1997 has marked a new step forward in the reforms of the International Federation with the introduction of cash awards for the winners of World Athletic Series events. The talent and professionalism of the athletes produced some wonderful shows and some truly surprising results: 8 world indoor records (6 men's and 2 women's) and 15 outdoor (9 men's and 6 female).
From the above, one can imagine the difficulty in selecting, from among the stars of 1997, the laureates for the title of "Athlete of the Year". The referendum conducted by the International Athletic Foundation among 2500 experts around the world produced this first classification (in alphabetical order):
Men: Sergey Bubka (UKR), Hicham El Guerrouj (MAR), Frank Fredericks (NAM), Haile Gebrselassie (ETH), Michael Johnson (USA), Wilson Kipketer (DEN), Daniel Komen (KEN), Ivan Pedroso ( CUB), Lars Riedel (GER), Paul Tergat (KEN).
Women (eleven due to a tie) Sally Barsosio (KEN), Nezha Bidouane (MAR), Sabine Braun (GER), Ludmila Engqvist (SWE), Cathy Freeman (AUS), Marion Jones (USA), Astrid Kumbernuss (GER), Merlene Ottey (JAM), Zhanna Pintusevitch (UKR), Ana Fidelia Quirot (CUB) and Gabriela Szabo (ROM).
The Council of the Foundation will examine the results of the "nominations" during their meeting on Friday 21 November and the announcement of the winners will be made by His Serene Highness Prince Albert of Monaco, Honorary President of the Foundation and by the President, Dr Primo Nebiolo, during the "World Athletics Gala". The Gala takes place in the Salle des Etoiles of the Monte Carlo Summer Sporting and is sponsored by the Compagnie Monégasque de Banque (CMB) and the MONDO company and will be broadcast live in Eurovision by Tele Monte Carlo.
All of the athletes with nominations have already confirmed that they will attend (with the exception of Cathy Freeman and Sabine Braun) and they will be joined by a special guest of honour at the table of Prince Albert and Dr Nebiolo, leading lyrical singer Andrea Bocelli.
The weekend will be topped off, on Saturday evening, by a concert with Katia Ricciarelli and Massimo Ranieri and, on Sunday, by the first edition of the Monaco International Marathon, which will cross the Principality, France and Italy.
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