Last week, we brought you our rankings of the Top 10 World Male Sprinters in 2019. Today we will delve into the women’s category and bring you our Top 10 Female sprinters in the world this year.
Just like their male counterparts, there have been spectacular performances in women’s sprinting this year and it’s never easy selecting what positions to rank athletes who have had outstanding seasons.
Here’s the first part of the story, and we do hope you would agree with us on our rankings. Do let us know if you think someone else deserves to be on this list.
10) Wadeline Jonathas
This is not a breakout story, but what a season Wadeline Jonathas has had to ascend many steps from just being an athlete breaking out in 2019, to making an entry into the exalted list of Top 10 Female Sprinters in the World.
It was not until this year that the world took notice of the 21-year old American who is now being touted as the replacement for the legendary Allyson Felix.
Having not raced an outdoor 400m in 2018, the best 400m race Jonathas had run prior to 2019 came in 2017 when she ran a then Personal Best of (PB) of 52.81s to win the regional NCAA Championships. That same year in Sacramento, she finished 8th at the USA U20 Championships in 52.88s.
However, a lot has changed in two years, and she has now climbed the women’s 400m ladder as one of the best in the world. This has been a big year for her and the performances she has churned out, back up her credentials as a major challenger now.
Starting the year with a PB of 52.18s, she went on to record three other PBs in three months, winning the NCAA title with a then PB of 50.60s, her first big title as a senior athlete.
It’s one thing to win the NCAA title, but replicating that kind of performance at the US Trials is nerve-wracking, even for the strong-hearted. The US Trials is highly competitive and truly, you will have to execute a flawless three rounds to pull through unscathed.
Jonathas won her semifinal heat in 50.81s, but she really saved her best for the final where she ran a new PB of 50.44s to finish 3rd and punch her ticket to Doha for the World Championships. A big leap from an athlete who finished 8th at U20 level two years ago.
Competing in Doha, Jonathas was not fazed by the atmosphere of competing on the big stage and she went on to have an impressive outing on her debut World Championships.
Racing to yet another PB, Jonathas finished 2nd in her semifinal heat, but it was in the final that she produced her best performance ever, going under 50s for the first time in her career to finish 4th in 49.60s, a time that moved her up to 46th on the all-time top list.
That women’s 400m final in Doha produced a lot of fireworks, and although Wadeline may not have finished in the Top 3, she would be delighted with her performance in that race, and there’s no shame losing to Salwa Eid Naser, Shaunae Miller-Uibo and Shericka Jackson who were all on another level that night.
Jonathas had already cemented her place as the best performing USA individual female quarter-miler in Doha, which was what led to her being rested for the heats of the 4x400m, only to run the anchor leg in the final and playing a part in that USA quartet that had Phyllis Francis, Sydney McLaughlin and Dalilah Muhammad who completely blew apart the field to win GOLD in 3:18.92.
For Jonathas, her time will come, maybe in 2020. If she could record six PBs this year, rest assured that more will come next year.
Do you know that while competing in Doha, Jonathas also sat for one of her school exams which she wrote online while representing her country?
9) Danielle Williams
There used to be a time when USA’s Kendra Harrison would be an instant favourite to win a women’s 100m Hurdles race, but the entrance of Danielle Williams in the fray altered that monopoly.
Having lost the 2018 Commonwealth Games title after being installed as the favourite following the withdrawal of Sally Pearson because of an injury, Williams knew that 2019 would be her year of redemption if she was to attain the 2015 heights that saw her become a World Champion.
Starting the season in April in Los Angeles, Williams finished 2nd with a time of 12.94s, but it was at her first outing in the Diamond League (DL) that she made known her intent for the season, racing to a Season’s Best (SB) of 12.66s to win in Doha.
A couple of 2nd place finishes (Baie Mahault and Monaco) and a win in her home circuit in Kingston (12.81s) may not have made all the noise about her credentials, but the London DL resonated the loudest.
Racing against the Americans at the Muller Anniversary Games, Williams knew she had to be at her best to outperform her other competitors and she came through when it mattered the most.
The Jamaican easily won her heat and in less than an hour, she defeated all the others to post the fastest time in the world this year, clocking 12.32s! A time that was not just a new PB for her but also a new Jamaican Record.
In fact, Williams did not lose any other race in the lead up to the World Championships, displaying an enormous confidence following that victory in London.
Although she had a hiccup during the Jamaican National Championships in July after false-starting and not being able to qualify by virtue of her placement through the trials, the Jamaican Federation wasn’t going to leave her at home in Kingston when she was obviously their best medal prospect in the event.
Having secured two sound victories in the prelims and semis, Williams narrowly finished in 3rd place in the final behind Nia Ali and Harrison who took 1st and 2nd respectively. Nevertheless, getting on the podium would definitely mean a lot to her, especially considering that it was just her reputation that got her to Doha as Jamaica bent the rules a bit for her.
Prior to the World Championships, she had won the DL trophy in Brussels where she clocked 12.46s to secure victory.
She was so dominant this season that in 13 races in 2019, she won nine of those, finishing 2nd in just three, and 3rd in one race. That is, she never finished lower than 3rd in all her races, and the one she finished 3rd in was just one race – the World Championships final.
8) Shericka Jackson
From one Jamaican we move to another, only that we are transiting from the Hurdles to the quartermile. Although Shericka Jackson clocked 25 years old this year, you could be forgiven to think she has been around for too long, especially when you factor in that she won her first individual World Championships medal in 2015 in Beijing.
Prior to that (2015 breakout season), Jackson had never won the Jamaican National title. In fact, the first time she won the honours was in 2017, and she has won it three times on the bounce since then.
Although she is a Silver Medallist in the 200m from the Commonwealth Games last year, she may not have been considered a 400m medal contender in 2019 as she did not even compete in this event last year. Her best 400m performance before this season dates back to the Jamaican Champs in June 2017, which she won in 50.05s. In fact at the World Championships in London that year, she missed out on the podium, finishing 5th in 50.76s.
With the likes of Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Salwa Eid Naser and even her fellow countrywoman Stephanie-Ann McPherson dominating Diamond League (DL) events, Jackson needed to be at her very best as there were many others who were looking at breaking through into medal contention.
Competing at the Golden Gala in Rome, Jackson came in 2nd in 51.05s, which was quite encouraging. However, she was brought back to reality of the daunting task ahead when she finished 8th at the Athletissima in Lausanne clocking 52.35s. She did win two weeks later in London, but some would argue that the field wasn’t very competitive.
Winning the Pan American title in Peru in a time of 50.73s would have inspired some confidence going to Doha, and although she had posted a very fast PB of 49.78s to retain her Jamaican title, coming up against the best in the world was never going to be easy.
Jackson finished 2nd in her heat, then luckily qualified for the 400m final in 50.10s as one of the fastest losers in Heat 2 of the semis, crossing the line in 3rd place. It was more like ‘Qualify for the finals and hope for the best in the race. Maybe a new PB would suffice.’
In a final that had the imperious Eid Naser running the show, Jackson herself ran the race of her life, securing the Bronze medal with a lifetime best of 49.47s, which took her to 34th on the all-time list.
Jackson was so good that she was drafted into the Jamaican quartet that won GOLD in the women’s 4x100m, running the anchor leg for her country to bring home the baton in 41.44s. She came back a day later and helped Jamaica take the Bronze in the 4x400m with a time of 3:22.37, thereby leaving Doha with three medals.
With the Olympics just months away, don’t bet against Jackson getting on the podium in Tokyo. She has proven that she is a Championships athlete. At least her Bronze from three years ago backs up the fact that she will still be a contender in 2020.
7) Nia Ali
Like they say, “Good things come to those that wait”. That’s an apt description of how well Nia Ali ended her 2019 season, ending the year as a World Champion, something that she’s waited a long time for.
Ali is in a pool of outstanding US hurdlers, although over the years she has been ranked lower than the likes of Kendra Harrison and Brianna McNeal who regularly grace the Diamond League (DL).
It is not that Ali does not contend for honours in the greater scheme of things. By the way she was part of the American trio that had a clean sweep at the Rio Olympics where she won Silver, but she had not quite figured out how to make her mark at the World Championships.
Despite the fact that she had two young children who needed special attention, Ali had to shuttle between the US and Germany (her training camp) where she put in everything to have a remarkable year.
“My goal is to get on the podium, I don’t have a World Championships outdoor medal yet, that’s what I have been training so hard for, and prayerfully it comes out,” Ali said after she qualified for final of the 100m Hurdles in Doha.
Before going to the US National Championships in July, the fastest Ali had run this year was at the Gyulai Istvan Memorial where she posted a time of 12.63s to finish 2nd. That time wasn’t even in the Top 8 in the world at the time, and there was much to improve on.
A much improved Ali finished 2nd at the US Trials clocking a Season’s Best (SB) of 12.55s to secure her place on the team to Doha. Two years ago, Ali finished 8th in London, so an improvement from that would be considered a welcome development.
Finishing 3rd in Brussels with a time of 12.74s meant that Ali departed for Doha not as the favourite to win. However, the thing about the hurdles is that a mishap to one athlete can open up a chance for another. When McNeal false-started, that was big medal contender gone.
Ali won her heat and finished 2nd in the semifinal with a time of 12.44s. It was the fastest time of her career, but it didn’t look like it would be enough to get her on the podium.
While everyone was fixated on Harrison and Williams, the then 30-year-old (now 31) stunned the whole field to emerge as World Champion, racing to the fastest time she has ever run to win GOLD with a new lifetime best of 12.34s.
Ali’s celebration after she won summed up what that win meant to her. Having waited till her 30s to win a World Title was by no means easy, but it was really worth it in the end. Now she will be going to Tokyo as a major contender for GOLD.
6. Sydney McLaughlin
The American wonderkid Sydney McLaughlin who only turned 20 in August, is definitely living up to the hype surrounding her rise to stardom. While she was still an U20 athlete, the kind of ground McLaughlin had broken for someone her age was just staggering.
Four years ago when she turned up for the World U18 Championships in Cali, McLaughlin started etching her name in the history books when she stormed to victory in the women’s 400m Hurdles in 55.94s, an impressive showing from someone who was a month away from turning 16.
It was even her performance a year later at the USA Olympic Trials that caught the eye, storming to an U18 World Record (WR) of 54.15s to finish 3rd and qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
2017 was a mixed year for her as she couldn’t make the USA team, having finished 6th at the Trials, but by 2018, she was getting more experience and establishing herself, going on to win the NCAA title in a PB of 53.96s.
This year had to be the full unraveling of McLaughlin who has stepped up to the biggest stage and produced mouthwatering performances that etched her name in the history books.
Although Dalilah Muhammad was in a class of her own storming to a then WR of 52.20s to win the 400m Hurdles National title in USA, the performance of McLaughlin was not to be overlooked. McLaughlin finished 2nd in 52.88s. A month later, she got one over Muhammad, winning the Diamond League trophy in Zurich in 52.85s, the third sub 53s of her career.
Hardly would anyone have expected that McLaughlin would beat Muhammad. The latter would always be the favourite. However, the former would have to prove that she could beat the big guns from around the world, and the World Champs was a true test for that.
McLauglin came through the rounds, winning the two races as she set up a rematch against Muhammad in the final. That race is one for the ages and would be talked about by many more generations, maybe long after the two protagonists have bade farewell to the track.
Muhammad knew the threat McLaughlin posed, then went out hard and never relinquished the lead, but she had the latter hot on her chase, which made her run as hard as she could to cross the line, breaking her own WR and setting a new one of 52.16s.
McLaughlin ran the fastest she has ever run in her career to finish 2nd in 52.23s, moving up to second on the 400m Hurdles all time list. For someone who is just 20 years old, one wonders how long before she takes down the existing WR.
Both athletes were drafted into the USA team for the 4x400m final after that breathtaking display in the 400m Hurdles, and depending on who you believe, McLaughlin was believed to have run the fastest split (48.7 per World Athletics) in the second leg as they blew apart everyone to take GOLD in a World Leading time of 3:18.92.
Unlike in 2016 when she went out in the semis after finishing 5th in her heat, barring any unforeseen circumstance, McLaughlin’s place on the podium is assured in Tokyo. It’s just a question of what colour of medal it will be, and what time she would cross the line in.