Mid-season Athlete of the Year report

It’s not really mid-season, maybe a third of the way through the year. But the Diamond League just had its break and the USATF Championships are over, and it’s time to see who the top athletes of the year are.

I do some points-based World Rankings, and I’m still working on getting the rankings page together.

When I came up with my idea for this system several years ago, I wanted a system that rewarded athletes for doing the things that we, as fans, want them to do. We want them to compete as much as is reasonable. We want them to go up against the best competition. And we want them to put up big marks while doing so. And, most importantly, in that order.

Most rankings systems make marks the most important, but not mine. They’re important, but winning is more important. This is how Track and Field News‘ annual World Rankings operate, which this system attempts to emulate, but with a few minor differences. One of those differences is that, for me, going undefeated isn’t a big deal. The important thing is to get on the track and face up to the best, even if you falter once or twice.

Anyway, here are the men’s points leaders as of today. (Expect to see the women’s leaders in a week or less.)

Honorable Mention (more than 150 points)
Dylan Armstrong (shot put, Canada); Reese Hoffa (shot put, USA); Robert Harting (discus, Germany); Aleksey Zagorniy (hammer, Russia)

10. Imane Merga (long distance, Ethiopia) 162 points
Merga has put up a good year so far, with a 5k win at the Rome Diamond League meet, a 10k second at the Eugene Diamond League meet, and a win at the toughest race in the world, the IAAF Cross Country Championships.

8. (tie) Trey Hardee (multis, USA) 163 points
Hardee would likely rate higher if he competed more often. His only serious outing this year was a convincing win at the Gotzis decathlon.

8. (tie) L.J. van Zyl (400 hurdles, South Africa) 163 points
He has run a boatload of fast times, even after adjusting for high altitude, and won three big races (Doha, Rome, Ostrava) before a bad outing at the Diamond League meet in New York.

7. Phillips Idowu (triple jump, Great Britain) 171 points
The Brit hasn’t been beaten this year, but skipped the European Indoor Championships and has yet to face up to Teddy Tamgho.

6. Renaud Lavillenie (pole vault, France) 184 points
Lavillenie dominated the indoor season, with a big win at the European Indoor Championships with 6.03 meters.

5. David Oliver (110 hurdles, USA) 186 points
Oliver competes relatively often, never shies away from tough hurdlers, has lost only once, and runs very fast. What more could you want in a track star?

4. Ivan Ukhov (high jump, Russia) 191 points
Ukhov’s pattern over the last few seasons is to dominate indoors and be mortal outdoors, which has been repeated so far this year. All of his 191 points were earned indoors.

3. Teddy Tamgho (triple jump, France) 194 points
So you thought it was hard to get Tyson Gay and Usain Bolt to run against each other? Tamgho and Idowu avoid each other like the plague, and that’s why Tamgho’s Euro Indoor title and World Indoor Record aren’t enough to be number one. For me, their clash will be the most anticipated event of the World Championships.

2. Geoffrey Mutai (long distances, Kenya) 211 points
You should not be surprised to see Mutai up here. He ran one of the greatest marathons of all time at Boston (even after factoring in the tailwind). He ran cross country, winning the Kenyan championships and placing fifth at the World Cross Country Championships (plus two other wins). He ran a great 27:19 at the B.A.A. 10k, thrashing a quality field. These rankings reward athletes who regularly put it on the line and win while running fast, and Mutai has done all of these things.

1. Ashton Eaton (multis, USA) 236 points
The guy vying for the honorary title of the World’s Greatest Athlete is currently, in my system, the world’s greatest athlete. Eaton put up a very good world-leading mark in winning the USATF decathlon, but it seemed almost ordinary compared to the huge World Indoor Record he set in the heptathlon. In a minor note, he also won the triathlon competition at the Millrose Games.

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