As the sporting year draws to a close, here is Xinhua News Agency’s selection of the world’s top 10 athletes in 2021:

1. Lionel Messi (Argentina, football)

Messi was crowned with the Ballon d’Or award for a record-extending seventh time in 2021. The 34-year-old striker helped Argentina win the Copa America this summer which ended his long-standing title drought with the senior national team, and he was also named the best player of the tournament and claimed the Golden Boot. He also won the Copa del Rey with FC Barcelona and La Liga’s top goalscorer award.

2. Novak Djokovic (Serbia, tennis)

Djokovic, 34, won his 20th Grand Slam men’s singles title at Wimbledon, equalling Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer’s joint record. He also claimed the men’s singles championship at the Australian Open and French Open in 2021.

Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates after the men’s singles semifinals of the 2021 US Open between Novak Djokovic of Serbia and Alexander Zverev of Germany in New York, the United States, Sept. 10, 2021. (Photo by Michael Nagle/Xinhua)

3. Max Verstappen (Netherlands, Formula One)

Red Bull’s Verstappen, 24, won the 2021 Formula 1 world championship after overtaking Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton on the last lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. He is the first Dutch driver to win the Formula One World Championship.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands celebrates with the trophy after winning the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, Dec. 12, 2021. Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands has won the world champion of 2021. (Xinhua)

4. Robert Lewandowski (Poland, football)

Lewandowski, 33, scored 41 goals in the 2020-21 season to beat Gerd Muller’s goalscoring record for a single season and help Bayern Munich win their ninth consecutive Bundesliga title. He also won the European Golden Boot as the continent’s top goalscorer for the 2020-21 season and Striker of the Year at the 2021 Ballon d’Or.

5. Elaine Thompson-Herah (Jamaica, athletics)

Thompson-Herah, 29, collected gold medals in the women’s 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. On August 22, Thompson-Herah won the 100m with a new personal best of 10.54 seconds at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Eugene, just 0.05 seconds shy of the world record. She was named the World Athletes of the Year at the World Athletics Awards 2021.

6. Ma Long (China, table tennis)

At the Tokyo Olympics, 33-year-old Ma beat compatriot Fan Zhendong 4-2 in the final, becoming the first table tennis player in history to win consecutive Olympic titles in the men’s singles event. He is also the most decorated table tennis player ever with 26 world and Olympic titles.

7. Caeleb Dressel (United States, swimming)

Dressel, 25, won five gold medals at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in the men’s 50 meter freestyle, 100 meter freestyle, 100 meter butterfly, 4x100m freestyle and 4x100m medley relays. He holds nine world records as of August 2021.

8. Karsten Warholm (Norway, athletics)

In July 2021, 25-year-old Warholm broke the 29-year-old world record in 400 meters hurdles. A month later at the Tokyo Olympics, he won the gold medal with a time of 45.94 seconds, breaking his own world record. He was named the World Athletes of the Year at the World Athletics Awards 2021.

9. Viktor Axelsen (Denmark, badminton)

Axelsen, 27, beat China’s Chen Long in the men’s singles final to win Olympic gold at the Tokyo Olympic Games. He then won the season-ending BWF World Tour Finals and was named the 2020/2021 BWF Male Player of the Year.

10. Lamont Marcell Jacobs (Italy, athletics)

Jacobs, 27, was crowned as the world’s fastest man at the Tokyo Olympics in 9.80 seconds, becoming the first European sprinter to win the men’s 100m race since Barcelona 1992.

Lamont Marcell Jacobs of Italy reacts after the Men’s 100m Final at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, Aug. 1, 2021. (Xinhua/Ju Huanzong)