Britain's long distance star Mo Farah, South Africa's 400m champion Wayde Van Niekerk and Qatari high jumper Mutaz Essa Barshim were shortlisted Monday for the IAAF's world athlete of the year award.
One of this trio will succeed retired Jamaican sprint legend Usain Bolt, the current holder of the accolade, at a ceremony in Monaco on November 24.
Ethiopia's 10,000m Olympic champion Almaz Ayana is in the running to win a second successive women's world athlete of the year honour.
She is up against Greek polevault star Ekaterini Stefanidi and Nafissatou Thiam, Belgium's heptathlon Olympic and world gold medallist.
The men's and women's finalists were whittled down from an original list of 10 by a vote of Iaaf council members, fans and fellow athletes.