World javelin champion Johannes Vetter from Germany and world pole vault champion Aikaterini Stefanidi from Greece were named 2017 European Athletes of the Year at the Golden Tracks award ceremony in Vilnius, Lithuania on Saturday (14) evening.
At a star-studded gala, world 400m hurdles champion Karsten Warholm from Norway and world high jump silver medallist Yuliia Levchenko from Ukraine were also crowned male and female Rising Stars.
To the backdrop of the sounds of the Vilnius Sinfonietta Orchestra, a magnificent year for European athletics was reflected upon and broadcast live both on Lithuanian television and via live streaming on the European Athletics homepage.
Guests at the award ceremony included European Athletics President Svein Arne Hansen and IAAF President Sebastian Coe.
In a year in which they were both crowned world champions, Vetter and Stefanidi also created their own piece of history in Vilnius. Vetter is the first German to be crowned male European Athlete of the Year while Stefanidi is the first Greek athlete – male or female – to lift the accolade.
Vetter, 24, soared to second on the world all-time javelin list with 94.44m in Lucerne before winning gold at the IAAF World Championships in London. He, along with all the nominees for the awards, are expected to be among the names to watch at next year’s Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships, part of the inaugural multi-sport European Championships.
Vetter received the trophy from First Vice President of European Athletics Dobromir Karamarinov having been one of three men on the shortlist, alongside world 200m champion Ramil Guliyev from Turkey and world decathlon champion Kevin Mayer from France.
Reigning European and Olympic champion Stefanidi, 27, asserted herself as the dominant force in pole vaulting again by winning gold at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade in March and then becoming world champion in London.
Stefanidi cleared 4.85m to claim victory by 10 centimetres in Belgrade before setting a Greek record and world-lead of 4.91m to claim the world title in London by 16 centimetres. She was unbeaten outdoors in 2017 and ended the summer by winning the IAAF Diamond League title in Brussels.
Stefanidi was presented with the trophy by President Hansen. She finished ahead of the shortlisted world high jump champion Mariya Lasitskene from Russia, world heptathlon champion Nafissatou Thiam from Belgium and world hammer champion Anita Wlodarczyk from Poland.
The Rising Stars awards showed what a pool of young talent Europe also has. Warholm became the youngest ever winner of the men’s 400m hurdles title at the World Championships in London and he fittingly received his award from fellow Norwegian, President Hansen.
Other contenders for this category were European U20 3000m steeplechase and 5000m champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen from Norway and European U20 long jump champion Miltiadis Tentoglou from Greece.
Levchenko, 19, won three major medals in her first season as a senior.
Her year began with bronze at the European Athletics Indoor Championships with 1.94m in Belgrade before she moved to the top of the podium in July with victory at the European Athletics U23 Championships in Bydgoszcz with a lifetime best of 1.96m.
She then cleared a national U23 record of 2.01m to claim the silver medal at the World Championships in London.
Levchenko received her award from European Athletics Vice President Frank Hensel. She was nominated alongside European U23 1500m champion Konstanze Klosterhalfen from Germany and European U23 5000m and 10,000m champion Yasemin Can from Turkey.
Behind every great athlete is a great coach and this year, 40 coaches representing 25 Member Federations will receive the annual European Athletics Coaching Awards which will be given to them at national awards presentations.
Aldona Dobregiene and Viktoras Meskauskas from Lithuania were the first to collect their awards which were presented to them by European Athletics Vice President Jean Gracia.
There were two further special awards, both to Lithuanian athletes.
Former world indoor long jump bronze medallist Nijole Medvedeva received the Women’s Leadership Award which was also presented by Jean Gracia while legendary discus thrower and two-time Olympic champion Virgilijus Alekna was presented with the Special Lifetime Award.
It truly was a night to remember in Vilnius and ahead lies another spectacular year for the sport with the 2018 European Athletics Championships in Berlin just around the corner.