Barshim Named World Athlete of the Year
Sunday, November 25, 2017
Gulf Times -- Mutaz Essa Barshim made Qatar proud once again by winning the World Athlete of the Year award among male athletes at the IAAF Athletics Awards 2017, held at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco on Friday.
The two-time Olympic medalist and current world champion high jumper beat British distance running ace Sir Mohamed Farah and South African 400 and 200m specialist Wayde Van Niekerk for the prestigious honor.
“I’m really happy, and so proud. It’s a moment of honor,” he said, once he realized that he was the first high jumper to win the best male athlete accolade.
“It’s breaking ground,” he said. “It shows if you work hard, have the right team around you, everything is possible.”
Barshim, 26, was one of the most consistent and dominant athletes of the year. Starting with a 2.35m leap in Jeddah in April and ending with a 2.40m jump in Eberstadt in August, Barshim pieced together an undefeated season across 11 competitions.
He won the world title in impressive fashion in London, clearing all of his heights up to his winning mark of 2.35m on his first attempt. One week after his triumph in London, he jumped a world-leading 2.40m in Birmingham and followed it four days later with a winning jump of 2.36m in Zurich to secure the IAAF Diamond League title.
Barshim ended the 2017 season with nine of the best 11 jumps in the world this year, capped by his two 2.40m leaps. He is the first high jumper in history to leap 2.40m or higher in five successive years. Barshim had earlier won the ANOC Best Asian Male Athlete Award.
Reflecting on a season which ended with the winning of the world high jump title, Barshim said: “Since I jumped 2.43 in 2014 I had so many issues with my back and knees. So, 2015 and 2016 were up and down years, I had to change my run up. Started almost limping. Thank God I felt I could high jump without hesitation, with nothing to pull me back. It was like ‘when I jump there’s no pain.’ Feels like I’m free again. Feels like there’s something wrong – I’m jumping good!
“My coach said ‘if you can stay like this all season it’s going to be good.’ So we started slowly, trying to be more smart, step by step...”
Belgium’s Nafissatou Thiam was named the female World Athlete of the Year.
Thiam, the recipient of last year’s Female Rising Star Award after claiming the Olympic heptathlon title, began 2017 by winning the European indoor pentathlon title with a world-leading 4870 points.
Two months later, the 23-year-old climbed to third on the world heptathlon all-time list after winning at the IAAF Combined Events Challenge meeting in Gotzis with 7,013 points, producing a series that included a 1.98m high jump and a 59.32m javelin throw.
At the World Championships in London, Thiam lived up to expectation in all seven disciplines and earned the title with a score of 6,784.
IAAF President Sebastian Coe presented the trophy to Barshim, while International Athletics Foundation (IAF) Honorary President Prince Albert II of Monaco presented the trophy to Thiam.
“Tonight is our time to celebrate,” Coe said. “We have recognized the achievements and remarkable careers of some outstanding athletes, coaches and officials. With more than 50 champions, record breakers, ambassadors and coaches here tonight it’s impossible to individually honor everyone – I wish we could.
“We celebrate your amazing contributions to a phenomenal year of athletics. I’m particularly excited by the young generation of talent which so dramatically came of age on the world stage in 2017.
“Athletics looks forward to a strong and exciting future safe in your hands.”
Meanwhile, Norwegian Karsten Warholm won the Male Rising Star Award, while the Female Rising Star Award was won by Yulimar Rojas of Venezuela.