Today I pick up my end of the year reviews with my choice for this year’s Female Athlete of the Year.
The competition for the title was a bit different than it was on the men’s side. While the men had two athletes that had record setting, all time list altering, undefeated seasons, there were several women that had outstanding seasons, marked by a hiccup or two. More than that, however, trying to determine an AOY on the women’s side made me examine how we evaluate athletes in track and field.
In general we simply look at wins and losses as the method of evaluation in this sport. But as I began to examine the records of the top women this year I realized that simply not losing races or competitions does not make your season “outstanding”.
For example. Allyson Felix took an opening season loss to Veronica Campbell Brown in the deuce then ran the table in both the 200 and 400. One loss short of an undefeated season. However, upon further review, her performances over 200 meters were sub par – due in large part to a lack of solid competition. Similarly her performances over 400 were good but not great as she never ran faster than 50.00 (50.15) – though she defeated all four women who did. Felix’s best performance of the season came in her losing effort to Veronica Campbell Brown.
Brown in turn lead the world over both 100 (10.78) and 200 (21.98) with outstanding marks, but in minimal competition she suffered two losses to Carmelita Jeter over 100 – by .05 in Daegu and .16 in Monaco. And like Felix her other forays in the 200 were rather pedestrian.
Shot putter Natalya Ostapchuk was the favorite of most throughout the season as she won meet after meet and seemed to be on her way to an undefeated season. Then she too had a stumble as former win everything putter Valerie Adams found her best form to crush Ostapchuk by 2 feet – 20.86/68’ 5.25” to 20.18/66’ 2.5 – putting a damper on an otherwise solid season.
While Ostapchuk had her season’s hiccup in Split, Croatian Blank Vlasic performed her season’s best, winning in front of the home crowd with a 2.05/6’ 8.75” leap that equaled the yearly lead in the event. But Blanka too had her stumbles along the way taking third in Ostrava and second in Barcelona – her loss in Barcelona on misses to Chaunte Howard Lowe at 2.00//6’ 6.75”.
At the end of the day, however, my choice for the Female Athlete of the Year hinged on the same standard as that for the Male Athlete of the Year – Sustained Excellence. And the individual that performed with the highest level of excellence throughout 2010 was – Blanka Vlasic.
Vlasic competed against all of her top competition and lost only twice – once on count back and once with a sub par (for her) performance. But, if we are asking elite athletes to compete against each other regularly, then the occasional let down or defeat is inevitable. And to downgrade them for the occasional loss is asking them not to compete unless the conditions are perfect – the current scenario in the men’s sprints that we all find disappointing.
More important than the losses, was her extraordinary high level of competitiveness. In fourteen outdoor competitions she cleared the bar at 2 meters (6’ 6.75”) or higher – in a season where her event was held only ever other major meet. She was equal world leader at 2.05/6’ 8.75” and held a 5 to 2 edge in head to head competitions against co-world leader and top 2010 rival Chaunte Howard Lowe – who herself had nine meets over 2 meters.
So even though Vlasic had two losses on the season, one more than Felix or Ostapchuk, and equal to Veronica Campbell Brown, her competitive level of excellence was simply much better than everyone else. Blanka’s 2010 Record.
|2.05 / 6’ 8.75”||1||Split||Sep 5|
|2.03 / 6’ 8”||1||Rome||Jun 10|
|2.03 / 6’ 8”||1||Barcelona||Aug 1|
|2.02 / 6’ 7.5”||1||Paris||Jul 16|
|2.02 / 6’ 7.5”||1||Stockholm||Aug 6|
|2.02 / 6’ 7.5”||1||Zagreb||Sep 1|
|2.01 / 6’ 7”||1||Oslo||Jun 4|
|2.01 / 6’ 7”||1||London||Aug 13|
|2.00 / 6’ 6.75”||2||Barcelona||Jul 9|
|2.00 / 6’ 6.75”||1||Brussels||Aug 27|
|1.98 / 6’ 6”||1||Doha||May 4|
|1.97 / 6’ 5.5”||1||Kawasaki||Sep 19|
|1.94 / 6’ 4.25||1||Beograd||Jun 20|
|1.92 / 6’ 3.5”||3||Ostrava||May 27|
My runner up goes to Ostapchuk, who also had an outstanding season, losing only in her final competition of the year. Though performance wise she was a step below Vlasic in my opinion. Honorable mention to Allyson Felix who was able to dominate both the 200 and 400 in 2010. Unfortunately for her, it did not take a series of stellar marks to do so. So though her 400 wins did come against very solid competition, her 200 wins did not. And in determining the most outstanding athlete of the year that cost her a bit.
Congratulations to Vlasic who continues to be one of the most dominant athletes of the New Millennium.