Kipchoge and Ibarguen named athletes of the year by IAAF voters

The 2018 IAAF Awards ceremony took place in Monaco this week, and it was a particularly enjoyable evening for Eliud Kipchoge and Caterine Ibarguen, respective winners of the male athlete and female athlete prizes.

Long-distance runner Kipchoge fought off competition from Christian Coleman, Armand Duplantis, Tomas Walsh, Abderrahman Samba, Kevin Mayer, Luvo Manyonga, Noah Lyles, Emmanuel Korir and Timothy Cheruiyot to claim the prize. Ibarguen, meanwhile, received more votes than fellow nominees Dina Asher-Smith, Beatrice Chepkoech, Sifan Hassan, Mariya Lasitskene, Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Sandra Perkovic, Caster Semenya, Nafissatou Thiam and Anita Wlodarczyk.

It has been a brilliant year for Kipchoge, the 34-year-old Kenyan who has been described as the “greatest marathoner of the modern era.” Remarkably, he has won 11 of the 12 marathons he has entered as a professional athlete, and 2018 was another success story for the man who won gold at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro two years ago.

Kipchoge finished first in the London Marathon back in April, completing the course with a time of 02:04:17. That meant he was 32 seconds faster than Tola Shura Kitata of Ethiopia and two minutes and four seconds quicker than Great Britain and Northern Ireland’s Mo Farah.

Five months later and Kipchoge was experiencing success in Germany, winning the Berlin Marathon with a time of 2:01:39 – a new world record. It was an incredible accomplishment for the Kenyan, who may have set out with the intention of setting a new personal best but surely did not expect to better countryman Dennis Kimetto’s 2:02:57 from four years earlier. Almost as impressive was the fact that he finished an astonishing four minutes and 43 seconds ahead of Amos Kiputro, who was a distant second in the German capital.

It will be interesting to see how long Kipchoge’s record stands for. The very nature of world records mean it is hard to see them ever being broken at the time they are set, but the Kenyan’s performance in Berlin was truly sensational and it could be a number of years before another long-distance runner is able to outdo him.

“Whatever happens, this will surely go down as Kipchoge’s crowning glory, his marathon opus,” wrote journalist Sean Ingle in the Guardian. “It would be no surprise if his record stood for a generation, unless, of course, he himself has other ideas.”

Ibarguen can also look back on a terrific 12 months. Like Kipchoge, the Colombian also won a gold medal at the Rio Games in 2016, as well as silver four years earlier in London. That was the venue in which she came second in the triple jump at the 2017 World Championships, before claiming first place in both the long jump and triple jump at this year’s Central American and Caribbean Games. Her 14.92 metres in the latter event was a new tournament record, and it was that performance above all else which earned her the end-of-season prize at the IAAF awards.

“When we saw that it was actually going really well we thought it would worth having a shot at the Diamond League title,” she said at the ceremony in Monaco.

“But the long jump was only secondary. Triple jump is my priority with next year’s World Championships in mind. My main focus will be on one event and doing it very well. I have two difficult years coming up – Doha, and then the Tokyo Olympics – and I am already preparing myself carefully for these two major championships.”

That is the nature of sport at the highest level: there is very little time to reflect on past achievements, with the focus soon turning to what is to come. It is to be hoped, though, that both Kipchoge and Ibarguen are able to relish their 2018 achievements before turning their attention to the upcoming 12 months.

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