As the IAAF announces nominees for it’s Athletics Awards 2018, we’ve been casting an eye over the stellar seasons of some of those on the shortlists.
Nobody could have truly predicted the rapid rise of Abderrahman Samba.
The 23-year-old was very much out of the limelight at the 2017 World Championships, which were dominated by winner Karsten Warholm and that finish photo.
But not only did Samba move to the top of the 400m hurdles pile, he completely upped the ante, running the second-fastest time ever of 46.98 seconds and looking utterly unstoppable all season.
His potential had certainly been there before, but only in small glimpses. Victory on home soil at the start of last year’s IAAF Diamond League season made a lot of people take notice. But it was soon apparent that the young Qatari was not the finished package, being unable to kick on from his strong early performance.
Fast-forward a year later to the same meeting and Samba did the same again. However, this time it was different. While 2017 had seen a smash and grab win, this one (above) was completely dominant.
Nobody could get near him as he cruised down the home straight, running a meeting record of 47.57 that was nearly a whole second quicker than his previous winning time.
Samba was now looking like the real deal, as long as he could carry on competing at the same pace instead of fading away like before. But the new world leader did much more than maintain his pace, he just got better and better.
Record after record tumbled before him every time he stepped on a track on the Diamond League circuit, culminating in his superb 46.98s time in Paris (below) which proved far beyond what anyone thought he could have achieved in the space of a year.
It seems almost unfathomable to think how quickly Samba has improved, which also begs the question of how much further he can go next season.
Running the second fastest clocking ever in Paris made commentator claim “the world record may be on rested time” and while he still has a bit more work to do, it is by no means out of reach.
The fast-starting Warholm has pushed Samba much of the way, and there’s glowing potential being shown by NCAA champion Rai Benjamin. If they can maintain the same form they kept up last season, they could in fact end up being allies in one sense as well as rivals.
Surely if Benjamin and Samba were to meet regularly, it would only be a matter of when rather than if Kevin Young’s 26-year-old record of 46.78 would finally meet its end.
Of course there are no guarantees that it will transpire this way, but you can’t fail to appreciate how Samba’s superb performances have added excitement to the 400m hurdles. His dancing isn’t too bad either.
Abderrahman Samba has been nominated for Male World Athlete of the Year 2018 by the IAAF. For a full list of nominees see here.