Stefanidi hopes to inspire youngsters after Golden Tracks first

Aikaterini Stefanidi at the 2017 Golden Tracks
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Aikaterini Stefanidi became the first Greek athlete to be named European Athlete of the Year at the Golden Tracks award ceremony in Vilnius, Lithuania on Saturday

European indoor and world pole vault champion Aikaterini Stefanidi was named female European Athlete of the Year at the Golden Tracks award ceremony in Vilnius, Lithuania on Saturday evening and she hopes her glory will inspire others.

She made history for her country as no Greek athlete - male or female - has ever been named European Athlete of the Year before.

“I have followed this award for many years. I have been a pole vaulter for 17 years and a track and field athlete for 20 years. This makes it even more special. It is truly an honour for me and for my country, being the first Greek athlete to win it and I hope it will bring more young athletes into our sport,” she said.

World high jump champion Mariya Lasitskene from Russia, world heptathlon champion Nafissatou Thiam from Belgium and world hammer champion Anita Wlodarczyk from Poland were the other shortlisted nominees for this title and Stefanidi stressed the importance of these awards.

“I would like to thank the people who voted for me and those who didn’t because it is important for the sport, that it promotes it around the world, throughout Europe and it is important that people vote,” she said.

Stefanidi is coached by her husband Mitchell Krier and she was quick to sing his praises. “I would also like to thank my coach, he has been a huge part of my success. He also happens to be my husband and for those of you who are curious, he was my husband first - and my coach second,” said Stefanidi, who is based in the United States.

Stefanidi currently holds four major titles in the pole vault and she is aiming to add a fifth to her collection at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Birmingham next March.

Karsten Warholm was delighted to finally win a Golden Tracks award, as he was named male Rising Star. He received his trophy from fellow Norwegian President Hansen with the pair sharing a hug on stage.

“It is always hard work behind accomplishments like this. This is my third time nominated for the Rising Star award and I was wondering ‘What do you have to do to get this prize?’” said Warholm, who stormed to the 400m hurdles title at the World Championships in London.

“I am proud of being a part of a generation that looks up to hard work – and that is what has brought me here. I want to thank my coach (Leif Olav Alnes), my girlfriend and my friends and my family because this is hard work and when you start with this work, it is more or less with nothing.”

The female Rising Star was 19-year-old Yuliia Levchenko from Ukraine, who won the European U23 high jump gold medal as well as world silver and European indoor bronze in her first season as a senior.

“I am very excited. I want to thank everyone for their votes, I want to thank everyone who participated in this award. I want to express my gratitude to my family and also to the coach and my manager. They do a lot for our mutual success,” she said.

“This award is very important for me. The 2017 season was not so easy. Thank you European Athletics for this beautiful evening. Athletics is the queen of sports. I fell in love with athletics seven years ago and the sport has made me who I am.”