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Farah, Beitia – European Athletes of the Year 2016

euro athletes 2016

Mo Farah and Ruth Beitia were celebrating again tonight after being named as the male and female European Athletes of the Year at the Golden Tracks gala in Funchal.

Mo Farah and Ruth Beitia – European Athletes of the Year

And on a spectacular evening in Portugal reflecting upon an amazing summer for the sport, Max Hess and Nafissatou Thiam were honoured with the Rising Star awards.

A record number 200,000 fans had cast their votes on social media to choose the winners of these prestigious titles.

It was an historic night for Farah (UK), 33, who becomes the first man to be European Athlete of the Year on three occasions after winning in 2011 and 2012.

He reacted to his Golden Tracks victory via a live-interview from his home in Portland and responded to questions from the evening host Andy Kay.

In Rio, Farah became only the second man in history to retain the 5000m and 10,000m Olympic double, following in the footsteps of the legendary Finn Lasse Viren, who did this double-double in 1972 and 1976.

Just like Viren in Munich, he also fell in the 10,000m final but picked himself up to win gold in in 27:05.17 before taking the 5000m a week later in 13:03.30.

His 10,000m triumph made him the first Briton to win three athletics Olympic gold medals and he also ended the summer as Europe’s fastest man over the 1500m, 3000m, 5000m, 10,000m and half marathon.

Spanish high jumper Beitia is the female European Athlete of the Year after once more showing the youngsters that age means nothing.

At 37, Beitia, who briefly retired in 2012, became the oldest Olympic champion in a jumping event when she won in Rio with a height of 1.97m.

It was a victory which made her “dream become her reality” and this success was achieved just a few weeks after 1.98m brought gold at the European Athletics Championships in Amsterdam for the third time in a row.

Her Rio glory made her the first Spanish woman to win an Olympic athletics event and was proof of how correct her decision was four years ago to return to the sport when she thought about giving up for good.

Since then she has maintained a brilliant level of consistency and more gold could be on the horizon as she plots a path towards the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade in March.

Receiving her Golden Tracks award from European Athletics President Svein Arne Hansen, Beitia was on the shortlist of three of Greece’s Olympic and European pole vault gold medallist Ekaterini Stefanidi and Olympic, European and world-record hammer thrower Anita Wlodarczyk.

What a year it has been for German triple jumper Hess, who won gold at the European Athletics Championships in Amsterdam just four days before his 20th birthday.

He had already established his position on the senior ranks with silver at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Portland in March and now he took that one step up the podium in the Netherlands in the brilliant style.

Hess won with a second round jump of 17.20m and it was his only registered mark in the final – he had two fouls and three passes – and his triumph came in both a personal best and the European leading-mark of 2016.

He was awarded the Golden Tracks Rising Star trophy from European Athletics First Vice-President Dobromir Karamarinov.

Thiam is the Golden Tracks Female Rising Star after she produced the greatest performance of her young life to win Olympic heptathlon gold in Rio.

Belgium’s Thiam was just sensational as she broke the national record and set the world-leading mark with 6810 to beat Britain’s defending champion Jessica Ennis-Hill by 35 points.

Thiam also set five personal best marks – in the 100m hurdles, high jump (where her 1.98m along with Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson is a heptathlon world best), long jump, javelin and 800m.

And, replicating Hess, her success came only six days before her 22nd birthday.

She received her trophy from IAAF President Sebastian Coe having also been one of the initial 10 nominees for the Female European Athlete of the Year.

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