Female European Athlete of the Year 2016 nominees

Golden Tracks
European Athletics

It has been a year to remember for Europe’s track and field stars and now is the time to vote for the athlete of 2016.

The "European Athletics Golden Tracks" is the award given annually to the men’s and women’s European Athletes of the Year and Rising Stars.

In the days leading up to the close of voting on Wednesday 5 October at noon CET, we will look at each category.

Today, we begin with the female European Athlete of the Year and for your chance to vote, visit our Facebook and Twitter pages.

It was among the quotations of the summer. "I am still scared of heights," said Ekaterini Stefanidi. "I just get dizzy."

It came within seconds of the Greek pole vaulter reaching the greatest height in the history of the European Athletics Championships in Amsterdam when she won gold in 4.81m.

Stefanidi, 26, has had the year of her life. She entered the outdoor season with bronze from the IAAF World Indoor Championships and then, in the space of a few weeks, twice took herself two places higher up the podium.

After her glory in Amsterdam, Stefanidi became the first Greek woman to win an Olympic field gold as she cleared 4.85m for glory in Rio before completing her summer with victory in the Diamond Race.

At the start of the year, Anita Wlodarczyk might have asked herself: How do I improve upon on 2015?

The answer was this: win a third successive European title, win a first Olympic gold, stay unbeaten and, just for good measure, break the hammer world record on two occasions.

No Polish competitor has won the senior male or female European Athlete of the Year title but Wlodarczyk, 31, could not have done more to put herself in line for the award.

Last year she became the first woman to break the 80m barrier, along with winning the world crown again, and in 2016 she stretched her world record to 82.29m in Rio, before increasing it to 82.98m.

Only one woman retained her Olympic athletics title in Rio and that was Croatian discus star Sandra Perkovic.

Even by her own high standards, this outdoor season was something special for Perkovic, 26, as first she became European champion for the fourth year in a row. Infact, it was all about numbers, as she followed that success with her second Olympic title and then won the Diamond Race for the fifth consecutive time.

And Croatia had two athletics champions to hail in Rio.

If you are old enough, you are good enough and how Sara Kolak, just 21, proved that adage to be true by winning javelin gold.

A European junior bronze medallist in 2013, she added senior bronze to her name in Amsterdam before becoming one of the surprise champions in Brazil with a national record of 66.18m to underline her outstanding performance.

And she was not the only 21-year-old to become Olympic champion because, just a few days before her 22nd birthday, Belgium’s Nafissatou gloriously lifted the heptathlon crown.

Her stunning performance brought five individual personal bests before a combined mark of 6810, a national record as she beat defending champion, Jessica Ennis-Hill, of Great Britain, by 35 points.

It seems the best decision Ruth Beitia ever made was to change her mind about retirement in 2012.

The Spanish high jumper’s smile lit up both Amsterdam and Rio as she won gold twice, an extraordinary double from a woman who does not know the meaning of defeat.

At 37, she became the Olympic high jump’s oldest winner and then, for the second year in a row, won the Diamond League.

Twelve months ago, the Netherlands’ Dafne Schippers made history at the Golden Tracks gala night when she became the first woman to retain the title as female European Athlete of the Year.

How about a hat-trick? It was another brilliant summer for the sprinter who was the toast of Amsterdam as she successfully defended her European 100m crown in front of her home supporters before running the second leg in the triumphant 4x100m relay as the Dutch broke their national record (42.04m). And that was before the Olympics, where Schippers won 200m silver, the event where she was also crowned Diamond Race champion.

With a second round leap of 6.94m, Serbian long jumper Ivana Spanovic became an outdoor gold medallist at last at the European Athletics Championships in Amsterdam.

It was some year for the 26-year-old as she won world indoor silver in Portland and then Olympic bronze in Rio for a full set of medals in 2016, with her Diamond Race success another example of the brilliance of her consistency.

Denmark’s Sara Slott Petersen has good stock to follow as one of the 10 nominees.

The first ever winner of this award in 1993 was a 400m hurdler, in Britain’s Sally Gunnell, and just three years ago, Zuzana Hejnova, of the Czech Republic, joined the club.

In a summer she will never forget, Petersen, 29, became the first Danish woman to win an Olympic athletics medal with her silver and national record of 53.55 in Rio, where she was introduced as the European champion after her superb triumph in Amsterdam.

Hungary’s Anita Marton had a sensational 2016, taking part in three championships and making the podium each time.

The shot put star began with silver at the world indoors in Portland before winning European silver in Amsterdam and Olympic bronze.

And she ended in the perfect fashion in Rio by securing third with her final throw of 19.87m - a national record.