Looking back over 2011, the sport’s top male athletes had some very interesting seasons. Usain Bolt (JAM) was once again undefeated – though he did false start out of the World Championships 100 meter final. Kirani James (GRN) pulled off an “upset” in Daegu by beating defending champion LaShawn Merritt (USA), and quiet as it’s kept was also undefeated – though most of his races were against collegiate competition. David Rudisha (KEN) just missed being undefeated by .07 sec – losing his final race of the season by little more than the thickness of his vest. And Mo Farah (GBR) almost pulled off the unthinkable, nearly winning double gold in the 5K/10K in Daegu with his 5000m victory and 10,000m silver against strong contingents from the African continent – the best ever double performance by a “non-African” nation competitor in the World Championships! And there was World decathlon champion Tre Hardee (USA) who won the prestigious Gotzis competition in addition to Daegu.
At the end of the day, however, I had to give #1 to a man with an undefeated and nearly flawless season – German discus thrower Robert Harting. From January 29th thru September 17th Harting was perfect – winning 16 straight competitions! In an era where 8 meets seems to be a lot for most elite level athletes, Harting doubled that and won them all! In half of those competitions he threw out over 67 meters (around 220 feet or farther) showing tremendous consistency at an elite level over a nearly eight month period! He was at his best at the World Championships with his winning throw of 68.97m/226’ 3” only .01m off of his SB. He met the top seven discus throwers in the world and defeated them all including at the World Championships where it mattered most. About the only thing that Harting didn’t do was lead the world in distance, but at #2 on the yearly list I can excuse him that. His season was as outstanding as one can get in terms of competing and winning at a high level against the most elite in the world – which is why he’s my #1 for 2011.
My choice for #2 was nearly as easy, as David Rudisha (KEN) once again proved that he is simply the best half miler in the world – and possibly of all time. His world leading 1:41.33 is #5 all time, more impressively however, only surpassed by four WR performances, two his own – and three times he ran under 1:43.00. Among his 10 victories were wins in Lausanne, Monaco, London, Rieti, Brussels, and of course his gold medal run in Daegu. Only in his final race of the year did he falter – his 1:43.57 coming up a scant .07 short of an eleventh win.
My #3 is Usain Bolt (JAM) who repeated as World Champion in the 200 meters with his 19.40 win in Daegu – #5 on the all-time list. Bolt was undefeated, but his level of performance was down for most of the year. He was only #5 in the world in the 100 heading into Daegu, and found himself on the wrong end of a false start in the World Championships final. He also never met 100m World Champion, and 200m yearly leader, Yohan Blake over either distance in 2011. Though undefeated, Bolt’s 10 race season was solid but unspectacular for all but two of them – his Daegu 200 win and his season ending 9.76 world leader.
Number four is Mo Farah (GBR) World gold and silver medalist over 5k & 10k respectively. Farah was the world leader at 5000m (12:53.11), a mark that made him the #2 European ever – and #25 all time. His 26:46.57 over 10,000m was #2 on this year’s list, but moved him up to #15 all time on the world list. In addition to his six races over 5k/10k, Farah threw in a half marathon PB (60:23) and a 10 kilometer run in Edinburgh (29:12), both victories – his only loss on the season being his silver medal performance over 10,000m in Daegu.
Number five was a tough call, but in the end I settled on decathlete Tre Hardee (USA). Hardee won the two top decathlon competitions of any year – Worlds and Gotzis, scoring well over 8600 points on both occasions. He defeated all of the world’s top decathletes, including young superstar Ashton Eaton (USA) who lead the world with his 8729 Trials win. Hardee edges out Kirani James based on level of performance and degree of competition, as James elite season consisted of his four races in London, Daegu, Zurich and Berlin – solid wins but save for one in modest times for the event. Hardee is also my U.S. Athlete of the Year.
Congratulations to Athlete of the Year Robert Harting on an outstanding 2011! Below is his season in detail.
Robert Harting’s 2011 Season – Finals Only
|64.02m / 210’ 0”||1||Kienbaum||Jan 29|
|65.94m / 216’ 4”||1||Kienbaum||Feb 21|
|66.92m / 219’ 7”||1||Wiesbaden||May 14|
|68.99m / 226’ 4”||1||Halle||May 21|
|68.23m / 223’ 10”||1||Hengelo||May 29|
|68.40m / 224’ 5”||1||Eugene||Jun 4|
|65.63m / 215’ 4”||1||Stockholm||Jun 19|
|68.51m / 214’ 9”||1||Cottbus||Jun 25|
|67.32m / 220’ 10”||1||Saint-Denis||Jul 8|
|65.72m / 215’ 7”||1||Kassel||Jul 24|
|68.97m / 226’ 3”||1||Daegu||Aug 30|
|67.02m / 219’ 10”||1||Zurich||Sep 8|
|66.50m / 218’ 2”||1||Elstal||Sep 9|
|67.22m / 220’ 6”||1||Berlin||Sep 11|
|65.21m / 213’ 11”||1||Tallinn||Sep 15|
|64.76m / 212’ 5”||1||Bad Kostritz||Sep 17|