Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana has been named World Female Athlete of the Year at the IAAF Athletics Awards 2016, held at Sporting Monte Carlo on Friday, Dec 2, 2016.
Almaz becomes the third Ethiopian woman to win this award, following Genzebe Dibaba in 2015 and Meseret Defar in 2007. Jamaica’s Usain Bolt has been named the male Athlete of the Year for a record sixth times.
Almaz Ayana had a record-breaking year. After recording the fastest 10,000m debut in history in June, the Ethiopian went on to win the Olympic title at the distance in a world record of 29:17.45.
She added to her Olympic medal haul in Rio by taking bronze in the 5000m, her only loss of the year. Having recorded three of the eight fastest times at 5000m, she ended the year as the Diamond Race winner for that discipline.
“I don’t have words to explain my feelings right now, I’m so excited,” said Ayana whose award was presented by International Athletics Foundation (IAF) Honorary President HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco. “Really, I’m so pleased.”
Picking up brilliantly where she left off in 2015 as the world 5000m champion, 24-year-old Almaz Ayana ventured into territory few would have considered a possibility this year.
Opening her season with an 8:23.11 victory over 3000m at the IAAF Diamond League series opener in Doha, Ayana proceeded to rewrite the all-time lists in the 5000m. After a 14:16.31 performance in Rabat, she threatened the world record with a 14:12.59 run in Rome, the second-fastest performance of all time.
That momentum continued in late June at the Ethiopian Olympic trials for 10,000m where Ayana triumphed in 30:07.00, the fastest ever debut over the distance. In Rio she went faster still, opening the Oympic athletics programme with a stunning 10,000m world record of 29:17.45 that knocked more than 14 seconds from a record set 23 years earlier.
At 5000m, Ayana took Olympic bronze and won the Diamond Race.