A few days back, we started our series on the Top 8 Breakout Athletes in 2017, featuring youngsters who upstaged their older and more experienced counterparts during the course of the season, with special focus on their performances at the 2017 World Championships in London.
We now bring you the concluding part of the article where we highlight the achievements of our Top 4 athletes on the list.
- Salwa Eid Naser
Salwa Eid Naser shone like a thousand stars at the 2017 IAAF World Championships where she defeated some of the biggest names in her event, clinching the Silver medal in a National Record (NR) of 50.06s for Bahrain.
Coming to London, the Nigerian-born Bahraini athlete wasn’t one of those considered for a medal as she was up against a star-studded field comprising of the likes of Olympic Champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo, defending World Champion Allyson Felix, Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson and a host of others.
It is interesting to note that prior to the championships, Naser’s coach John Obeya had reeled out some of the names she would go against, but she wasn’t fazed, and this was evident by the confidence she exuded whilst running through the rounds. She said: “I don’t care who is there. I just want to go do my thing.”
True to her prediction, Naser did her thing, and after storming to victory in her heat with a then NR of 50.57s, finishing ahead of eventual GOLD medalist Phyllis Francis and veteran Novlene Williams-Mills, she began to get some attention.
By the time she lowered her NR to 50.08s in her semifinal race where she relegated Felix to 2nd place (50.12s), it became clear that the teenager could spring a surprise in the final, and that was exactly what she did when she crossed the line ahead of Felix and Miller-Uibo, becoming the youngest ever medalist in the event in World Championships history.
Speaking after her race, Naser said: “I feel so happy. It wasn’t about beating Allyson Felix. It was about getting a personal best and a medal.”
Eleven days later, she went on to beat Felix once again at the Diamond League in Birmingham, and then set another NR of 49.88s in Brussels. Naser was a finalist for the IAAF Rising Star Award, and is 4th on the 2017 world rankings.
Do you know that Naser’s role model is Allyson Felix, yet she’s finished ahead of the American in all of their three encounters this year?
- Jereem Richards
Trinidad and Tobago sprinter Jereem Richards is a 2012 World Indoors Bronze medalist in the 4x400m. The 23-year old had an outstanding 2017, posting impressive performances in the NCAA indoor and outdoor circuit for the University of Alabama. He won the SEC Indoor Championships in February in a time of 20.34s, finishing ahead of Christian Coleman (20.50s) and Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake (20.57s).
One of the highlights of Richards’ season was setting a Personal Best (PB) of 19.97s in May, making him only one of seven men to have run under 20s this season. He also clocked a PB of 45.21s in the 400m earlier this year in Freeport, Bahamas. He placed 3rd (20.22s) behind Coleman and Mitchell Blake at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, having clocked a wind-aided 19.98s in the heats.
Having transferred from South Plains College to the University of Alabama in 2016, Richards now holds Alabama’s School Records in the 200m (indoor and outdoor) and 4x400m relay. At the World Championships in London, he clocked the overall fastest time of 20.05s in the heats, and the second overall fastest time of 20.14s in the semis.
He had to overcome a bad start to claim Bronze in the final, narrowly missing the Silver medal by a thousandth of a second to Wayde Van Niekerk, making him the first sprinter from his country to win a 200m medal after Ato Boldon achieved that feat two decades ago.
He then ran a scorching second leg for Trinidad and Tobago in the men’s 4x400m final, storming to an incredible split of 43.60s (the fastest split in his team) to move his country to 2nd place, before handing the baton to the more experienced Machel Cedenio, while Lalonde Gordon ran the anchor leg to give the Caribbeans a much sought after victory over USA, clocking a World Lead of 2:58.12.
An overwhelmed Richards who won the National title this year said afterwards: “It was one of the best results ever. All season I worked hard. I wanted to represent Trinidad and Tobago at a major championship. I can’t explain what I am feeling. There is much emotion to get a medal.
“We were always one of the favorites but to actually win is a great experience. This is something I’ve always dreamed about, something I’ve been working for my whole life. To actually achieve it, words can’t explain how grateful I am right now. Everything is just feeling like a dream.”
Do you know that Richards is foregoing his final year of collegiate eligibility after signing a professional deal with Adidas?
- Karsten Warholm
It’s been less than two years since Norwegian hurdler Karsten Warholm switched from the Decathlon to face the 400m Hurdles squarely, and going by the successes he has experienced this season, the 21-year old has no regrets making that switch.
The former multi-event athlete was properly unveiled to the world in July at the 2017 Oslo Diamond League where he enjoyed the massive support of his home crowd to clock a new Norwegian Record of 48.25s to finish ahead of European Champion Yasmani Copello and Thomas Barr in the 400m Hurdles.
A few weeks later, he raced to a Championship Record (CR) of 48.37s to win the 400m Hurdles at the European U-23 Championships in Bydgoszcz, before winning Silver in the 400m in 45.75s. At this point, it was becoming clear that Warholm would be a major contender for the title.
Warholm finished 2nd in the heats in London, setting a time of 49.50s. He then improved on his time in the semis, clocking 48.43s to follow Olympic Champion Kerron Clement who won the race in 48.35s. With World Leader Kyron Mcmaster out of the way after being disqualified for a lane infringement, Warholm had one less opponent to deal with.
He claimed his first world title with a time of 48.35s, relegating Clement to 3rd place while Copello settled for Silver. The young athlete was so shocked at his victory that his jaws dropped in amazement after crossing the finishing line 1st.
Speaking about the challenging couple of seasons he has had, Warholm said: “That first season as a 400m hurdler in 2016, I was very inconsistent, running between high 49s to the NR of 48.49 I recorded in the heats at the Rio Olympics. It took some time to find the rhythm of the event.
“To then come out in the summer season and win the world 400m hurdles title proves it was the right decision to switch events. I would also say, though, that the victory was the result of 10 years of training, many of them as a decathlete, and I would recommend to others that training for many events can definitely help lead to future success.”
Warholm ended his season on a high, lowering his NR to 48.22s at the Zurich Diamond League where he finished 2nd behind McMaster, putting him at No.5 on the 2017 world rankings. It’s no wonder he was named the IAAF (Male) Rising Star of 2017.
Do you know that Warholm also holds the Norweigian 400m Record of 44.87s set in Florø in his home country in June?
- Christian Coleman
Our No.1 breakout athlete for the year 2017 is USA sprinter Christian Coleman who occupies the top spot in the men’s 100m rankings after racing to a Personal Best (PB) of 9.82s in June in the semis of the NCAA Outdoor Championships, smashing the Collegiate Record of 9.89s in the process, before striking the GOLD medal for the University of Tennessee in the final.
Ironically, we had listed Coleman as the No.1 young athlete to watch out for at the London 2017 World Championships, and the 21-year old lived up to our expectations. Earlier in the season, Coleman won both the 60m (tying the collegiate record) and 200m titles at the NCAA Indoor Championships, before storming to outdoor titles in the sprint double, becoming only the second man after Justin Gatlin (2002) to sweep the NCAA 60m/200m indoor titles and 100m/ 200m outdoor titles.
He also set a PB in the 200m, racing to a then World Lead (WL) of 19.85s in Lexington, Kentucky – the 3rd fastest time in the world this year, as only Isaac Makwala (19.77s) and Wayde Van Niekerk (19.84s) have gone faster in 2017.
Coleman (9.98s) narrowly lost the men’s 100m final to Justin Gatlin at the US Trials, having clocked the overall fastest time of 9.93s in the heats, and then dominating the standings in the semis with 10.02s. He then finished 2nd to Ameer Webb in the 200m, making him the only American sprinter to qualify for the double in London. However, he opted for the 100m only after enduring a lengthy collegiate season.
Even though he was going to London as the world’s fastest man in 2017, Coleman made no promises ahead of the showpiece. He said: “I know from watching previous championships what the atmosphere is going to be like, from the fans to the Usain Bolt show, so to just be a part of history is a great feeling. I’ve worked hard and deserve to be on the stage and I’m ready to compete.”
For an athlete making his debut at the World Championships, Coleman didn’t wilt under pressure, easily winning his heat in 10.01s. He was drawn alongside Jamaican legend and defending champion Usain Bolt in the semis, but Coleman (9.97s) held his own to finish ahead of the multiple World Record (WR) who was beaten to 2nd place in 9.98s, much to the consternation of everyone. This was the first time the multiple Olympic Champion was suffering a defeat at a major championship since winning the treble at the Beijing 2008 Olympics!
It was apparent that the final was going to be a tight race, and so it was. Gatlin stunned Bolt to take the title in a Season’s Best (SB) of 9.92s, while Coleman clinched the Silver in 9.94s, finishing ahead of Bolt for the second time that day as the Jamaican had to settle for Bronze in an SB 9.95s. Coleman then anchored the US 4x100m team to another Silver medal, and would no doubt relish the breakout season he has enjoyed.
Do you know that Coleman’s loss in the 100m final at the US Trials was his first loss over the distance in 2017?