Ryan Crouser and Sifan Hassan
We continue our countdown to the World Athletics Awards 2020 on 5 December by taking a closer look at the five men and five women who were earlier this week confirmed as the finalists for the Athlete of the Year awards.
To simply say that Ryan Crouser was undefeated in the shot put in 2020 would significantly understate his complete and utter dominance of the discipline.
The Olympic champion won all 10 of his competitions this year, two indoors and eight outdoors. Not only that, but he broke the meeting record at nine of his 10 competitions.
His 2020 winning streak began at the Millrose Games, which he won with 22.19m. One week later, he retained his US indoor title with 22.60m – the second-best indoor performance in history and just six centimetres shy of the world record that has stood for 31 years.
After a break in competitions due to the coronavirus pandemic, Crouser returned to action in July and unleashed a lifetime best of 22.91m in Marietta, moving him to equal third on the world all-time list.
Keen to show his performance at the low-key meeting was no fluke, Crouser backed up his world-leading performance with a string of victories, all with throws that landed way beyond the 22-metre line.
He wrapped up his US campaign with a pair of victories in Des Moines (22.56m and 22.72m). At the latter competition, he threw beyond 22 metres in all six rounds – a feat that had previously only ever been achieved by one person, Italy’s Alessandro Andrei back in 1987.
Crouser headed to Europe and continued his incredible streak by breaking the meeting records at the Continental Tour Gold meetings in Chorzow (22.70m), Ostrava (22.43m) and Zagreb (22.74m). He rounded out his season with a 22.59m victory in Belgrade. Within the space of 12 days, he had broken the all-comers’ records in Poland, Czech Republic, Croatia and Serbia.
No other man in the world threw beyond 22 metres this year. At the conclusion of the season, Crouser had surpassed the 22-metre line on 36 occasions – more than any other shot putter has achieved across a whole career span. Crouser now owns a whopping 29% of all the 22-metre-plus throws in history.
Crouser’s shortest winning mark of the season – 21.87m on his outdoor debut in Marietta in July – is a distance that just two other men bettered this year. His average winning margin, meanwhile, was 1.42 metres.
“This year has been really difficult for everyone, but it’s also ignited my passion for the sport,” he said. “It hasn’t been optimal training and I’m not as strong as previous years because I’ve been doing a lot of my training in a garage. What makes me pleased is that I set a goal of competing this summer and committed to it 100 per cent.”
The world record may still elude him, but Crouser’s dominance of the world all-time list means he has cemented his place as one of the greatest shot putters in history.
When Sifan Hassan opened her season at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Monaco, she suspected she wasn’t completely race ready.
The world 1500m and 10,000m champion from the Netherlands had missed a significant amount of training due to the coronavirus pandemic, but she was also keen to return to the track on which she set a world mile record last year.
Just 11 minutes into the 5000m race, however, Hassan stepped off the track. Better to refocus her energy on her next competition, she thought, than to pursue with a race she knew she couldn’t win.
After a couple of weeks of quality training, Hassan returned to the Diamond League circuit, this time to contest the one-hour run in Brussels. She wasn’t simply gunning for the victory, though; she was aiming to break the world record.
She had marathon world record-holder Brigid Kosgei for company for most of the race and they exchanged the lead in the closing stages. Kosgei attempted a surge towards the end of the race, but as soon as the bell sounded to mark one minute to go, Hassan unleashed her trademark kick and opened up a clear gap on her Kenyan rival.
By the end of the hour, Hassan had covered 18,930m, a world record distance. She became the first athlete since Paavo Nurmi to hold world records for the mile and hour concurrently.
Just four days later, Hassan was in action at the Continental Tour Gold meeting in Ostrava but showed no sign of fatigue as she romped to victory in the 5000m in 14:37.85.
Hassan’s final race of the year came at the FBK After Summer Competition in Hengelo, where she was aiming to break the European record over 10,000m. Earlier in the evening Ethiopia’s Yomif Kejelcha and Faith Kipyegon competed in the 5000m and 1000m respectively but the poor conditions meant both athletes fell well short of the times they had been targeting.
Hassan, however, seemed almost unaffected by the conditions. She followed the pacemaker during the early stages, but then took over on the ninth lap before reaching the half-way point in 14:38 – a shade inside world record schedule.
But the cold and wet conditions, coupled with the demanding pace, soon began to take their toll. Hassan forged on, lapping the field on the 21st lap before eventually reaching the line in 29:36.67, well under the European record of 30:01.09 set in 2002 by Paula Radcliffe.
“It was a very difficult race today as it was so cold and wet,” she said. “I felt really strong today and wished for a bit better conditions, but this record gives me a lot of confidence.”