We asked Deji Ogeyingbo to take a shot at the top 10 US women and men, this is how he begins it!
Top 10 US Female Athletes of the Year 2023 (10-6)
What a year it was for the United States Track and Field Association! After hosting the World Athletics Championships on home soil in 2022, all eyes were on them as they looked to defend their title at this year’s championships in Budapest 2023. Once again, the US was head and shoulders as they racked up 29 medals overall.
As we count down to the Top 10 female US athletes of the year, we look at some of the athletes who distinguished themselves at major competitions such as the World Championships and Diamond League and how their performances at the global level gave them the nudge ahead of their rivals.
10. Nia Ali
Starting our countdown is former world champion in the women’s 100m Hurdles, Nia Ali. Not every day does one get to witness a comeback story, especially in a Sport like Track and Field. Four years after winning her first world title against all odds in Doha, there is no denying the fact that Ali had her best year in 2023.
Nia Ali, 100m hurdle champ, Mom of 3, USATF Outdoor Track and Field Championships held at Hayward Field, University of Oregon, July 6-10, 2023, photo by Kevin Morris
The 35-year-old missed out on the 2021 Tokyo Olympics after she put to bed that same year. Still, Ali was able to get back to the grind and ensure she made amends for not making it past the first round of the 2022 World Championships in Oregon. It wasn’t her first rodeo though. In 2016, Ali won a Silver medal in her signature event barely a year after becoming a mother.
Ali didn’t start the year on the strongest of notes, but once she got into her strides, she began to run times that her younger rivals became scared of. Since 2021, all the talks have been about Olympic Champion, Jasmine Camacho-Queen and World Champion, Tobi Amusan. Regardless, Ali ran the fastest time of the year when she clocked 12.37 to win the US Championships in July.
The time gave her the right impetus to approach the world title in Budapest. However, having won her Heats and finished second in her semifinal, she narrowly came unstuck in the final as she placed eighth. Regardless, Ali will go into the Olympics in Paris next year with renewed vigor knowing fully well that she can still race against the very best at her age.
9. Laulauga Tausaga
At the start of 2023, if a haruspex had told Laulauga Tausaga that she would become the world champion in the women’s Discus, she would have had a bit of kickback. Not that she didn’t believe in herself, but judging by where she was coming from in the last two years her progression would have not necessitated her to suddenly win the world title. But isn’t that why we love sports? Because of its unpredictability and how narratives can change within the blink of an eye?
After all, this was a woman who didn’t make the Tokyo Olympics and finished 12th at the 2022 World Championships. Those disappointments didn’t deter her as she picked up the pieces and prepared herself to make the US team to Budapest in August. As fate would have it, Tausaga finished inside the top 3 and punched her ticket to the world championships.
Lausauga Tausaga celebrating her massive PR by Four meters! photo by Kevin Moon
In Budapest, many didn’t put her in the reckoning for the title as it was expected to be a two-way clash between the Olympic champion Valarie Allman of the United States and the world champion Feng Bin of China. Allman was the only woman to have thrown over the 70-metre mark this year while the Chinese athlete came with six wins from seven competitions, and finished just behind Allman in the qualifiers, following in second with 65.68m.
Tausaga, in comparison, had recorded mixed results in the course of a long season which saw her make 12 appearances but only secure two victories, the farthest being the 65.46m lifetime best that she set at the US Trials to finish second to Allman.
It didn’t deter her as after a long round of throwing in the final, the 25-year-old Tausaga dug deep to produce the farthest throw of her life that immediately shot her to the top, recording a lifetime best of 69.49m to win the title.
8. Gabrielle Thomas
One athlete who has mastered the 200m in track and field is Gabrielle Thomas. The American might not be able to challenge the might of the Jamaicans over the 100m, but over the years, she has made the 200m her bread and butter. So, it felt a bit when she didn’t make last year’s worlds due to a hamstring injury she suffered and made it a mission to make amends for that bump in the road this year.
Although defending world champion Shericka Jackson is still the undisputed fastest woman alive over the 200m, Thomas ensured she gave her a run for her money this year. Having built up her season with some fine performances alongside winning the 200m at the Diamond League in Paris, Thomas went into this year’s US Champs with renewed vigor.
Gabby Thomas, photo by Kevin Morris
Thomas, the Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist, had opted not to run the 100m at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, and the decision looked right as on fresh legs she twice improved on the best 200 times of the season. She clocked a world-leading 21.86s in the semi-finals, which reigning 200m world champion Shericka Jackson erased with a 21.71 at the Jamaican championships in Kingston.
Thomas responded in a big way as she won the US title in a then world-leading time of 21.60s. It paved the way for a big showdown in Budapest.
In the central European City, Thomas gave it her all as she chased Jackson down the home straight, but the Jamaican was too good for her as she clocked 21.81s to take Silver. Also, Thomas was part of the team that won Gold in the 4x100m for Team USA.
7. Anna Hall
Bronze in Oregon and Silver in Budapest, nothing defines progression for Anna Hall better than her performances in the last 24 months. In between, she became a two-time National Champion in the Heptathlon.
Hall isn’t just a genuine talent over the seven events, she was able to compete with some of the very best in the world with some of her highlights seeing her finish third in the 400m Hurdles at the Diamond League in Florence.
But the big prize for Hall was a tilt at the world title in Budapest this year and she narrowly missed out on Gold by whiskers. Hall had led the two-day event by 93 points over Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson after Day 1. She dropped to second place on Day 2 after a 6.19-meter long jump (fifth) and then down to third following a disappointing 44.88-meter Javelin best (10th).
Anna Hall, adidas Atlanta City Games, photo by Kevin Morris
On the last day, American Hall entered the 800m which was the last event, requiring a substantial three-second lead to bridge a 43-point gap and contend for the gold against Johnson-Thompson.
Despite grappling with a persistent knee injury throughout the seven events conducted over two demanding days, the tenacious Hall exhibited a remarkable display of determination. Leading the race alone from start to finish, she pushed through the pain barrier and showcased her prowess.
Her resilience led her to secure victory in the event, triumphing over her British adversary by a margin of 1.54 seconds. Even though she narrowly missed the gold, the Team USA athlete showcased exceptional skill, culminating in an impressive total of 6,720 points, a mere 20 points shy of the gold medal. Ultimately, her hard-fought performance earned her a well-deserved silver medal, solidifying her place among the top athletes at the championships.
Despite suffering many injuries, Hall was still able to pull up such fine displays you won’t be wrong to put it past her to win the Olympic title in Paris next year.
6. Kendra Harrison
One athlete who has often come stuck when it matters the most is Keni Harrison. However, the American made it her mission to make amends for many near misses in 2023.
The former world record holder in the women’s 100m Hurdles has watched the likes of Tobi Amusan and Camacho-Quinn win the world and Olympic titles in the past two years without having to get a share of the pie when it matters most.
Kenni Harrison, USATF New York Grand Prix
Continental Tour Gold
presented by Global Athletics & Marketing Inc., photo by Kevin Morris
Harrison gave it a tilt this year again, and her spectacular performances and consistency throughout the year make her our number 6 pick for the Top US Female Athlete of the Year.
Between May and July, Harrison chalked up a total of ten races and the astonishing thing is that she never placed outside of the top two in any of them. She ran 12.35s to win the USATF Grand Prix in Los Angeles, a time that was in the top 2 in the world before heading to the world championships in Budapest.
Despite placing second at the US trials by whiskers, Harrison ran a breathtaking 12.24s to win her heat in Budapest. She followed it up with a 12.33 in the semis and when it mattered most in the final, she narrowly missed out on the Gold in what was a tight race as she placed third. The 31-year-old finished up her season in third place at the Diamond league final in Oregon.