In 23 medal-awarding events in women’s track and field at the 2012 Olympic Games, many international track and field superstars made their mark.
World records and Olympic records were set and athletes became national heroes, but which women were the best track and field performers of the London Olympics? The following slides break down who were the 20 best of the best.
Vivian Cheruiyot was one of two women to medal in both the 5,000-meter run and 10,000-meter run. She earned silver in the 5,000 with a time of 15 minutes, 4.25 seconds and bronze in the 10,000 in 30:30.44.
Cheruiyot was the defending world champion in both races, so failing to win a gold may have been a disappointment for her. Nonetheless, earning two medals in the distance races is a great accomplishment, and earned her a spot in these rankings.
Brittney Reese came into this year’s Games as an overwhelming favorite to win women’s long jump gold, having won the past two titles at both the IAAF Outdoor World Championships and Indoor World Championships.
Reese did not make winning easy, fouling on four of her six attempts in the final, but her best jump of 23 feet, 4 1/4 inches was enough to win gold, her first Olympic medal.
Read more on why Reese is currently the most dominant woman in track and field.
Anna Chicherova, the defending high jump world champion, won her first Olympic gold in London. She jumped a height of 6 feet, 8 3/4 inches, which ranks as the best in the world this year.
Chicherova had to defeat a tough field, including U.S. favorite Chaunte Lowe, but she was at her best in London.
In a field featuring three very strong runners from both Ethiopia and Kenya, Meseret Defar prevailed to finish first in the 5,000-meter run.
Defar, the second-fastest woman to ever run the 5,000, has run much faster in her career. The field she beat, however, included defending world champion Vivian Cheruiyot, and Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba, the world-record holder in the 5,000.
For the 2004 Olympic gold-medalist and 2007 world champion, this win was impressive because of the tough competition it came against in a very challenging race.
Sandra Perkovic stepped up in a big way in the final of the women’s discus throw. She threw a career-best distance of 226 feet, 8 7/8 inches to defeat Russia’s Darya Pishchalnikova, the event’s world-leader in 2012, and win gold.
Perkovic’s throw, which came in her first Olympic Games, set the Croatian national record in the event.
New Zealand’s Valerie Adams has been a dominant force in shot put for many years, winning gold at the 2008 Olympic Games and at the past three Outdoor World Championships. This year, however, a new queen of the event has emerged, and that was Nadzeya Ostapchuk.
Ostapchuk, the 2005 world champion, came into the Games with the world’s three best throws this year, and she continued her 2012 dominance with a throw of 70 feet, 7/8 inch to win Olympic gold.
Post-Publishing Update: The International Olympic Committee announced on Monday that Ostapchuk tested positive for metenolene, an anabolic steroid. As a result, she was stripped of her gold medal.
The list will not be changed now, but you can consider her place on this list revoked as well.
Barbora Spotakova is the world-record holder in the javelin throw and was the defending Olympic champion, so she was certainly a favorite to win gold. She lived up to that status and defended her title.
Spotakova’s gold-medal-winning throw of 228 feet, 2 1/4 inches is the best throw in the world this season, and defeated her closest competition by more than 14 feet. Her performance in the javelin final was dominant, and earned her a spot in the top 15.
Carmelita Jeter did not win an individual gold at the 2012 Olympic Games. However, she tied for the overall lead in medals with three, took home a full contention of medals of every color and helped set a world record.
Individually, Jeter finished with a silver in the 100, with a season-best time of 10.78 seconds, and with bronze in the 200 with a time of 22.14. The greatest moment of her Games, however, came as the anchor leg on the 4x100-meter relay.
With a fast finish, Jeter led the U.S. 4x100 team to a world-record time of 40.82 seconds, an astounding time .55 seconds faster than any ever run before. Jeter may still be waiting on her first individual gold, but three medals and a place in the world-record books is certainly a great games in itself.
The 400-meter hurdles was one of the closest and most exciting races of the entire women’s track and field program. Natalya Antyukh fended off 2011 world champion Lashinda Demus of the United States by .07 seconds to win gold.
Antyukh finished the race in a personal-best time of 52.70 seconds. Her time is the fastest in the world this year, and the eighth-fastest all-time.
Mariya Savinova not only won the 800-meter run, she ran away with victory. Even with a charge down the final straightaway from South Africa’s Caster Semenya, Savinova was able to stroll past the finish line with a 1.04-second lead.
Savinova’s time of 1:56.19 is the fastest in the world this year. The defending 800 world champion simply ran too fast for any of her competition.
With a tremendous hammer throw of 256 feet, 6 inches, Tatyana Lysenko not only won Olympic gold, she set the event’s Olympic record.
Lysenko’s gold came against a field that included Germany’s Betty Heidler, the world-record holder in the event, and it made history. Altogether, that earns her a spot in the top ten performances.
Tirunesh Dibaba won medals in both marquee long-distance races, the 5,000-meter run and 10,000-meter run, at the 2012 Olympic Games.
Dibaba, the world-record holder in the 5,000, was unable to defend her 2008 title in that race, finishing third for a bronze. She did defend her title, however, in the 10,000, with a time of 30 minutes, 20.75 seconds, the fastest in the world this year.
Sanya Richards-Ross competed in three events at the London Olympics, and she won gold in two of them.
Richards-Ross won an individual gold in the 400-meter dash with a time of 49.55 seconds. She followed that up with another gold as the anchor leg of the 4x400-meter relay team, running a finishing split of 49.10 seconds to lead the U.S. team to a 3.36-second victory.
Richards-Ross also competed in the 200-meter dash, in which she finished fifth with a time of 22.39 seconds. Her performances in the 400 and 4x400 are what earned her a spot high in these rankings.
Very little attention is given to the 20-kilometer race walk when it comes to Olympic track and field, but Elena Lashmanova deserves major credit for her performance in London. Lashmanova completed the race in 1 hour, 25 minutes and 2 seconds, which broke the world record as the fastest time in history.
Lashmanova’s walk was one of only four world records were set at the 2012 Games. Additionally, her victory came seven seconds ahead of fellow Russian Olga Kaniskina, who was the defending Olympic gold-medalist and three-time defending world champion in the event, making Lashmanova’s achievement all the more impressive.
Jessica Ennis was the only British gold-medalist in her host nation’s 2012 Games, and she accomplished that feat with a fantastic performance in the heptathlon.
Ennis’ score of 6,955 points is the best ever by a British woman, and makes her the fifth-highest scoring heptathlete all-time. Ennis’ heptathlon included two first-place finishes and two second-place finishes among the seven total events, as she proved she is the most complete female athlete in track and field.
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce was one of three women to earn three medals in women’s track and field at the 2012 Games.
Fraser-Pryce’s lone gold of the Games came in the 100-meter dash, where she ran a time of 10.75 seconds to defend her 2008 title. With that performance, she rightfully earned the title of “Fastest Woman in the World.”
Fraser-Pryce also earned a pair of silver medals in London. She ran a personal-best time of 22.09 seconds in the 200-meter dash, but finished second. Fraser-Pryce also led off the Jamaican 4x100-meter relay team, which set a national record with a time of 41.41 seconds, the third-fastest time in history.
Sally Pearson, the 2011 world champion in the 100-meter hurdles, has been consistently dominant in the event over the past two years, so it came as no surprise that she earned her first Olympic gold in London. Pearson made the gold-medal-winning performance especially great, however, by breaking the event’s Olympic record with a time of 12.35 seconds.
Pearson’s Olympic record time was the second-fastest of her career, and is the 16th-fastest of all-time. It also enabled her to win an incredibly close race, as she beat U.S. hurdler Dawn Harper to the line by only .02 seconds.
Only one woman won three gold medals in track and field at the 2012 Olympic Games, and that woman was Allyson Felix.
Felix earned her first individual gold of her career in the 200-meter dash, with a time of 21.88 seconds. In her other individual event, the 100-meter dash, she finished fifth in a personal-best time of 10.89. Felix followed up her individual glory with two tremendous relay performances.
She ran the third leg of the U.S. women’s 4x100-meter relay, which broke the previous world record by .55 seconds with an astounding time of 40.82. The following day, as the second leg of the 4x400-meter relay, Felix ran an incredibly fast split of 47.8 seconds (only two women have ever run an open 400 in less than 48 seconds), to lead the U.S. to a gold-medal-winning time of 3:16.87.
Read more about why Allyson Felix was the MVP of women’s track and field at the London Games.