Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana has been named the female World Athletes of the Year at the International Association of Athletics Federation’s Athletics Awards 2016, held at Sporting Monte Carlo on Friday.
Ayana had a record-breaking 2015. After recording the fastest 10,000m debut in history in June, the Ethiopian went on to win the Olympic title at the distance in a world record of 29:17.45.
She also took bronze in the 5000m event in Rio, her only loss of the year. Having recorded three of the eight fastest times at 5000m, she ended the year as the Diamond Race winner for that discipline.
I live for the moments when I walk into a stadium and I hear a loud roar and Rio was outstanding. One of the main reasons I’m continuing for another year is because of the fans; they don’t want me to retire. I have to give thanks to them.
Ayana becomes the third Ethiopian woman to win this award, following Genzebe Dibaba in 2015 and Meseret Defar in 2007.
“I don’t have words to explain my feelings right now, I’m so excited,” said Ayana whose award was presented by International Athletics Foundation (IAF) Honorary President HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco. “Really, I’m so pleased.”
Jamaica’s Usain Bolt who won the award five times between 2008 and 2013, was named the best male athlete. With the current accolade, Bold added to his legacy by earning the trophy for a record sixth occasion.
The sprinting superstar successfully defended his Olympic titles in the 100m, 200m and 4×100m, in the just ended Rio Olympics bringing his lifetime tally of Olympic gold medals to nine.
“He clocked season’s bests of 9.81 and 19.78 to win the 100m and 200m in Rio and then anchored the Jamaican team to a world-leading 37.27 when winning the 4×100m,” the IAAF said on its website.
He also went undefeated throughout the whole season at all distances, including heats.
“I live for the moments when I walk into a stadium and I hear a loud roar and Rio was outstanding,” said Bolt, whose award was presented by IAAF President Sebastian Coe. “One of the main reasons I’m continuing for another year is because of the fans; they don’t want me to retire. I have to give thanks to them.”
21-year-old Canadian, Andre De Grasse, was also named the male rising star. De Grasse earned the Olympic 200m silver medal in Rio, having set a national record of 19.80 in the semifinal.
He took bronze over 100m in a PB of 9.91 and anchored the Canadian team to bronze in the 4×100m, setting a national record of 37.64.
Belgian Nafissatou Thiam was named the rising female athlete for the year. She won gold in the heptathlon at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games with a world-leading national record of 6810.
At age 21, only one athlete (Carolina Kluft) has ever produced a higher score than Thiam’s at that age. En route to her Olympic triumph, she set a world heptathlon best of 1.98m in the high jump; higher than the winning leap in the individual high jump final.
Coaching achievement award went to Harry Marra, the US coach who guided Ashton Eaton to his second successive decathlon gold medal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
The IAAF President Award went to Tegla Loroupe, the Chef de Mission for the Refugee Olympic Team in Rio. This award recognises and honours great service to athletics.
The former marathon world record-holder helped select the Refugee Olympic Team after the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation held a competition at the Kakuma refugee camp in north-west Kenya.
The Women in Athletics award went to Polyxeni Argeitaki, an assistant professor of athletics at the National Kapodistrian University of Athens. This award recognises outstanding achievements and contributions made to develop, encourage and strengthen the participation of women and girls at all levels of the sport.
The former Greek champion at middle-distance events is the treasurer, council member and president of the scientific committee at the Hellenic Athletics Federation. She has also written more than 50 scientific publications.