Feature11 Nov 2022

Spotlight on Rising Stars: Adriana Vilagos and Emmanuel Wanyonyi


Adriana Vilagos and Emmanuel Wanyonyi

As the countdown to the World Athletics Awards 2022 continues, we shine a spotlight on the five women and five men who have been nominated for this year’s Rising Star awards.

The winners will be selected by an international panel of experts and be announced on World Athletics’ social media platforms in early December.

Adriana Vilagos

When you start the season as a reigning global champion, there’s always a certain amount of pressure.

But Serbian javelin thrower Adriana Vilagos exceeded all expectations that were placed on her young shoulders in 2022.

In a season that started in March and ended in September, Vilagos placed in the top three in 15 of her 16 competitions, consistently throwing beyond 60 metres and finishing ahead of experienced senior opponents.

During the first half of the season, she won gold at the Balkan Championships and Mediterranean Games. Then came her big target for the year: the World Athletics U20 Championships Cali 22.

She had won gold in Nairobi one year prior, aged just 17 at the time, but now the pressure was on to defend that honour. She dominated the competition, throwing beyond 60 metres with four of her five valid throws in the final. She saved her best for last, sending her spear out to a championship record of 63.52m in the sixth round, becoming the first woman since former world record-holder Osleidys Menendez to win back-to-back world U20 titles in the javelin.

Vilagos’s winning mark also elevated her to third on the world U20 all-time list, but she still has another season left in the age group so could climb even higher up that list next year.

Less than three weeks after retaining her world U20 title, Vilagos earned silver at the senior European Championships, finishing one place ahead of world record-holder Barbora Spotakova. Vilagos rounded out her season with some strong performances on the international circuit, including a 63.00m third-place finish at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Brussels.


Emmanuel Wanyonyi

Like Vilagos, Emmanuel Wanyonyi started the year as the reigning world U20 800m champion. He decided against defending his title and instead opted to compete against senior opposition.

It proved to be the smoothest of transitions as the Kenyan middle-distance runner won his first four races, including the Continental Tour Gold meetings in Nairobi and Ostrava and then at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Rabat, beating some of the world’s best 800m runners in the process.

At Kenya’s hotly contested trials, Wanyonyi clocked a season’s best of 1:44.01 to secure his place on the team for the World Athletics Championships Oregon22.

He went on to finish fourth at the World Championships, clocking 1:44.54 and missing out on a medal by just a quarter of a second - despite still being aged just 17 at the time.

He ended his season in fifth place on the world rankings. Of all U20 athletes, only Erriyon Knighton ranks higher in the overall rankings.

Wanyonyi still has another year left as an U20 athlete, but given he has already made an impact as a senior, expect to see him featuring prominently on the international circuit again in 2023.

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