As the announcement of the 2014 World Athletes of the Year draws closer, we take a closer look at the three athletes shortlisted for the women’s award.
Valerie Adams may have thrown farther in previous seasons than she did in 2014, but assessed on its own merits as a stand-alone season, the shot putter from New Zealand won everything she could have this year. Quite literally.
She added a ninth senior global title to her collection when she successfully defended her world indoor crown in Sopot with 20.67m, the outright best mark in the world in 2014.
Despite some mid-season niggling injuries, Adams was still able to defeat the rest of the world’s top shot putters and she won her fourth straight Diamond Race title.
Additionally, Adams was the only athlete in the world to win at all seven IAAF Diamond League fixtures in any discipline.
Her best throw of the 2014 season came in Brussels at the last IAAF Diamond League meeting of the year, where she broke the meeting record with a world-leading 20.59m.
Adams, who earlier in the year had won her third straight Commonwealth title, was set to compete at the Continental Cup, but was forced to withdraw from the event at the last minute.
Nevertheless, for the fourth year in succession, the world and Olympic champion ended the season undefeated, having won all 14 competitions she started.
At the end of any outdoor season, it’s easy to overlook some of the performances from the indoor season. But Genzebe Dibaba’s feats in the first few months of 2014 are difficult to forget in a hurry.
The Ethiopian middle-distance runner had shown flashes of brilliance in the past, winning the 2012 world indoor title and setting a national 1500m record that summer. This year, though, Dibaba was better than ever.
In her first race of 2014, she smashed the world indoor 1500m record in Karlsruhe with 3:55.17. The last time anyone ran faster outdoors was in 1997.
Five days later in Stockholm, she was in record-breaking form again as she obliterated the world indoor 3000m record with 8:16.60, the fastest time in the world under any conditions since 1993.
The following week, she set a two miles world indoor best of 9:00.48 in Birmingham, taking six seconds off the previous mark.
Her indoor season was capped by winning the world indoor 3000m title in Sopot.
Outdoors, Dibaba won the 3000m at the IAAF Continental Cup and posted world-leading marks over 5000m and 2000m.
It’s not unusual for the top heptathletes to excel in a field event. But it is pretty rare for a combined events athlete to beat the world’s best specialists in the sprints.
Dutch heptathlete Dafne Schippers did exactly that in 2014. Her natural speed was no secret; as a junior heptathlete in 2011, she clocked 22.69 over 200m. But 2014 was the first season in which she has focused predominantly on the sprints.
Earlier in the season, she clocked 22.35 over 200m within the heptathlon at the Hypo Meeting in Gotzis. A few weeks later, she won the half-lap event at the European Team Championships.
But her first big test of the year came at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Glasgow, where she was up against Olympic champion Allyson Felix and world silver medallist Blessing Okagbare. Schippers beat both of them.
She went on to win the sprint double at the European Championships, posting a national record of 22.03 in the 200m, the fastest time by a European since 1995. Schippers ended her season with victory at the Continental Cup.
During the course of 2014, Schippers set Dutch records in five events: 100m, 200m, long jump, heptathlon and 4x100m.