MonteCarloWorld and Olympic champions Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia and Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia have been announced as the men’s and women’s 2005 Athletes of the Year on stage tonight at the climax to the spectacular 2005 World Athletics Gala at the Fairmont Hotel, Monte-Carlo.
Bekele and Isinbayeva, who also won these titles in 2004, have produced another exemplary year of performances with triumphs stretching from the indoor season to this summer’s World Championships in Helsinki and beyond.
In Helsinki, both these 23-year-olds took gold medals in their respective events, the men’s 10,000m and women’s Pole Vault. Most recently the Ethiopian sped to a stunning new World 10,000m record in Brussels improving his own mark by nearly three seconds to 26:17.53. For her part, the Russian following on from her historic 5.00m breakthrough in London in July, and her most recent 5.01 World record clearance in Helsinki, also won today at the 3rd World Athletics Final in Monaco.
As well as his World gold medal in the 10,000m, Bekele triumphed as male Athlete of the Year thanks to his outstanding World Cross Country Championship short and long race double last March, showing remarkable resilience, overcoming the tragic loss of his fiancée Alem Techale, who died on 4 January. This was the fourth time Bekele had achieved the World Cross double in his career.
Bekele who did not compete in the World Athletics Final but was in Monaco with 30 other Helsinki World Champions for the World Athletics Gala, commented about tonight’s award – “As you know, I started the year with great grief. Let alone to be eligible to be for this award, I never expected to return to competition in such a way to do this well. To have reached this position makes me very happy. I have passed great tragedy in my life.”
“And my getting to this position is something that doesn’t completely surprise me at this point. Because what I see it’s due to the people that are around me. There are those who have run with me during my gold medal efforts and there are people who have cried with me during my times of grief. There are people with me all the time. And I understand that it is the love of the people around me that has enabled me to reach this position. I never understood that people could be so supportive to others not just in sports, but in life. And I am very moved by this.”
As well as her World title, Isinbayeva’s female Athlete of the Year award is due to her extraordinary feat of setting four World Indoor Pole Vault records in the winter and five absolute World records outdoors this summer. In the winter, her win at the European Indoor Championships with 4.90m provided one of those World Indoor records, while her 41cm margin of victory in the World Championships in Helsinki was the greatest ever obtained in any World or Olympic competition for the event.
Following her award, Isinbayeva commented, “I’m so happy to win this (World Athlete of the Year and World Athletics Final) two years in a row.”
“The season was so interesting for me and so difficult. It was exciting because I jumped five metres and won the World Championship. I’m so happy, and I just hope that next season will be the same as this year.”
I didn’t think about (winning again). I just jumped, broke World records, and won competitions. I didn’t really think that I could win this for the second time.”
Click here for OVERALL IAAF World Rankings as at 10/09/05
Performances of the Year
Justin Gatlin and Tirunesh Dibaba were confirmed as having provided the Performances of the Year. Both runners took double World Championship triumphs in Helsinki, the American at 100m/200m and the Ethiopian at the women’s 5000m/10,000m.
Gatlin was not in the original five names short-listed for Performance of the Year award but was ranked equal 6th with Jeremy Wariner (USA) and Rashid Ramzi (BRN). However, it was felt that with two nominations for Kenenisa Bekele in this poll (and also the Ethiopian’s listing in the Athlete of the Year vote) the panel was justified to consider these additional candidates for Performance of the Year.
Kipketer and Viren are honoured
There were also a number of other awards made tonight to distinguished athletes from both the recent and distant past of our sport.
Awarded for their outstanding achievements were two legendary runners, Multiple World 800m champion, and still current World record holder, Wilson Kipketer (DEN), and Lasse Viren (FIN), the four-time Olympic champion and multiple World record holder over 5000m and 10,000m from the 1970s.
Rising Star Award
The Rising Star Award was won by Britain’s then 16-year-old Harry Aikines-Aryeetey (turned 17 eleven days ago) who became the first sprinter in the six-year history of the IAAF World Youth Championships to win both the 100 and 200 metres gold medals.
Bahrain’s Rashid Ramzi, the outstanding men’s World Championship middle distance champion in Helsinki, received a special award for accomplishing the first men’s 800m and 1500m double at a senior global title meet since the 1964 Olympics successes of ‘Flying Kiwi’ Peter Snell at these distances.
IAF ATHLETES OF THE YEAR
1988 Carl Lewis (USA) Florence Griffith-Joyner (USA)
1989 Roger Kingdom (USA) Ana Fidelia Quirot (CUB)
1990 Steve Backley (GBR) Merlene Ottey (JAM)
1991 Carl Lewis (USA) Katrin Krabbe (GER)
1992 Kevin Young (USA) Heike Henkel (GER)
1993 Colin Jackson (GBR) Sally Gunnell (GBR)
1994 Noureddine Morceli (ALG) Jackie Joyner-Kersee (USA)
1995 Jonathan Edwards (GBR) Gwen Torrence (USA)
1996 Michael Johnson (USA) Svetlana Masterkova (RUS)
1997 Wilson Kipketer (DEN) Marion Jones (USA)
1998 Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) Marion Jones (USA)
1999 Michael Johnson (USA) Gabriela Szabo (ROM)
2000 Jan Zelezny (CZE) Marion Jones (USA)
2001 Hicham El Guerrouj (MAR) Stacy Dragila (USA)
2002 Hicham El Guerrouj (MAR) Paula Radcliffe (GBR)
2003 Hicham El Guerrouj (MAR) Hestrie Cloete (RSA)
2004 Kenenisa Bekele (ETH) Yelena Isinbayeva (RUS)
2005 Kenenisa Bekele (ETH) Yelena Isinbayeva (RUS)