Christine Mboma and Emmanuel Wanyonyi
As the countdown to the World Athletics Awards 2021 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 live at the World Athletics Awards 2021 on 1 December.
The Namibian teenager not only notched up four world U20 records over the half-lap sprint, she pieced together one of the greatest seasons of any senior 200m sprinter in history.
She set a PB of 22.73 in her first race of the year back in May, then improved to 22.67 to win in Prague, following it with a victory in Madrid 12 days later.
But despite that string of victories, the form she displayed at the Olympic Games took many of her rivals by surprise. She won her heat in 22.11, breaking the world U20 record, then improved to 21.97 in the semifinals before clocking 21.81 in the final to take silver.
That remained her only loss in a 200m final in 2021. From there, she went on to win the world U20 200m title in 21.84 and anchored Namibia to silver in the 4x100m. She dipped below 22 seconds again to win at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Brussels, then went even faster six days later to win the Diamond Trophy in Zurich, clocking another world U20 record of 21.78.
Mboma capped her season with victories in Zagreb (22.04) and Nairobi (22.39).
In total, Mboma recorded five sub-22-second performances over 200m this year. Only Jamaican legend Merlene Ottey (seven, 1990) and world record-holder Florence Griffith-Joyner (six, 1988) have achieved more in a single season.
Mboma now also owns the six fastest times in history by an U20 athlete.
Emmanuel Wanyonyi raced exclusively in Nairobi this year and won only one final – but that victory came in the race that mattered most.
Before he reached the World Athletics U20 Championships Nairobi 21, Wanyonyi had finished second at the Kenyan trials for the event, meaning he had barely registered on the radar as a pre-championship medal hope.
But, inspired by running in front of a home crowd in Nairobi, Wanyonyi was the fastest through each round of the men’s 800m at the World U20 Championships, clocking 1:46.51 in his heat and 1:46.15 in his semifinal. By the time he advanced to the final, the 17-year-old was brimming with confidence.
Teammate Noah Kibet led for the first half of the final, going through 400m in a swift 49.39 with Wanyonyi just a stride behind. Kibet continued to lead until the final bend when Algeria’s Mohamed Ali Gouaned edged ahead, but Wanyonyi wasn’t finished.
Digging deep, Wanyonyi hit the lead with about 30 metres remaining and crossed the line in 1:43.76. Not only was his time a championship record, it was also a Kenyan U18 best.
“Running a time of 1:43.76 at high altitude and setting a championship record has just confirmed that indeed I am good in this race,” said Wanyonyi, who is coached by 2007 world champion Janeth Jepkosgei. “I will keep pushing to see how much I can lower my new personal best. Who knows, maybe I can one day bring down Rudisha's world record.”