23 NOV 1998 General News report from IAF World Athletics Gala 98

Marion Jones and Haile Gebrselassie Voted Athletes of the Year 1998

Marion Jones and Haile Gebrselassie elected Athletes of the Year 1998

23 November 1998 - American sprint star, Marion Jones and Ethiopian long distance runner Haile Gebrselassie have been voted as Athletes of the Year by the International Athletic Foundation Council, following a poll conducted by athletics experts around the world.

The selections were announced at the annual World Athletics Gala of the Foundation, which took place on Sunday evening in the Salle des Etoiles of the Monte Carlo Sporting Club.

Marion Jones won the award for the second year running, following a season which saw her concede a single defeat (to German long jumper Heike Drechsler in the World Cup in Athletics in Johannesburg in September) and totally dominate the 100m and 200m throughout the season and also score the three best marks in the long jump.

Haile Gebrselassie dominated the distance running scene in 1998, setting world records in the 2000m and 3000m indoors and recovering the 5000m and 10,000m he had lost the previous year and was undefeated throughout the year in his specialised distances.

Both athletes had won their respective events in the IAAF Golden League series, sharing the League's $1 million dollar jackpot with another finalist for the men's title, Morocco's Hicham El Guerrouj. The third finalist for the men's title was Brazil's Ronaldo Da Costa, whilst the other women finalists were Heike Drechsler and Kenyan marathon specialist and world record setter in the women's marathon, Tegla Loroupe.

Loroupe and Brazilian Marathon runner Ronaldo da Costa, who had both set new world bests in the marathon, were rewarded for their efforts with the IAF Outstanding Performance Award, while the new Rising Stars Award for young athletes was made to Christian Malcolm (GBR) for his victories in the 100m and 200m in the World Junior Championships and two Osleidis Menedez (CUB), for her exceptional win in the women's javelin event at the same championships, where she also set a junior best performance for the year.

During the evening, which was enlivened by a display of modern Flamenco dancing by Spanish star Sara Baras and her troupe, which had the packed auditorium explode in tumultuous applause, an award for lifetime achievement was made to American legend Jackie Joyner-Kersee and a moving tribute to her sister-in-law Florence Griffith Joyner by Oscar-winning director Bud Greenspan was shown before FloJo's husband Al Joyner and their eight year old daughter Mary received a posthumous tribute to mark the outstanding career of this legendary athlete who died aged 38, two months ago.

There were some moist eyes in the auditorium as Al Joyner spoke of the wife he had coached to stardom: "The one thing that made Florence so great was her class. She was a world-class person, a world-class mother and, most of all, a world-class friend.

``I hope people don't just remember the records she set. It was the love she had for the sport and the athletes. Her motto was, `I believe in the impossible because nobody else does.' ''

Photos from the Gala will be available shortly