World Athlete of the Year: Past Winners As 2023 Finalists, Including Lyles to Kipyegon Are Confirmed

World Athlete of the Year: Past Winners As 2023 Finalists, Including Lyles to Kipyegon Are Confirmed

Edwin Kiplagat
November 16, 2023 at 9:51 AM
  • The finalists for the men's and women's World Athlete of the Year have been confirmed
  • World Athletics has awarded the best male and female athletes of the year since 1988
  • Sports Brief looks at every past winners of the award

World Athletics recently confirmed the finalists for both the Men's and Women's World Athlete of the Year, which will be announced in December.

Kenya's Faith Kipyegon and Noah Lyles are favourites to win this year's awards, but they have solid competitors.

World Athletics, formerly known as IAAF, has awarded the best male and female athletes since 1988. Several track and field icons have won the award, some multiple times.

Usain Bolt, Eliud Kipchoge, Noah Lyles, Allyson Felix, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Mondo Duplantis, Faith Kipyegon, Marion Jones, World Athletics, 1988
Faith Kipyegon is the overwhelming favourite to win this year's women's award. Photos by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso and Maja Hitij/Bongarts.
Source: Getty Images

Sweden's pole vault superstar Mondo Duplantis is the reigning men's athlete of the year, while American sprinter Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone is the women's defending champion.

The five finalists for the 2023 men's awards are Noah Lyles, Kelvin Kiptum, Mondo Duplantis, Neeraj Chopra, and Ryan Crouser.

Faith Kipyegon headlines the women's finalists, which include Yulima Rojas, Shericka Jackson, Tigist Assefa, and Femke Bol. Kipyegon broke three world records in 2023, so she is the front-runner.

Lyles won three gold medals at the 2023 World Athletics Championships and is considered the best male athlete of the year. However, Dupantis broke the men's pole vault world record again and will give Lyles serious competition.

History of World Athlete of the Year

American sprinters Carl Lewis and Florence Griffith-Joyner were the first athletes to receive the World Athlete of the Year award in 1988. Lewis won his second award in 1991.

The late Flo Jo set the 200m world record of 21.34 seconds, which stands to this day. She also set the 100m world record of 10.49, which has never been broken.

Usain Bolt, Michael Johnson, Hicham El Guerrouj, Yelena Isinbayeva, and Sanya Richards-Ross have won the award multiple times.

World Athletes of the Year: 1990-1999

Carl Lewis won the men's World Athlete of the Year award in 1988 and Roger Kingdom in 1989. Flo Jo won the women's award in 1988 and was succeeded by Ana Fidelia Quirot from Cuba in 1989.

Marion Jones won the 2000 Women's World Athlete of the Year award, but after a doping scandal, her results and achievements were erased by the IAAF, per Reuters.





Steve Backley

Merlene Ottey


Carl Lewis

Katrin Krabbe


Kevin Young

Heike Henkel


Colin Jackson

Sally Gunnell


Noureddine Morceli

Jackie Joyner-Kersee


Jonathan Edwards

Gwen Torrence


Michael Johnson

Svetlana Masterkova


Wilson Kipketer

Marion Jones


Haile Gebrselassie

Marion Jones


Michael Johnson

Gabriela Szabo

World Athletes of the Year: 2000-2009

This decade was dominated by Usain Bolt and Hicham El Guerrouj. Bolt shattered the 100m and 200m world record at the 2009 World Athletics Championships and won multiple gold medals in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

He ran 100m in 9.58 seconds and 200m at 19.19 seconds, records which are still standing today.

Morocco's El Guerrouj won the award three times in a row, while Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele won two in a row.





Jan Zelezny


Hicham El Guerrouj

Stacy Dragila


Hicham El Guerrouj

Paula Radcliffe


Hicham El Guerrouj

Hestrie Cloete


Kenenisa Bekele

Yelena Isinbayeva


Kenenisa Bekele

Yelena Isinbayeva


Asafa Powell

Sanya Richards


Tyson Gay

Meseret Defar


Usain Bolt

Yelena Isinbayeva


Usain Bolt

Sanya Richards

World Athletes of the Year: 2010-2019

Bolt and marathon superstar Eliud Kipchoge were on top in this decade. Bolt won his third straight Olympics gold medals in the 100m, 200m and the men's 4x100 relay before calling it a day.

Eliud Kipchoge became the first man to run a marathon in under two hours. He also won two gold medals in the 2016 and 2020 Olympics in the marathon.

We saw David Rudisha break the men's 800m in this decade. The Kenyan clocked 1:40.91 at the 2012 London Olympics to set a new world record which still stands.

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce's incredible career took off while Allyson Felix continued to dominate.





David Rudisha

Blanka Vlasic


Usain Bolt

Sally Pearson


Usain Bolt

Allyson Felix


Usain Bolt

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce


Renaud Lavillenie

Valerie Adams


Ashton Eaton

Genzebe Dibaba


Usain Bolt

Almaz Ayana


Mutaz Essa Barshim

Nafissatou Thiam


Eliud Kipchoge

Caterine Ibarguen


Eliud Kipchoge

Dalilah Muhammad

World Athletes of the Year: 2020-present

We're only three years into the decade, and we've witnessed some iconic moments in track and field. Faith Kipyegon shattered three world records, Mondo Duplantis set and broke several pole vault world records while Tigist Assefa obliterated the women's world marathon record.

Kenya's Kelvin Kiptum smashed Eliud Kipchoge's world marathon record, becoming the first man to run under 2:01. The young Kenyan clocked 2:00:35 at the Chicago Marathon.

Ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics, we could see more historic moments in track and field.





Mondo Duplantis

Yulimar Rojas


Karsten Warholm

Elaine Thompson-Herah


Mondo Duplantis

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone

All facts and figures are courtesy of World Athletics.

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Comparing finalists for women's award

Sports Brief earlier compared the five finalists for the Women's World Athlete of the Year award.

Kenya's Faith Kipyegon is the front-runner after breaking three world records in 2023 and winning the women's 1500m title and the Diamond League final.

Other finalists include marathon world record holder Tigist Assefa, Dutch sprint star Femke Bol, Jamaica's Shericka Jackson and Yulimar Rojas.

Edwin Kiplagat photo
Edwin Kiplagat
Editor- Other Sports