Shaunae Miller-Uibo has suffered her first loss of 2018.
The Bahamian 24-year-old track and field superstar went into the IAAF Athletics Awards 2018 at the Grimaldi Forum in Larvotto, Monaco, as a strong contender for the World Female Athlete of the Year Award, but came up short as Colombian horizontal jumper Caterine Ibargüen shone the brightest on Tuesday.
Miller-Uibo, who recently carted off the national and regional female athlete of the year titles, had arguably her best year as a professional.
She enjoyed a perfect season, finishing with an unblemished 18-0 win-loss record in all of her events this year.
Miller-Uibo won all nine of her 200 meters (m) races, all three of her 400m races, tied Irina Privalova’s world record in the 300m indoors and blazed to a new world best time in the 150m straight at the Adidas Boost Boston Games. She also won both the shot put and high jump events at the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) National Open Championships with personal best marks; and climaxed her year by being a part of two gold medal winning squads at the International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) Continental Cup.
Ibargüen was unbeaten in the women’s triple jump, winning all eight of her triple jump competitions and ending the year with a world-leading mark of 14.96m (49’ 1”). She also competed in the women’s long jump this year, and set a new national record of 6.93m (22’ 9”).
Ibargüen, 34, won both horizontal jumps at the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games, the IAAF Continental Cup and at the IAAF Diamond League Finals – winning the latter two titles in two different cities within the space of 24 hours.
Even Kenyan distance runner Beatrice Chepkoech was considered a strong contender for the award, having set a new world record in the women’s steeplechase by more than eight seconds. She backed that up with the third-quickest mark of all-time. Chepkoech, 27, won seven out of eight steeplechase finals including at the IAAF Continental Cup, the African Championships and the IAAF Diamond League Final. Additionally, she was the silver medalist in the women’s 1500m at the Commonwealth Games.
A stunned Ibargüen expressed gratitude to everyone who helped her get to this point, particularly Colombians.
“I’m struggling to stand up because I’m shaking so much,” she said. “I’d like to thank all of my fans and all of Colombia for this. The support I got from the people in my country is huge. I’d like to thank them once again for the support and I’ll continue thanking them for the rest of my career.”
Miller-Uibo was as humble as ever.
“I had an enjoyable time. Like I have said before, all of the ladies had great credentials. Congrats to the winner and off to 2019… God’s willing,” she said.
As for Ibargüen, she experienced tremendous success in both of the horizontal jumps this year, but says “it’s top secret” as to whether or not she will go after both titles at next year’s world championships in Doha, Qatar. She has been the best female triple jumper in the world for the past decade, and proved this year that she is among the world’s elite in the long jump as well.
The other finalists for the IAAF’s World Female Athlete of the Year Award were British sprinter Dina Asher-Smith and heptathlete Nafissatou Thiam of Belgium.
Asher-Smith was a triple gold medalist at the European Championships, ending the meet as the world leader in the 100 and 200m, and recording personal best and national record times in both. She was second over 100m at the IAAF Diamond League Final and the IAAF Continental Cup, and third over 200m at the Commonwealth Games.
Thiam was unbeaten in the heptathlon all season. She won the European title which she accomplished in a world-leading mark of 6,816 points. Thiam also ended the year as the world number three in the women’s high jump.
As far as Bahamians are concerned, all were pale in comparison to what Miller-Uibo did this year.
In addition to the aforementioned, she won both the Commonwealth Games and Diamond League titles in the women’s 200m, and ended the year with the world-leading time in the women’s 400m. Her national record run of 48.97 seconds in the women’s 400m at the Herculis EBS Diamond League Meet in Fontvieille, Monaco, is the fastest time in the world since 2009, and puts her in the top 10 all-time over that distance.
The five finalists represented five countries from four area associations of the IAAF. Miller-Uibo was the only athlete from the North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association (NACAC) region, and along with Ibargüen, they were the only two from the western hemisphere.
The first round of voting for the World Athletes of the Year was done via a three-way process. The IAAF Council and the IAAF Family cast their votes by e-mail, while fans voted online via the IAAF’s social media platforms, to determine the five finalists for the awards. The IAAF Council’s vote counted for 50 percent of the result, while the IAAF Family’s votes and the public votes each counted for 25 percent of the final result. Voting closed on November 12.
Miller-Uibo emerged as one of the five finalists. In the women’s 200 and 400m, the Bahamian superstar was in a class by herself all year. Her last defeat was at the 2017 London World Championships when she stumbled in the final of the women’s 400m and faded to fourth, and finished third in the 200m.
Miller-Uibo was named as the NACAC Female Athlete of the Year for 2018 and was also the top female athlete nationally, as awarded by The Bahamas’ Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture on Saturday.
NACAC is one of six area associations of the IAAF, and encompasses 31 member associations inclusive of those of the United States, Cuba and Jamaica – major track and field powers in the world. Miller-Uibo completed one of the all-time great years, if not the greatest year, by a Bahamian track and field athlete ever, and was vying to become the first Bahamian to ever win a year-ending athlete of the year award on a global scale.
She came up just short.
Kenyan marathon runner Eliud Kipchoge, who broke the world record in the men’s marathon this year, won the IAAF’s World Male Athlete of the Year Award on Tuesday.