Deji Ogeyingbo wrote this feature on World Athletics’ Women’s Athletes of the Year.

2023 Women’s World Athlete of the Year Nominees: Celebrating Excellence

Each year, World Athletics recognizes and celebrates the extraordinary achievements of athletes who have raised the bar, defied expectations, and inspired us all. Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone was the recipient of the award last year. However, after her injury-laden season that saw her pull out of the world championships in Budapest, the American does not make this year’s list, which invariably means a new winner will be crowned. 

The nominees for the 2023 Women’s World Athlete of the Year are a remarkable assembly of trailblazers who have left an indelible mark on the sport this year. Here, we summarize the achievements of these athletes. 

Tigist Assefa – Ethiopia (Marathon)

Tigist Assefa shows off her adidas Adizero Pro EVO 1, which sold out globally the every next day at $488.75 per pair, photo by Kevin Morris.

Tigist Assefa of Ethiopia, in a remarkable display of marathon excellence, shattered the world record for the women’s marathon, covering the daunting 26.2 miles in a staggering time of 2 hours, 11 minutes, and 53 seconds. This extraordinary achievement not only exceeded all expectations but also left the previous record, set by Brigid Kosgei in 2019, a remarkable 2 minutes and 11 seconds behind in her wake. With each stride, she rewrote history and etched her name in the annals of marathon legends.

Femke Bol – Netherland (400m/400m Hurdles)

Femke Bol, photo by Kevin Morris

Femke Bol made history by shattering a 41-year-old world record early this year in the women’s indoor 400m event. At the Dutch indoor championships held in Apeldoorn, the 22-year-old Bol sprinted her way to victory with a jaw-dropping time of 49.26 seconds, obliterating the long-standing record.

In Budapest, Bol had experienced a heart-wrenching fall during the mixed 4x400m relay, narrowly missing out on a gold medal for the Netherlands. However, her resilience and unwavering dedication to her craft shone through as she returned to her signature event, the 400m hurdles, and claimed her first global gold medal.

Shericka Jackson – Jamaica (100m/200m)

Shericka Jackson, photo by Kevin Morris

Shericka Jackson’s sprinting prowess shone brightly as she claimed the World 200m champion title and the 100m silver medal. Her dominance extended to the Diamond League, where she emerged as the champion in both the 100m and 200m events. Jackson’s lightning speed electrified the track.

Faith Kipyegon – Kenya (1500m/Mile/5000m)

Faith Kipyegon, photo by Brian Eder for RunBlogRun

Faith Kipyegon’s versatility knows no bounds. Perhaps the favorite for this year’s crown, the Kenyan has churned out incredible performances in 2023.  With an impressive repertoire of victories, she clinched the World 1500m and 5000m champion titles. Her exceptional feats were further amplified by setting world records at 1500m and mile, firmly establishing her as a distance-running force to be reckoned with and solidifying her status as the greatest middle-distance runner of all time. 

Haruka Kitaguchi – Japan (Javelin)

Haruka Kitaguchi, photo courtesy of JAAF

Japan’s Haruka Kitaguchi secured her first global women’s javelin title in stunning fashion. The 25-year-old athlete, hailing from Asahikawa, had previously earned a world bronze medal the year before, but it was this moment that would etch her name in the annals of athletic history.

Kitaguchi’s remarkable performance saw her rise from fourth place to clinch the coveted top spot with a dramatic last-round throw that soared to a distance of 66.73m. With a victory in the Diamond League, she demonstrated unparalleled expertise in her discipline, marking herself as a true javelin virtuoso.

Yaroslava Mahuchikh – Ukraine (High Jump)

Yaroslava Mahuchikh wins HJ, clears WL of 2.00 meters, photo by Sila Kiplagat.

Yaroslava Mahuchikh’s grace and precision in the High jump took her to the pinnacle of the sport, claiming the World champion title with a height of 2.01 meters. She continued her ascent by conquering the Diamond League, where she emerged as the champion in her event. Her mastery of the High jump set her apart as a true standout.

Maria Perez – ESP (Race Walk)

Jemima Montag (notice the bracelet Jemima is wearing), Maria Perez, Antonella Palmisano, 20k RW medalist, August 20, 2023

Maria Perez’s proficiency in race walking was on full display as she secured the World 20km and 35km race walk world champion titles. A remarkable world record at the 35km race walk added another feather to her cap, solidifying her status as a race walking legend.

Gudaf Tsegay – Ethiopia (5000m/10,000m)

Gudaf Tsegay celebrates her 5000m WR of 14:00.21! Photo by Brian Eder for RunBlogRun

Gudaf Tsegay’s mesmerizing talent and stamina made her the World 10,000m champion with a time of 29:12.87. Her dominance extended to the Diamond League, where ran a breathtaking race to shatter Kipyegon’s 5000m world record at the Diamond League finals at Hayward Field in Eugene. Tsegay’s unwavering resolve and unmatched performances were a true spectacle.

Sha’Carri Richardson – USA (100m/200m)

Sha’Carri Richardson wins 100m for US, first time since 2017, photo by Getty Images for World Athletics.

Sha’Carri Richardson’s lightning-fast sprinting brought her the World champion title in the 100m event with a blistering time of 10.65 seconds. Her determination and explosive speed made her a force to be reckoned with, clinching the gold and bronze medals in the 100m and 200m, respectively.

Yulimar Rojas – Venezuela (Triple Jump)

Yulimar Rojas won the TJ on her sixth jump, going from 8th to gold! Photo by Kevin Morris

Yulimar Rojas of Venezuela soared to her fourth consecutive world triple jump title in Budapest, securing victory on her last jump to narrowly avoid a huge disappointment.

The world record holder and Olympic champion – unbeaten in more than two years – followed it up with another Diamond League title in Eugene.

Winfred Yavi – Bahrain (3000m Steeplechase)

Winifred Yavi takes gold at, World Athletics Championships
Budapest, Hungary
August 19-27, 2023, photo by Kevin Morris

Winfred Yavi’s exceptional steeplechase prowess saw her claim the World champion title and the Diamond League championship, where she set the world lead. 

With the closing of the voting period for the World Athletes of the Year on the horizon, the anticipation is palpable. Voting will conclude at midnight on Saturday, 28 October, after which the selection process will unveil the top five women and five men finalists. This exciting revelation is scheduled to take place on 13-14 November, setting the stage for a thrilling countdown to the grand announcement of the winners. 

In the interim, we continue to celebrate the exceptional athletes who have graced the track and field with their incredible talents and unwavering dedication. These athletes are not only breaking records but also pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the world of athletics.