14 OCT 2012 General News St Julians, Malta

European heroes take centre stage in St Julians

Jessica Ennis of Great Britain celebrates winning gold in the Women's Heptathlon on Day 8 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 4, 2012 (Getty Images)Jessica Ennis of Great Britain celebrates winning gold in the Women's Heptathlon on Day 8 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 4, 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
The best European athletes of 2012 were honoured at a grand ceremony to mark the European Athletics Awards Night in St Julians, Malta, on Saturday (13) evening.

Great Britain's Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah were recognised as winners of the 2012 European Athlete of the Year Awards while Sweden’s Angelica Bengtsson and the Czech Republic’s Pavel Maslák were presented with the European Athletics Rising Star Awards by European Athletics President Hansjörg Wirz during the ceremony that was the highlight of the three-day annual European Athletics Convention.

More than 270 key decision makers from the 50 European Athletics Member Federations had gathered for the annual meeting.

Ennis looking to Moscow 2013

Multi-events superstar Ennis, who became only the third British woman after compatriots Sally Gunnell and Dame Kelly Holmes to be honoured as the European Athlete of the Year, was thrilled to be in distinguished company.

"It’s a great honour to win the European Athlete of the Year Award. I am very excited. I would like to thank everyone who has voted for me," said Ennis.

"It has been a great year with the Olympics. It’s a pity that I could not be in Malta in person to collect my award, since I have started my winter training, but my coach (Toni Minichiello) will be there to receive it on my behalf.

"Next year my main goal is the World Championships in Moscow. 2014 will be a big year too, I am preparing for the European Athletics Championships in Zurich. That will be my main focus for the year," she added.

Ennis overcame the burden of being the poster girl of London 2012 to win the Heptathlon gold medal at the Olympic Games on her home turf. Her score at the London 2012 Olympic Games, in a British record of 6955 points, moved her up to number four on the European all-time list and fifth on the global ranking.

Farah: 'I want to win as many medals as I can'

British middle distance star Farah, who is based out of Portland in the United States, could not attend the Awards Night due to his training commitments. IAAF vice president and London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe received the award on his behalf.

The 28-year-old Londoner is just the second athlete to be named as the European Athlete of the Year for a second consecutive year – following on from Swedish triple-jumper Christian Olsson in 2003-2004 – after his phenomenal double success over 5000m and 10,000m at the London Olympic Games.

Farah, 29, defended his European 5000m title in Helsinki to become the first man to win consecutive gold medals over the distance at the European Athletics Championships.

"I am delighted to be voted as the European Athlete of the Year for 2012. I have always enjoyed competing at the European championships and this year a victory in Helsinki put me in the right frame of mind ahead of the Olympics. In the coming years I want to win as many medals as I can, so I will keep competing at the Europeans. Next year, the European Athletics Team Championships are in Gateshead and I am looking forward to that," said Farah.

"Finally, I would like to thank European Athletics and everyone who voted for me. It’s a pity that I could not be there tonight," he added.

Swedish pole vault prodigy Angelica Bengtsson became the first athlete of either gender from her country to be voted European Athletics Rising Star. The 19-year-old has been consistently breaking records in the last few years and 2012 was no different. This summer, she defended her World junior title in Barcelona and then she added a centimetre to her World junior outdoor best when she scaled a Swedish senior record 4.58m in Sollentuna.

"I am very excited and feel honoured being voted European Athletics Rising Star. I am looking to compete at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Göteborg next year. 2012 was a very good year for me, I enjoyed competing in Helsinki, and winning at the World juniors in Barcelona was special. I got used to the seniors circuit this year and I feel I am ready for the challenge," said Bengtsson.

The male European Athletics Rising Star award was presented to the Czech Republic’s 400m runner Pavel Maslák, who is also the first athlete from his country to be honoured as the European Athletics Rising Star.

The 21-year-old bagged the most important victory of his career so far when he claimed the 400m gold medal at the 2012 European Athletics Championships in Helsinki. He set a national record when he ran 44.91 during the heats at the 2012 London Olympic Games.

"This is a great honour for me and for the people of Czech Republic. I thank everyone who voted for me. This year was indeed a very special one for me. Winning a gold medal in Helsinki and becoming the first athlete from my country to break the 45-sec barrier in the 400m means a lot to me. I will work hard to keep getting better next year," said Maslák.

Two other important presentations were also made at the Gala.

Norway’s Charlotte Svenson received a plaque as the overall winner of the 2012 European Athletics Innovation Awards for her project entitled "Ung:Leder – To create the Volunteers of Tomorrow".

Tina Torop of Estonia and Slavko Crne of Slovenia received the first two of the European Athletics Coaching Award from President Wirz as representatives of the 51 award winners from 30 countries.

European Athletics for the IAAF