The IAAF Athletics Awards finalists for Athlete of the Year have been announced, and Caster Semenya is not one of them. The runners among the finalists are: Beatrice Chepkoech, Shaunae Miller-Uibo, and Dina Asher-Smith. (Nafissatou Thiam is a heptathlete and high jumper, and for the purposes of this story, not primarily a runner.)
No Semenya that makes sense—-wait nope that makes absolutely no sense https://t.co/Y6jjKus7bU
— House of Run (@HouseofRun) November 19, 2018
It’s hard not to figure Semenya’s omission from the top five greatest athletes of 2018 has something to do with the ongoing controversy surrounding her biology (a decision earlier this year that she must artificially lower her natural testosterone levels or move up to distances longer than the mile, with a deadline of November, has been delayed to March, and Semenya has appealed the ruling).
Public votes made up 25% of the short list decision‚ votes by the IAAF council 50% and votes by “the IAAF Family” 25%.
Here’s what Semenya achieved this year: she dominated the 800m, winning every meet she entered in 2018 including the Commonwealth Games, the Diamond League, and the Continental Cup. She also won the 1,500m at the Commonwealth Games and Doha Diamond League, and finished second in the 400m in the Continental Cup. She set personal bests in four distances (400m, 800m, 1,000m and 1,500m).
It would be hard to argue she had any less good a year than the other finalists:
Beatrice Chepkoech: In July, Chepkoech smashed the world steeplechase record by eight seconds with her 8:44.32 performance in Monaco, becoming the first Kenyan woman to hold the world record. Chepkoech went on to win seven out of eight steeplechase finals, including the Continental Cup, the African Championships and the Diamond League. Her record prompted skepticism from American steeplechaser and clean sport spokesperson Emma Coburn. (The previous record-holder, Ruth Jebet, tested positive for EPO earlier this year.) Chepkoech also set personal bests in the 1,500m, both indoors and outdoors. (At the world championships in 2017, Chepkoech was leading the race when she missed the turn to the water jump, and had to retrace her steps.)
Shaunae Miller-Uibo: Every time she stepped onto the track to compete in the 200m this year, the Bahamian sprinter won, including the Commonwealth Games, Diamond League, and Continental Cup. Same with the 400m (including the Pre Classic and Monaco Diamond League). Miller-Uibo was also on the winning 4x100m and 4x400m relay teams at the Continental Cup, and set a personal best in the 400m. (Miller-Uibo famously dove across the finish line of the 400m final at the Rio Olympics.)
Dina Asher-Smith: The sprinter broke her own British record in the 100m when she ran 10.92 seconds at Oslo Diamond League in June. In August she won gold in the 100m, 200m and the 4x100m relay at the European Championships in Berlin. She was beaten by Miller-Uibo in the 200m in Birmingham, and wrapped up the season with a second-place finish in both the 100m and the 4x100m relay at the Continental Cup in Ostrava. She set personal bests in both the 100m and the 200m this year.
The winner will be announced in Monaco on December 4.