| Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj and Briton Paula Radcliffe with their Male and Female Athletes of the Year awards which were presented to them at the IAAF World Athletics Gala in Monte Carlo on Sunday. (Reuters)
Monaco: Moroccan middle distance legend Hicham el Guerrouj was the surprise choice as male Athlete of the Year here Sunday at the ceremony hosted by world governing body the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
The 28-year-old went unbeaten all year but achieved nothing as stunning as American Tim Montgomery, who broke the most coveted world record of them all the 100m in Paris in September in a time of 9.78 seconds but was also beaten during the campaign several times.
However, El Guerrouj became the first male athlete to win the award in successive years as voted on by a panel of experts, though Montgomery’s absence from the gala event could have played a role with television covering it.
It gives El Guerrouj some revenge as 27-year-old Montgomery’s feat in breaking the world record on the Grand Prix finals day deprived him of the $ 100,000 for finishing top of the overall standings — while also spoiling his birthday.
Montgomery finished second in the vote by a panel of experts while the Dominican Republic’s 400m hurdles world champion Felix Sanchez was third.
The women’s winner was far less contentious as British star Paula Radcliffe took it in a year she dominated.
The 28-year-old ran the fastest ever marathon time (2::17:18) in Chicago last month in only her second such race over the distance having won in London earlier in the year.
She also laid her track championship title jinx to rest by winning the Commonwealth Games 5,000m title in Manchester in July and followed it up with the European 10,000m crown in a European record time in Munich a week later.
Radcliffe beat off Montgomery’s girlfriend Marion Jones and Mexico’s 400m runner Ana Guevara for the prestigious award.