Monte CarloHicham El Guerrouj (MAR) and Paula Radcliffe (GBR) have been named Athletes of the Year, at the 2002 World Athletics Gala, which is celebrating the 90th anniversary of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
Their awards were announced during a live TV broadcast at the Sporting Club of Monte-Carlo by HSH Prince Albert of Monaco, the Honorary President of the Foundation, and Lamine Diack, President of the IAAF and the International Athletic Foundation.
The other men's finalists were 100m world record holder Tim Montgomery (USA) and Felix Sanchez (DOM), who won a share of the IAAF Golden League Jackpot and was crowned 400m Grand Prix Champion in 2002. In the women's contest the other finalists were Marion Jones (USA) and Ana Guevara (MEX), who were both Jackpot winners and Grand Prix Champions, with both also winning their event at the IAAF World Cup.
Hicham El Guerrouj becomes the first man to win Athlete of the Year titles in consecutive years since the award was created in 1988. The 28-year-old Master of the Middle Distances had a superb 2002, and was unbeaten in 11 races at 1500m or 1 Mile, including all IAAF Golden League races and the IAAF Grand Prix Final, where he just lost out in the Overall Grand Prix Standings when Tim Montgomery ran 9.78 to set a new 100m world record. El Guerrouj also had world-leading times at both 1500m (3:26.89) and 1 Mile (3:48.48). The Moroccan has announced his intention to double up at 1500m and 5000m at the IAAF World Championships in Paris next year and then at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
Another 28-year-old, Paula Radcliffe, whose courageous racing tactics made her a symbol of the British “bulldog spirit,” finally emerged in 2002 as a true world beater with spectacular displays on every surface. First retaining her IAAF World Cross Country title, she then set a Marathon world best for a women-only race in London (2:18:56) on her debut at the distance. On the track (without pacemakers) she later set a European record at 10,000m (30:01.09), and a world-leading mark at 5000m (14:31.42), to win gold medals at the European Championships and Commonwealth Games respectively. Then, on 13 October, Radcliffe stunningly concluded her year by smashing the world best to win the Chicago Marathon in 2:17:18, and become the first woman ever to run under 2:18 for the classic distance. To put that achievement into context, the Briton’s time in Chicago is worth 1302 points in the IAAF Scoring Tables – better than Florence Griffith-Joyner’s world records of 10.49 (100m) and 21.34 (200m) and any other current world records in women’s running events!
The first ever “Primo Nebiolo Lifetime Achievement Award” was awarded to Kip Keino. He was the first famous Kenyan track star, winning the Olympic 1500m title in 1968 and the 3000m steeplechase title in 1972, and also setting world records at 3000m and 5000m. Following his running career he turned his own home into an orphanage and recently founded a school in his home town of Eldoret.
The Rising Star awards, celebrating the best young athletes of 2002, went to Usain Bolt (JAM), who became the youngest ever World Junior Champion when winning the 200m at the World Junior Championships in Kingston, and Carolina Kluft (SWE), who won the Heptathlon title in Jamaica before setting a world junior record to win the European Championships title in Munich.