Jefferson Perez of Ecuador - 20km Race Walk gold medallist (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Jefferson Pérez is voted best Latin American sportsman of the Year

HavanaEcuador's threetime World champion Jefferson Perez and Brazil's FIFA World Player of the Year Kaka were selected the best Latin American sportsmen of the year as they both finished with the same number of votes in the annual Prensa Latina survey.
 
For the first time in the 43-year history of the poll, two men shared the top honour as world's no.1 golfer Lorena Ochoa and the Brazilian men's volleyball team were voted the best sportswoman and team, respectively.
 
"I would like to express my gratitude for having picked me among all the best sportspeople in this survey," Perez told Prensa Latina from his home in Ecuador.
 
"I believe this award does not go to an individual, but to a country that can do extraordinary things in all walks of life," he added and called his fellow citizens to try to be the best in each of their tasks.

Second award after 1996 glory for Perez
 
The 32-year old from Cuenca won the 1996 poll, but could not travel to Cuba for the awards ceremony due to a very busy agenda.
 
"I have never been to Cuba (where the award is presented) and hope to visit it and discover the Latin American country with the best education infrastructure," he stressed.

Perez, winner of three World Cup and three Pan American titles, as well as the 1996 Olympic gold, pointed out that he’s planning to attend his fifth Olympic Games in Beijing.
 
"I have been lucky to win three Pan American Games, three World Championships and three World Cups. However, after winning 10 global medals, my body is starting to give me problems."

Perez is currently facing some health adversities that have prevented him from training in the past two weeks. Doctors are looking at the best method for him to endure one more season.

"Nothing is certain, but if God and my body allow, I will be happy to be at the Beijing Olympics," he stated.

He believes the Prensa Latina survey proves that "within the people of Ecuador, there is an individual who succeeded in becoming World champion and being among the best in his specialty."

Kaka and Perez cumulated 31 points each, over 60 per cent of the votes registered among 98 media organizations from the region.

Saladino and Savigne also nominated

The Ecuadorian is comfortably leading a BBC survey to select the best sportsman in Ibero-America.

In the women's category, Mexican golfer Lorena Ochoa was the undisputed winner with 44 votes after claiming eight titles this season, including the British Open.

Other athletes were selected among the region’s top 10 sportspeople, including World champions Yargelis Savigne of Cuba and Irving Saladino of Panama, as well as Cuba's
Yipsi Moreno and Dayron Robles, who equalled the World leading mark of 12.92 in winning the World Athletics Final in Stuttgart.

Cuba's first Olympic medallist in athletics, Enrique Figuerola, was the first winner of the Prensa Latina survey in 1964. Other athletes decorated in the past include his compatriots Alberto Juantorena, Javier Sotomayor, Ivan Pedroso, Pedro Pérez Dueñas, Daimi Pernia and Ana Fidelia Quirot, as well as Mexico's Daniel Bautista and Ana Guevara, Dominican Republic's Felix Sanchez, Colombia's Alvaro Mejías and Brazil's -Joao Carlos de Oliveira and Joaquín Carvalho Cruz.

Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF