Nafissatou Thiam, Max Hess and Ruth Beitia at the 2016 European Athletics Golden Tracks Awards in Funchal (© Getty Images)
Olympic champions Mo Farah and Ruth Beitia were named the male and female European Athletes of the Year for 2016 at the Golden Tracks gala in Funchal, Portugal, on Saturday (15).
It was an historic night for Farah, 33, who becomes the first man to be European Athlete of the Year for a third time after winning in 2011 and 2012.
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 completed this double-double in 1972 and 1976.
Like Viren in Munich, Farah 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”, a success achieved just a few weeks after a 1.98m leap brought her 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.
Nafissatou Thiam of Belgium, the Olympic champion in the heptathlon, and German triple jumper Max Hess, who took silver at the IAAF World Indoor Championships Portland 2016 and gold at the European Championships in July, were recipients of the Rising Star Awards.
A record number 200,000 fans had cast their votes on social media to help select the winners.
European Athletics for the IAAF