Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Soufiane El Bakkali (© 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.
To put Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce’s incredible consistency in 2022 into context, just five women in history have ever broken 10.70 for 100m. Fraser-Pryce surpassed that mark seven times throughout the season and one of those performances – her 10.67 in Oregon – saw the Jamaican become the first athlete to win five world titles in a single individual running event.
In her 15th season of international racing, the 35-year-old sprint star continued to blaze a trail.
She started her year with a 200m race in Kingston before opening her 100m campaign in style in Nairobi. Running 10.67 – a time she would match on three other occasions in the months to follow – Fraser-Pryce achieved the fastest ever women’s 100m season opener. It set the tone for all that was to come.
A time of 10.67 also secured her victory at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Paris in June before she turned her attention to the Jamaican Championships and then the World Athletics Championships Oregon22. Back on the global stage, she raced seven times in eight days and won three medals – her fifth world 100m crown followed by silver medals in the 200m and 4x100m to take her career tally of global medals to 23, with 14 of those being gold.
In Oregon she led a Jamaican sweep of the medals in what was the deepest ever women’s World Championships 100m final, as seven of the eight finalists dipped under 11 seconds.
"I feel blessed to have this talent and to continue to do it at 35, (after) having a baby, still going, and hopefully inspiring women that they can make their own journey," she said.
After that, her own journey continued at the Diamond League meeting in Silesia where Fraser-Pryce again dipped under 10.70 with a winning 10.66. She then ran 10.67 to win in Szekesfehervar and improved her world lead to 10.62 – a time that only she and two other athletes have ever bettered – to win in Monaco.
She clocked 10.74 for the runner-up spot in Brussels and returned to the top in Zurich, clocking 10.65 to win the fifth Diamond Trophy of her career.
“I am very proud that I came away with a 10.65,” she said. “I started (the season) with a 10.6 and I finish with a 10.6, so there is nothing more I could ask for.”
Soufiane El Bakkali
Morocco’s Soufiane El Bakkali started the year as an Olympic champion and ended it as a world title winner, doubling his career tally of global gold medals with victory at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22.
He too achieved great consistency, remaining unbeaten throughout the season and running a world lead of 7:58.28 in front of a delighted home crowd at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Rabat.
The 26-year-old made his season debut at the Diamond League in Doha, winning there in 8:09.66. With his focus on Oregon, he raced just once more before lining up at Hayward Field, sending a message to his rivals with that world-leading performance in Rabat.
“I can’t describe my happiness in winning this race,” he said. “Achieving a world lead and a meeting record in front of a home audience is just incredible.”
Once in Oregon – El Bakkali’s second visit to the United States after he competed in the same city at the 2014 World U20 Championships – his experience paid off as he timed his kick to perfection in a tactical race.
Surging away with 200 metres to go, El Bakkali beat Ethiopia’s Lamecha Girma and Kenya’s Conseslus Kipruto to complete his set of World Championships medals, adding a gold to the silver he won in London in 2017 and the bronze he claimed in Doha in 2019.
His celebrations included taking a dip in the water jump on his victory lap.
World gold secured, he turned his attention to the Diamond League Final and after a win in Lausanne in 8:02.45 he returned to Switzerland to claim his first Diamond Trophy in Zurich.
“This year was amazing for me, winning the World Championships and the Diamond race,” he reflected. “What a wonderful season. I won so many races.”
One more win was still to come, as he capped his season with an African best in Zagreb. Running 5:14.06 in the 2000m steeplechase, he moved to third on the world all-time list for the event.