Eliud Kipchoge and Dalilah Muhammad were named World Athletics Athletes of the Year in Monaco on Saturday. Both Olympic and world champions and world record-holders (Kipchoge in the marathon and Muhamad in the 400m hurdles), the athletes accepted their awards at a dazzling gala, Kipchoge for the second year in a row.
After his earth-shaking performance at INEOS 1:59 in Vienna on October 12, where he ran an (admittedly carefully engineered) 1:59:40 over 42.2K with the help of a rotating phalanx of 40 pacers, it would have been difficult to imagine anyone else being named. (Kipchoge’s competition for the honour were world 10,000m champion Joshua Cheptegei, world 200m and 4x100m relay champion Noah Lyles, world 400m hurdles champion Karsten Warholm, and world pole vault champion Sam Kendricks.)
— Eliud Kipchoge – EGH🇰🇪 (@EliudKipchoge) November 24, 2019
But though Muhammad’s win was less obvious, it is certainly no less deserved. Incredibly, the hurdler from New York City won the USATF Championships 11 days after sustaining a mild concussion during speed training when she fell hard on the track, breaking the 16-year-old world record by 0.14 seconds with her 52.20 performance. Two months later she broke it again at Doha, in 52.16, beating Sydney McLaughlin, who had recently beaten her at Zurich Diamond League. Then Muhammad helped her team to the world 4×400m relay title.
Muhammad was up against two other history-making women for the honour of Female Athlete of the Year: Brigid Kosgei, who broke Paula Radcliffe’s 16-year-old marathon world record after winning both the London Marathon and the Great North Run earlier this year (the latter being a world best) and Sifan Hassan, who became the first person in history to win both the 10,000m and 1,500m titles in the same Olympic or World Championships (and in world-leading times), after earlier breaking the mile world record in 4:12.33. Hassan’s accomplishments, however, were tinged with controversy after her coach, Alberto Salazar, was banned for doping violations in the middle of the championships (and the question of possible doping followed Kosgei, too), and Salazar’s name continued to dominate running world headlines as his former athlete Mary Cain revealed a culture of emotional abuse at the Nike Oregon Project.