice, but for his impact in Barcelona, his sub-10 secs 100m and subsequent 9.97 secs and his insouciant wearing of both a teenager's fluffy faux-moustache and farmhand's floppy straw hat, Lemaitre gets my nod.

Biggest Character

It's always fun seeing what Lolo Jones has to say on Twitter, and everyone loves David Oliver's giddy garrulousness on the same service. But there was a large archer-shaped hole where Usain should have been for most of the summer, and no-one filled it better than the mysterious, mesmeric, ever-so-slightly mad Blanca Vlasic - dancing, prancing, pouting and leaping her way around the world's biggest meets.

Most enjoyable single moment

I did enjoy the athlete's name-plus-band game on Twitter - how can you argue with Roger Black Sabbath, Geoff Cape Get Cape Fly or the Larry Achike Girls?

As far as the actual action goes, I can't see past old pals Mo Farah and Chris Thompson coming home in first and second at that unforgettable 10,000m in Barcelona, and the sheer delight on their faces as they realised what the other had achieved. "That was the best half an hour of my life," said Thompson afterwards, and you knew he meant it.

Best Single Performance

In any other year. Teddy Tamgho's spectacular leap in New York to go third on the all-time lists would be a shoo-in. Then along came David Rudisha.

If it's any consolation Teddy, you'll have other years.

Comeback Kid

There was a time when you thought she might never make it back. There was a time when the rumours about the treatment she may or may not be having grew more outlandish every week. But, by July, Caster Semenya was back and winning all three of her (albeit low-key) first races and coming home third in the Brussels Diamond League 800m.

If she was four seconds off that extraordinary PB from 2009, she still dipped under two minutes, and if there are still plenty of disgruntled rumbles from some of her rivals, she is still favourite for the Commonwealth title in October.

Biggest Breakthrough

It's all about France for me - first Tamgho, following up his World Indoor success with that stunning 17.98m in New York, but even more so his compatriot Lemaitre - not so much for becoming the first white man to run under 10 seconds for the 100m, but for taking both 100m and 200m gold at the Europeans. As one of his predecessors as European champion, Darren Campbell, told us afterwards, there's a lot more to come too.

Best Rivalry

Vlasic may have ruled the Diamond League contests, but Chaunte Howard Lowe made it a battle. Barbora Spotakova and Christina Obergfoll went neck and neck too, but for never quite knowing who would come out on top, and a battle that went this way and that and back to this again, step forward Lolo Jones, Priscilla Lopez-Schliep and Sally Pearson.


  • Comment number 1.

    These gap years for Athletics are always a bit disappointing. For us Brits we get the Europeans to make up for it, which are always fun, but the Worlds and Olympics are the real acid test for British Athletics. It is also a shame that the Commonwealth games have been put on the back burner, once again, because of their poor timing.

    I think a special mention should go to Jessica Ennis. What an absolute hero. This year she won the World Indoor Pentathlon title with a Championship Record and the second best score of all time, and won every heptathlon she competed in during the summer, winning gold at the Europeans and boosting her PB again. And all of this through sheer hard work. Her second day is where her improved points total has come from, not because of any improvement to her already close-to-greatest-ever first day. And we all know what she can do on day 1. I'm so excited to see what she can do in the next two summers. If she can get the golds that she'll be aiming for, she'll go down as a legend in British athletics.

    Biggest disappointment - Usain Bolt's 'quiet' year. After two devastating years which saw him rise to the title of world's greatest sportsman, he has by his standards had an average year, not going under 9.8 I believe, which in this day and age, is poor. Don't think Isinbayeva was a massive disappoinment. From my point of view the pole vault is one of the worst events in athletics, it basically is gymnastics, and it possibly was good to see a bit of competition for once.

    Most annoying thing - David Oliver being able to run 12.8 seconds in the 110mH yet still smash over half the barriers. Seriously, it is called hurdles for a reason, so you have to get over them. They really should make the things heavier so they concentrate on getting their techinque right more, otherwise it is just a glorified power sprint.

    Lolo Jones - Not a fan really. Too much talk and not enough action.

    Best athletics commentator - Michael Johnson. Pure straight-talking, coherant intellect from one of the greatest athletes of all time. You really can't ask for much more than that. The BBC have a had a real coup getting him to work on the events every single year, it makes the coverage of the championships 100% better just hearing what this man has to say.

  • Comment number 2.

    Spot on !
    Take issue with you about British young athlete of the
    year. Perri Shakes Drayton gets my vote. Bronze in Europeans
    with a big personal best in the 400 hurdles and storming leg
    in 4x400. Great prospect for 2012.

  • Comment number 3.

    It's been an interesting year. Somehow, I've a gut feeling that Tyson Gay has really turned the tables on Bolt, or at leas levelled the playing field if you like. OK, Bolt wasn't 100% fit in Stockholm - even Gay admitted that - but winning is winning. I don't think that we have seen him at this best at 200m either - he ran 19.72 in Monaco but tied up a lot because he went off far too fast on the turn. If he uses a bit more control I think a 19.3 or 19.4 clocking is possible (still way off the 19.19 Bolt ran last year but will Bolt run that kind of time again?)Gay could be the Tommie Smith of our time.

    As for the Brits, I was really pleased Andy Turner won the European 110m Hurdles - he's had a tough time getting to this point and I'm sure a lot of athletes would have given up after lottery funding withdrawal.

    Looking forward to the Commonwealth Games, just a shame a lot of the athletes have decided to give it a miss.

  • Comment number 4.

    First up: how about taking a showjumping approach to hurdles: 0.1s penalty for every hurdle knocked over? Agree with the best commentator above - Johnson is the best summariser of any sport. BBC have got a gem there.

    One more I'd like to add:

    Best Moment
    Andy Turner's reaction when interviewed in the studio after his hurdles win - of all the athletes you could see how much it meant to him - he looked dewy-eyed; I was too!

    ...and one I'd like to disagree with:

    Best Rivalry
    Messrs Greene and Williams in the 400 hurdles. What's up with those two? Williams not joining Greene on the trot around the track afterwards (with what I thought was a thinly-veiled excuse) and when they got them in the next day, there was absolutely no eye contact at all. Intense rivalries are great fun, especially when in the same team and add an extra spur, I'm very excited to see how these two progress in the next 2-3 years. Greene has confirmed himself as world class after his Split performance last week.

  • Comment number 5.

    Gavelaa - lovely post

    Tootingmick - excellent shout re PSD. Sensational summer

    bohemian73 - agreed re Andy Turner. Re Bolt and Gay, who would you back to come out on top at the Worlds next year? Despite Tyson's great summer, I'd still have to favour Bolt.

    richsdixon - more of that rivalry at the Commonwealths too. 4 hurdles one of the tastiest events on the table, no?

  • Comment number 6.

    Gavelaa (#1)

    Yes Bolt not going under 9.8 by his own high standards is a let down, but he hasn't been fully fit and by his own reckoning he isn't even bothered about this year. Why should he burn himself out when there are bigger fish to fry next year and 2012? Plus the fact that he has now been beaten will give him some food for thought and I expect him to take it to another level again. sub 9.5 100m and sub 19 200m, by Olympics 2012.

    And I have to disagree with your comment re David Oliver. It isn't as if he is running through the hurdles; he merely clips the top off them. Momentum is such that it doesn't affect rhythm or stride pattern. So why shouldn't this be allowed? The penalty is implicit in that by hurdling with such fine margins if he doesn't get it exactly right and he clobbers a hurdle then it will be the end of his race.

    For me the event I am most looking forward to next year and 2012 isn't the 100m or 200m because no matter what Gay, does a fully fit Bolt will win. The 100mH however is a different ball game. If Robles and Liu can get fit then a three way battle for that title will be immense!

    Undoubetedly though the man of the moment is David Rudisha - looking forward to him going sub 1 40 one day! The stamina that man has is just incredible....

    Agree with the comments about MJ though. A great athlete and a great commentator! The man is a legend! Still GOAT - over 400 at least ;)

  • Comment number 7.

    *110mH not 100mH for Robles vs Liu vs Oliver

  • Comment number 8.

    I agree with you Tom, Bolt is still favourite for the double at London 2012. However, I think Gay has a much better chance at the 200m (not much chance at 100m if Bolt is in 9.5 form.) Earlier in the year, Gay ran 44.89 for 400m without any specific training, so the 'speed strength' is definitely there (a low 44 clocking is possible.) After all, Michael Johnson wasn't the fastest 100m man but his strength allowed him to 'slow' the least in the straight in the 200m. Perhaps this is a way to go for Gay, improving this 400m capability to improve this slow phase further. By using his much faster 100m speed (than MJ), in the 200m, he will at least be able to stay in contention with Bolt on the bend, and then using this 'speed strength' to hold then come 'past' Bolt (of course, in practice it basically who's slowing down the least.)

    Wow - I think I've been thinking about this too much! I'm sure Gay's coach may have a better idea than me!

    Conclusion to Daegu 2011 and London 2012- Bolt to remain just that little bit to good at 100m and too close to call at 200m (injuries permitting.)

  • Comment number 9.

    Agree that PSD would be best young brit.

    Tamgho gets my nod miles ahead of Lemaitre for breakthrough. Lets not forget Tamhgo went 3rd of all time, whereas Lemaitre beat average fields in the Europeans, and his 9.97s is still a long way off the best in the world right now. Darren C is of course right in saying there's an awful lot to clean up in Lemaitre's race. Tom - love your comments about Lemaitre's appearence!

    For an extra category, I'd give Phillips Idowu best british performance of the year for his 17.81m. It came in the big comp against the young man who'd just gone 3rd A/T. I wonder though if he drew a lot of confidence from Tamgho's slip on the board in practice?

    I loved the women's sprint hurdles rivalery also this year. I'd echo the above comments about wanting to see Oliver vs Robles vs Liu. I think a fully fit Robles is the class act though!!!

  • Comment number 10.

    Tom !!! !!!!! don’t pick on the elephant….it is ok to play with jerry the mouse!!! Do u know elephants do not mind a cats meooowwwww!!!!
    You brought in morality, so many try to live on less than a pound a day (poverty), Cobra under the bed,
    By now, comments of many above you may have learnt English definitions of "morality" in its true sense.

    Let me refer you on how crooks can bring about poverty to common man. The so called " recession " that made the millions of common poor people in most developed country to stand in queue for a days for a piece of bread and threw many out of their shelter/homes.

    Who caused this situation does any have an idea. The financial system was frames and established by the so called greedy elite and highly academia MBA's who managed to get to the top of every organization. They then without knowing the ground reality started chasing the stock market index or whatever from the banks were cheated by falsified value appreciation and trapped poor middle class with pittance presented as credit cards. They top management of financial wizards of all levels managed to build from such dirty immoral means a castle. Finally the wind blew one day and the world was hit by "Recession".

    It was strong morals in common man in India who had sense and sensibility as a population that did not lead them to mess in their lives. They are fully aware of the western intensions and know they are here with us only to plunder again this time the target is peoples mind to ruin the strong secular culture, the sense of dignity and honor. Hindustan (India or Indus valley civilization is evident of its richness and class of living). We treated guests equal to gods it is our culture those with no morals plundered the home and …….on it for long enough.

    I think it is time now for western people to change their views and learn what morality means.

    Of course!! We do have people living less than a pound a day and shanty towns and we have cobra among other animals and as humans we have a pride, rich heritage, own land of biodiversity above all we have contributed to humans civilization that dates back 5000 years ( though our Vedas and knowledge bank was stolen and plundered depriving our generations from mean, barbarian people ). We provided knowledge to frame other religions of the world to be civilized firstly (with no credit of mentions in history), unfortunately our culture and traditions were destroyed systematically by the barbarian Invaders for centuries.

    Hip hip hurray !!! CWG…India…


  • Comment number 11.

    Dear TOM,

    I wish there was some good news form BBC which had enforce me to register with .. but the credit goes to your writing skills Sire !

    After reading your post on Delhi CWG (, I want to know if its the Journalism of the entire UK (or world) is touching new low - or you guys are specifically hired by BBC (or any other agency) to write such cheap things .... (to get multi millions clicks ????)

    So what are you planning for your post BBC days ...

    BTW, if you still like writing, pls write ur opinion on this story ...

    Bon Voyage !!!!!

  • Comment number 12.

    @ Tom, this is a comment on your blog Delhi delights-now for the hard bit, as the comments are closed now.
    @ Indian commentators to BBC. My beloved country men, why is this furore over a blog from a BBC journalist? If you know the BBC you would not be surprised on the fact that they follow strict "agenda". What else you can expect from a media which is run by British Tax payers mandatory broadcast reception taxes and Government grants!! They run this to spread cynicism and pessimissm in their target markets (mostly third world) and to give the daily dose of negativity so that those people will ever live in cliches and oblivion. Good thing about India is that they have more vociferous and a transition media that there is no time for Indians to listen to the BBC propoganda. BBC will continue to run this agenda for ever and we should not be LISTENING to them, and should do every effort to EXPOSE them.
    Every Third world country citizens shall be aware of their agenda and should not fall trap. I guess it is hight time BBC also take note of the resentment that people are having against their attitude, and if they do not care it, it is high time Indians stage their protest whenever BBC comes to India.


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