Female Rising Star 2016 nominees

Golden Tracks
European Athletics

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Here are the 12 nominees in the female Rising Star category, athletes who banked gold across all the major championships this summer.

Facing the world No. 1 and the defending champion, Belgium’s Nafissatou Thiam was simply sensational as she won the Olympic heptathlon title in Rio in August.

A week before she turned 22, Thiam once more proved age is never a problem for her because in 2014, when she was still only 19, she had won bronze at the European Athletics Championships in Zurich.

In Brazil, she broke the national record and set the world-leading mark with 6810 points to beat Great Britain’s 2012 champion Jessica Ennis-Hill (6775) and Canada’s Brianne Theisen Eaton (6653), who had started the competition at the top of the world lists.

And in doing so, Thiam broke five personal bests - in the 100m hurdles, high jump (where her 1.98m along with Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson is a heptathlon world best), long jump, javelin and 800m.

Thiam is also one of the nominees in the Golden Tracks Female Athlete of the Year category - as is 21-year-old Sara Kolak.

The Croatian javelin star, who had finished third at the European Athletics Championships in Amsterdam a few weeks earlier, delivered like never before in Rio with a national record of 66.18m in the fourth round to win a sensational and unexpected Olympic gold.

And like Thiam, she too beat the defending champion, in the Czech Republic’s Barbora Spotakova, who was third.

Amsterdam was a championships which really put Turkey’s Yasemin Can on the map.

On the opening night in the Netherlands, Can, 19, showed her speed and endurance by winning the 10,000m by more than six seconds in a European Athletics Under-23 record of 31:12.86 and then, three days later, she took the 5000m in 15:18.15.

At Rio, she was the top European in both events, with her seventh in the 10,000m and sixth in the 5000m, and she ended the summer as the quickest European over both the distances.

Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith won a gold medal this summer to go with her golden smile after soaring around the home bend for glory in the 200m at the European Athletics Championships.

Asher-Smith, 20 and still a university student in London, won in 22.37 and then ran the second leg as Britain took silver in the 4x100m relay. This led her onto the Olympics where she was fifth in the 200m final.

As European junior 100m champion, Poland’s Ewa Swoboda entered 2016 as an athlete with a growing reputation - and she made her mark once again.

How special it was because her biggest achievements came on the tracks in her own country.

In February, she broke the under-20 world 60m record with a brilliant 7.07 in Torun and then in July, still as an 18-year-old, she won silver in the 100m at the IAAF World U20 Championships in Bydgoszcz. Her time of 11.12 was not only a national junior record but also the fastest a European junior has run since 1988.

The world under-20 championships in Bydgoszcz in July proved a great triumph for Europe’s women.

Twelve months on from becoming European 100m hurdles junior champion in Eskilstuna, Belarusian Elvira Herman, 19, won gold again.

And she achieved it in great fashion, with her time of 12.85 being a European Under-20 and championship record.

Germany’s Alina Kenzel, now 19, led from the start in the shot put final at the world under-20 championships before saving her best for the third round.

Her first two efforts of 16.91m and 16.66m would have been enough for gold, but she sealed the deal with a brilliant 17.58m, a world leading mark for an under-20.

Switzerland’s Angelica Moser, 18, wrote herself into the event’s history as she won pole vault gold in Bydgoszcz by 15 centimetres with a championship record of 4.55m.

Two weeks before she had finished seventh at the European Athletics Championships in Amsterdam and then in August in Frauenkapellen, she took her personal best to 4.57m.

Kristina Rakocevic, 18, was among the favourites for discus gold in Bydgoszcz having thrown an under-20 world-leading 58.30m in Split in April.

And the Montenegrin maintained that form by the time of the championships, taking the lead in round two with 53.56m and then ensuring gold with 56.36m with her next throw.

What a summer it has been for Moldova’s Alexandra Emilianov, who won double gold at the first European Athletics Youth Championships in Tbilisi.

Still only 16 at the time, she had quite a time as she set world-leading marks in both the discus and shot.

First she won the discus with 58.09m  - the best throw by an under-18 for four years - and on the same day as qualifying for the shot put final where the next day she took the title with 18.50m.

Ukraine’s Alina Shukh, 17, showed what a talent she is for the future when she broke the world under-18 record in winning the heptathlon in Tbilisi with 6186 points.

It was some performance in a year to savour for Shukh.

With a score of 6099 points in Lutsk in June, she was also the world No 1 with the under-20 implements in a competition where her high jump of 1.92m was the best by an under-18 in 2016.

After the first round of the javelin final in Tbilisi, Norway’s Arianne Duarte Morais, 17, was in fourth but that all changed very quickly with the greatest throw of her life.

Having started with 52.28m, Morais then reached a distance of 60.89m for a European under-18 record with the 500g implement, an effort which moved her to third on the all-time world list for her age.

She was the only woman to break 60m, and came close to doing it again in the final round with 59.10m.