Having recently revealed our Top 20 African Athletes in 2019, attention will now shift to the World as we do a breakdown of our Top 10 Male Athletes in the World in 2019.
From their performances in several meets including the Diamond League (DL), to their exploits at the World Championships, most of these athletes have distinguished themselves from the rest of the pack in an outstanding manner.
So, who has done enough to merit a place in our ranking? Find out as we begin the countdown with Part 1 of the series featuring Nos. 10 to 6.
- Donavan Brazier
American 800m runner Donavan Brazier comes in at No. 10 on our list of Top 10 Male World Athletes of 2019! For someone who missed out on the Rio 2016 Olympics and did not make it past the semifinal of the London 2017 World Championships, 2019 proved a watershed moment in his career.
The runner from Grand Rapids, Michigan, has also had to contend with the might of the duo of Nijel Amos, the joint third-fastest man in history, and Emmanuel Korir, the sixth fastest man in history, for the better part of the last three years. Brazier certainly proved his worth in the sport in 2019 by going on to become the World champion.
He kicked off the year at the Millrose Games in New York with a 1:44.41 National Indoor Record. However, a rampaging Michael Saruni of Kenya, who broke several records en route the victory, denied him his first win there.
Moving outdoors in May, Brazier would taste defeat in the opening Diamond League meeting in Doha in a high quality race behind Amos and Korir in a then Season’s Best (SB) of 1:44.70. That was his only loss of the season outdoors.
After his nail-biting victory at the Golden Gala in Rome over Amos, followed by his second US title, Brazier turned up for the IAAF Diamond League final in Zurich where he produced a scintillating run.
In the final, Brazier became the first American man to win the DL title in the 800m, storming back from nowhere to peel past Amos in the final 150m to win in 1:42.70. Brazier’s time broke his then lifetime best by nearly one second and made him the second-fastest American in the history of the event.
Heading into the World Championships, Brazier was the man to beat. With Amos pulling out of the Champs and Korir not making it past the semis, the coast was clear for the middle distance athlete to stamp his authority on the world stage.
Brazier lived up to the highest of expectations by becoming the first American to win GOLD in the 800m at the World Championships in a new Personal Best (PB) of 1:42.34, which eclipsed the Championship Record (CR) of 1.43.06 set by Kenya’s Billy Konchellah at the 1987 edition in Rome, and Johnny Gray’s US record of 1:42.60 set at Koblenz in 1985.
- Tom Walsh
2019 was a bitter-sweet year for Shot Putter Tom Walsh. The New Zealander was undoubtedly the best thrower in the World heading into the World Championships in Doha, until he was undone by the third best throw in history.
A throw of 22m would have guaranteed a GOLD medal in all but four of the 16 editions of the World Champs, but Walsh, who was the defending World Champion, had to concede defeat at the tail end of the championships.
Although he was unable to produce a new Personal Best (PB) before the World Champs, unlike his rivals, Walsh enjoyed one of the most consistent years of his career, surpassing the 22m mark at six different events.
After dominating various meets across the globe, Walsh laid down the gauntlet to his rivals ahead of the World Champs as he became the first man to win back-to-back Shot put titles in the IAAF DL, winning at the AG Memorial Van Damme with 22.30m.
Heading into the World Championships, the men’s Shot Put was one event bookies couldn’t predict as a whopping eight athletes had exceeded the 22m mark at various stages of the year. Nevertheless, Walsh was ahead of the pack after his astonishing performances all year long.
However, in the final, Walsh fell agonizingly short in his world outdoor title defence as he was forced to settle for Bronze in Doha.
The Commonwealth Games Champion looked set to retain his title after breaking the World Championships Record with his first-round throw of 22.90m – the fourth-best performance of all-time. Walsh’s previous best throw was 22.67m set in Auckland last year.
The 27-year-old held the GOLD-medal position until near the end of the competition, when American Joe Kovacs stepped up, heaving 22.91m to snatch the lead.
With just 1cm separating the three medallists, the World Athletics hailed the Shot Put super-heavyweights’ duel as “undoubtedly the best contest of all time”.
Walsh might not have won GOLD in Doha, but with the level of competition in the Shot Put going a notch higher this year, he just might get something better at the Olympics next year.
- Christian Taylor
There is a saying that great athletes always make difficult things look simple. Well, Triple Jumper Christian Taylor once again showed the world in 2019 the stuff he is made of.
Like his previous seasons, Taylor had to contend with his rival and longtime friend – Will Claye, all through the season.
In fact, with the form that saw the latter leap to a World Lead of 18.14m, it was hard to imagine that Taylor had an answer to his countryman’s form.
However, it seems Taylor takes delight in such challenges. He first proved his mettle in the Diamond League final. Not only did he break the long-standing Meeting Record (MR), he also landed his seventh Diamond trophy, equalling the record haul held by French Pole vault star Renaud Lavillenie.
What mattered most to Taylor was defending his World title. It, however did not come easy as he had his back against the wall for the better part of the contest. It was very much a case of saving the best for last.
After fouling his first two jumps, he recorded a modest 17.42m on his third attempt, but then really took off, soaring into the lead with a jump of 17.86m on his fourth attempt, before leaping 17.92m to guarantee victory ahead of compatriot Will Claye, who jumped 17.66m.
Having joined the ranks of compatriot Meyer Prinstein (1900, 1904), Brazil’s Ademar Da Silva (1952, 1956), Poland’s Josef Schmidt (1960, 1964) and Viktor Saneyev (1968, 1972, 1976) to become the fifth athlete to complete at least an Olympic double in his discipline, Taylor became the first man to win four Triple Jump GOLD medals at the World Championships!
After his impeccable exploits in 2019, the greatest triple jumper of his generation will continue his quest to break Jonathan Edwards’ World Record (WR) of 18.29m – if possible, while winning GOLD at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo next year!
- Sam Kendricks
Taking our No. 7 spot is Pole Vaulter Sam Kendricks! Competing in an event where precocious talent like Armand Duplantis have threatened to upset the balance, Kendricks proved his mettle as he was able to triumph in the finals of the two biggest competitions in 2019.
After competing in series of meets as well as in the Diamond League (DL) circuit, Kendricks’ eyes were fixed on the American Championships in Des Moines.
As defending World Champion, he was already assured of going to the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha. He was able to secure a sixth straight USA title with a clean sheet through 5.81m, then made 5.86m and 5.91m on first attempts.
He had the bar raised to 6.06m and nearly made it on his first attempt. He brushed the bar on his second, but it stayed on, and Kendricks became No.2 on the all-time outdoor list. It was the highest outdoor vault in the world since Bubka cleared 6.14m on 31 July, 1994. That performance certainly put an iota of fear in his rivals heading into the DL final in Zurich.
He duly delivered in the Swiss city, producing a clutch third attempt clearance at 5.93m to secure his second Diamond Trophy in the pole vault.
Regardless of his entering the World Champs amidst the greatest season of his already prolific professional career, he still had to fend off competition from two other global titans in Duplantis and Poland’s Piotr Lisek.
It was a fight till the end in the final, as Kendricks eventually defended his World title in thrilling fashion with a clearance of 5.97m, thereby becoming just the second man in history to win more than one World Pole Vault title.
- Daniel Stahl
Very few athletes in the World of Athletics have suffered the degradation of constantly missing out on major titles since the start of their senior careers like Daniel Stahl, but the Swede Discus thrower was able to shake the ‘nearly-man’ tag this year.
After losing to Lithuanian Discus thrower Andrius Gudžius in the last two major championships, you will forgive Stahl for finally breathing a sigh of relief after scrapping his way to the Discus title in Doha in a tight and tense competition. Stahl laid down the marker in the first Diamond League (DL) of the season in Doha when he produced one of the finest Discus series in history.
The thrower put the competition out of reach in the first round as his Discus landed at 69.63m to break the Meeting Record (MR) set by Virgilijus Alekna in 2006.
Stahl followed up with throws of 70.49m and 70.56m, his farthest of the night, before capping the evening with efforts of 69.54m, 69.50m and 70.32m to become the first man to produce six throws beyond 69.50m in a single competition.
He followed that display with wins at the Stockholm DL as well as some other meets in his home-town. However, what was to come next at the end of June was to be special.
Stahl improved his NR of 71.29m to 71.86m at a small meeting in the village of Bottnaryd in Sweden where he was watched by around 500 spectators. The win put him in 4th place alongside Yuriy Dumchev on the world all-time list, with only three Olympic champions -Jurgen Schult (74.08m), Virgilijus Alekna (73.88m) and Gerd Kanter (73.38m) ahead of him.
That win propelled him to being the favourite in the season finale of the DL in Brussels. Stahl led from the outset to win his first Diamond trophy, with his opening throw of 68.68m enough to seal the win for him.
Going into the World Champs in Doha, the Swede, who lost the title in 2017 by just 2cm to Gudžius, then also finished runner-up to the Lithuanian at the European Championships last summer, was not to be denied in Doha.
He dominated from start to finish to become his country’s first global GOLD medallist in the event. It was his third-round throw of 67.59m that clinched the GOLD for him as he was the only competitor to surpass the 67m mark.
With his outstanding performance in 2019 in which he won 13 of his 16 competitions, there is definitely no betting against Stahl winning his first Olympic title next year.