Hubert Lawrence, Gleaner Writer
Not long from now in Monaco, the IAAF will name its World Athletes of the Year 2011. It's an important juncture on the road from Daegu to London. Remarkably, Jamaica has two of the three finalists in the men's category as Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Kenyan David Rudisha have emerged from the original list of 10 men.
New Zealand shot put ace Valerie Adams, Kenya's double World champion Vivian Cheruiyot, and Australian hurdles speedster Sally Pearson are the final three women.
The IAAF Gala kicks off awards season and coming soon will be the local Golden Cleats Awards, which pick the Jamaican Athlete of the Year. Perhaps we can get the organisers to rename the award, since 'cleats' isn't a familiar term in the local sports vocabulary.
In a year like 2011, winning such awards can vault the athlete into the upcoming Olympic year with boosted confidence.
I'd be tempted to pick Pearson as my female athlete of the year. Undefeated in the 100-metre hurdles until her last race of the season, she was sensational in the Daegu World Championships. She reeled off times of 12.53, 12.35 and 12.28 seconds. That last one is only 0.07 off the world record of 12.21 seconds.
Cheriuyot isn't far off as she won both the 5,000 and 10,000 in Daegu. She didn't challenge the record books the way Pearson did in Daegu. Adams is chasing records set by East German athletes who enjoyed a state-organised drug-use programme. From that perspective, her Daegu winning throw of 21.24 metres is a breakthrough, but not enough to unseat Pearson.
The men's award race features three world champions - Bolt, Blake and Rudisha.
Bolt won all his races but one - the Daegu 100. Blake lost two, the Nationals 100 to Asafa Powell and a 200 to Marvin Anderson, while Rudisha was upset in his last 800-metre race of the season.
Blake followed his Daegu win with runs of 9.82 seconds and a mind-blowing 200-metre race of 19.26 in Brussels. Bolt ran 9.76 after Daegu, but when adjustments for wind are done, Blake's best 100-metre efforts are just as good. Given that they never met in any other race, the Daegu gold gives Yohan a narrow edge in the race to be world No. 1 in the 100 in 2011.
The picture in the 200 is different. Blake has the faster time, 19.26 to 19.40 seconds for Bolt in Daegu. The tall man ran and won three other 200s, with times of 19.86, 20.03 and 20.03. Yohan ran three other 200s too, but lost to Marvin in one of them and never ran under 20.3 except in Daegu. His other 200 metres times were 20.33, 20.38 and 20.39.
The conclusion is clear. Bolt's superior 200-metre campaign overcomes the slight edge Blake created in the 100 and makes him the top Jamaican male athlete of 2011.
Did Bolt have a better 2011 season than Rudisha? The tall Kenyan won in Daegu and later neared his own world record with the fifth-best time ever - one minute, 41.33 seconds. Like Bolt, Rudisha had early-season injury issues, but was on song when it counted. The IAAF has a tough choice.
Will the IAAF give it to Blake because Bolt and Rudisha have won it in the recent past? Will it go to Rudisha because of his almost flawless season? Or will Bolt win because the 19.40 came in the crucible of World Champion-ship competition. That would be my choice.
By comparison, the best performances by Blake and Rudisha came on the professional circuit, in Brussels for the 21-year-old Jamaican and in Rieti for the smooth Kenyan.
Missing from the top three is Robert Harting, the undefeated German discus World Champion. In a fine season, Harting zipped five throws over 68 metres with a maximum of 68.99.
It probably was as tough to leave Harting out as it will be to choose from Bolt, Blake and Rudisha. All three will chase gold medals in the Olympic year, but only one will enter as 2011 World Athlete of the Year.
Hubert Lawrence has covered athletics since 1987.