Usain, Elaine up for awards - Key weekend for IAAF's future
MONTE CARLO, Monaco:
Track and field's global authority, the IAAF, will today hand out awards to the year's top male and female athletes amid a coming together of the sport's hierarchy, which is also expected to bring with it considerable change towards repairing a damaged organisation.
Jamaicans Usain Bolt and Elaine Thompson are up for the respective male and female Athlete of the Year awards, but by the end of the week, its likely to be IAAF president Sebastian Coe who leaves the principality with the biggest prize of all - trust.
Coe inherited an organisation on the brink of a total breakdown, following a massive doping scandal and the uncovering of conspiracies at the highest level of the organisation, a crisis that has led to criminal proceedings against several former top IAAF figures, including long-standing president Lamine Diack, and the suspension of Russian athletes following evidence of state-backed doping.
After enduring a torrid year in the hot seat as the new IAAF boss, Coe arrived in Monaco hoping to receive the rubber stamp for the 150-point reform package that he believes will not only return credibility to the sport and the organisation but also ensure best practices in terms of administration and governance, while signifi-cantly increasing the commercial and marketing weight behind the sport.
Council members will vote on Coe's proposal, which includes devolution of presidential power, the implementation of an independent integrity unit, which will manage doping and non-doping integrity issues and a new financial structure, at a special congress tomorrow, and by all indications, he is expected to get the backing of his peers, with the Athletes' Commission and several influential member federations also throwing their support behind the plan.
Before that happens, however, the athletics world will come together to celebrate its 'top-of-the-class' athletes, with Bolt and Thompson among a top field of finalists, which is completed by South African Wayde van Niekerk and Britain's Mo Farah for the male award, and Ethiopia's Almaz Ayana and Poland's Anita Wlodarczyk joining Thompson in the running for the top female award.
COULD BAG SIXTH TITLE
Bolt, who already holds the record for most wins by a man or woman for the Athlete of the Year award, can push his tally to six, after his successes in 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Him becoming the first athletics competitor to win three gold medals at three successive Olympic Games is in itself a strong claim, but with the year-highlighting Rio 2016 Olympic Games also being his last in a sport-defining career, the Jamaican may very well also be able to count on the emotional vote.
Van Niekerk's 43.03 seconds gold-medal run in Rio shattered a 17-year record in the 400m and also clocked a 9.98 in the 100m to become the first man in history to run faster than 10 seconds for 100m, 20 seconds for 200m, and 44 seconds for 400m.
Farah, like Bolt, continued his Olympic reign, again winning the 5000m and 10,000m in Rio.
Thompson established herself as the new queen of the sprints, going unbeaten in the 100m, while taking the sprint double in Rio, with her winning 100m time of 10.71 being the second fastest in an Olympic 100m final. She also won silver in the 4x100m and bronze in the 60m at the world indoors.
Both her rivals will take world record marks into the considerations.
Ayana ran 29:17.45 to set a new 10,000m mark on her way to winning gold in Rio, knocking off a record that stood for 23 years, while taking Olympic bronze plus the Diamond Race title over 5000m.
Hammer thrower Wlodarczyk registered three of the five best marks ever in her event on her way to winning gold and twice broke the record this year, eventually landing the implement 82.98m to close her season unbeaten in 30 finals, with the European title and the IAAF World Hammer Throw Challenge trophy also on her mantle.
Awards will also be presented to the top rising stars in the sport, with special focus and recognition also in place for coaching achievement and women in athletics.