Sydney McLaughlin and Eliud Kipchoge (© Getty Images)
As the World Athletics Awards 2022 draws near, we shine a spotlight on the finalists for the World Athlete of the Year awards.
The World Athletes of the Year will be announced on World Athletics’ social media platforms in early December, as part of the World Athletics Awards 2022.
How do you follow a year that featured two world records and two global gold medal wins? If you’re Sydney McLaughlin, then you repeat those remarkable feats.
In 2022, the 23-year-old improved her own world 400m hurdles record by 0.78, first to 51.41 at the US Championships and then to an awe-inspiring 50.68 at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22. That secured her a first individual senior world title, and she followed it by anchoring the US team to another 4x400m victory.
McLaughlin started her season with a 100m hurdles win at the end of April and ran her first 400m hurdles race of the year in Nashville at the start of June, making a statement with a 51.61 win. At that point it was the third-fastest time ever recorded behind her own world record of 51.46 and Dalilah Muhammad’s 51.58 from the Tokyo Olympics, but those were not to remain history’s three fastest times for long.
Lining up at the US Championships at Hayward Field, McLaughlin cruised through her heat and semifinal before making her world record-breaking run in the final look similarly effortless. Crossing the finish line with 51.41 on the clock, she improved the world record by 0.05.
After that race, providing a hint of what could still be to come, she said: “I think there’s a little bit more in the tank there, so hopefully when it’s time we can just empty it completely.”
Turns out, there was quite a lot left in the tank.
Back at Hayward Field a month later, and having again eased through the earlier rounds, McLaughlin obliterated her previous best, running 50.68 as the home crowd and the rest of the world watched on in amazement.
“The sport is getting faster and faster,” said McLaughlin, who was followed over the finish line by Femke Bol and Muhammad, respectively the third- and second-fastest women’s 400m hurdles in history. “Just figuring out what barriers can be broken. I only get faster from here.”
Two days later, McLaughlin returned to the track to clock a 47.91 anchor leg and help the home team to secure a dominant 4x400m win. She then closed her season with a 51.68 win at the World Athletics Continental Tour Gold meeting in Szekesfehervar – a European all-comers’ record and the sixth fastest time ever recorded.
As attention turns to 2023 and the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, she said: “We are excited to be here (in Hungary) and scouting out everything ahead of the worlds next year.”
Eliud Kipchoge continues to live up to his mantra: no human is limited. In 2022, not only did the Kenyan marathon great win two major races in Tokyo and Berlin, but he also improved his own world record to 2:01:09 – more than half a minute faster than any other athlete has ever achieved.
His first race of the year came in Tokyo in March, back in the city where he won his second Olympic marathon title last year. Before the race, Kipchoge had written 'ST:RO:NG' instead of numbers on his finish time prediction card and he achieved that aim, running 2:02:40 for a Japanese all-comers' record and the fourth-fastest time ever recorded in a record-eligible event behind his own world record of 2:01:39 set in Berlin in 2018.
“I said I wanted to run strong in Japan and I did, I ran a course record,” he said. “I am really happy I won another major marathon.”
It put him a step closer to another of his aims - winning each of the six Abbott World Marathon Majors. After victories in London, Berlin, Chicago and now Tokyo – all also World Athletics Elite Platinum Label road races – the 38-year-old will target Boston and New York City at some point in the future to compete the set.
Before that, however, he had business to attend to in Berlin.
In September, back at the scene of his 2018 world record, Kipchoge pushed the global mark further out of reach for the rest of the distance-running world. Clocking 2:01:09, he took half a minute off his previous world record and won by almost five minutes.
Unlike his last world record run, Kipchoge went out hard and was not just comfortably inside world record pace, but also inside a projected two-hour finish as the half way point was passed in 59:50.
Although his pace then started to drop slightly, Kipchoge always remained on world record tempo.
"I wanted to run the first half so fast. No limitations,” he said. "After 38km I knew I would be capable of breaking the world record.”