Mariya Savinova, 2011 World Champs, photo by PhotoRun.net
Stars of Europe honoured during the Awards Night in Arona
The best of European
Athletics was honoured at a glittering ceremony to mark the European
Athletics Awards Night presented by MONDO in Arona, Spain, on Saturday
Great Britain's Mo Farah and Russia's Mariya Savinova were presented with the 2011 European Athlete of the Year Awards while Germany's David Storl and Briton Jodie Williams were awarded the European Athletics Rising Star Awards during the ceremony that was the highlight of the three-day annual European Athletics Convention.
More than 250 key decision makers from the 50 European Athletics Member Federations had gathered for the annual conclave.
runner Mariya Savinova, who became only the fourth Russian woman after
compatriots Irina Privalova, Svetlana Masterkova and Yelena Isinbayeva
to be honoured as the European Athlete of the Year, was thrilled to be
in distinguished company.
"It was a remarkable year on the track and this award has made it one of the most special years of my career. The other Russian athletes who have won this prestigious award have all gone on to win Olympic medals and I will be training very hard to achieve the same next year. This award is a great motivation for working extra hard," said Savinova.
The highlight of Savinova's brilliant year, in which she only lost one of her 10 outings over 800m, was without doubt her victory at the World Championships this summer.
She grabbed the gold medal over two laps of the track in a stunning time of 1:55.87.
British middle distance star Mo 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 the first male long distance runner winning this poll since it started in 1993, an honour which follows in the wake of him winning the 2011 World Championships 5000m title and setting a European record over 10,000m.
"I am delighted to be selected as European Athlete of the Year for 2011. I would like to thank European Athletics and everyone who voted for me. It's a pity that I could not be there tonight," said Farah through a video message that was played during the Gala.
"I would like to thank everyone who has helped me get to this stage of my career, in particular my coach Alberto Salazar, my family and my management team. I will continue working hard and aim to stay on top in 2012 and beyond," he added.
The Rising Star of the Year Award male was presented to shot put sensation David Storl, who became only the second German male athlete to be honoured as the European Athletics Rising Star after pole vaulter Raphael Holzdeppe since the award was inaugurated in 2007.
The 21-year-old heavy-metal fan fulfilled his role as the favourite for the gold medal at the European Athletics U23 Championships when he won in the Czech city of Ostrava with a championship record of 20.45m.
He then surpassed expectations when he triumphed at this summer's World Championships in Daegu, giving ample evidence of his physical talent and mental strength.
"2011 has been a dream like year and now this recognition makes it almost surreal. Getting this award at a grand ceremony like this is a very amazing feeling, I'm truly enjoying this moment, " said Storl.
British sprint prodigy Jodie Williams, whose exploits in the Estonian capital Tallinn during the European Athletics Junior Championships played a big role in her being voted as the European Athletics Rising Star, was equally ecstatic about her award.
"When my dad told me that I had own this prestigious award, I just could not believe it. I still can't believe it. Thank you European Athletics, thank you everyone who voted for me. I am absolutely delighted about this," said Williams.
"It's been an absolute honour. I would like to thank everyone who have helped me on the way, my mom, dad, my coach Mike (McFarlane), training mates and everyone else," she added.
Two other important presentations were also made at the Gala.
Finland's Anni Kirvesniemi-Bosco represented the 30 national winners of the second edition of the European Athletics Women's Leadership Award and collected the award from European Athletics President Hansjorg Wirz.
All 30 winners will receive a diploma and a limited edition copy of a commissioned artwork produced by Marjolaine Perreten, a student at Lausanne's Ecole Romande d'Arte et de Communication.
Valentina Eiduka of Latvia and Jacques Borlee of Belgium received the first two of the European Athletics Coaching Award from President Wirz as representatives of the 84 award winners from 26 countries.
Click here to view the Awards Night video highlights
Find European Athletics at www.european-athletics.org,