Lavillenie, Schippers, Gemili, Kuchina crowned at Golden Tracks ceremony

Golden Tracks
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The European Athletics Golden Tracks award winners, Maria Kuchina, Renaud Lavillenie, Dafne Schippers and Adam Gemili, with their Golden Tracks trophies at the Fairmont Hotel, Flame Towers, in Baku, Azerbaijan.

France’s Renaud Lavillenie and Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands were named European Athletes of the Year at the Golden Tracks awards ceremony in Baku, Azerbaijan, on Saturday evening.

Great Britain’s Adam Gemili and Russia’s Mariya Kuchina claimed the European Athletics Rising Star awards.

With the Golden Tracks being shown live on television and streamed live across the world, all four athletes were present to collect their trophies in a glittering ceremony at the Fairmont Hotel in the iconic Flame Towers.

Pole vaulter Lavillenie, 28, was voted the men’s winner after a season where he was crowned for the third consecutive time at the 2014 European Athletics Championships and also broke Sergey Bubka’s world record which now stands at an impressive 6.16m.

Speaking as he received the trophy from European Athletics President Hansjörg Wirz, and with Bubka as a guest in the audience, Lavillenie, 28, said: "This year is something I cannot forget. It was like a dream for many years (to break the world record) and nobody was expected to do it.

"This winter was crazy for me and after that, my main motivation was to stay at the top and Zurich was very important. It was one of the best years I have ever known and I will try to make next year even better!

"In Zurich, the conditions were not easy. There was a lot of pressure on me, the pole vault can be random but I was happy to take the win."

The 22-year-old Schippers surprised most specialists when she elected to compete in the 100m and 200m instead of the heptathlon in Zurich. But her decision paid off beautifully as the Dutch star won both events and left Switzerland with two brilliant gold medals in 11.12 and 22.03 over the longer distance, a national record.

Receiving the trophy from President Wirz, Schippers said: "It was a special feeling (to win) the 100m and 200m. I started with the heptathlon in Götzis and it was nice to win both the 100m and 200m at the European Championships."

When she was asked by the master of ceremony, Andy Kay, what her plans will be in 2015, and whether it will be the sprints or the heptathlon, Schippers said: "Now I say both. I hope to be in Götzis next year and then after that I will have to choose like this year."

IAAF vice presidents Bubka and Sebastian Coe presented the Rising Star awards.

Gemili, who just turned 21, sped to a very impressive European 200m title in 19.98 on a cool night and into a headwind. He also anchored the British 4x100m relay team to victory which meant he too left Zurich with two golds around his neck.

On Saturday, he said of the 200m glory: "It was a great result for myself and my team. It was always going to be tough but to walk away with the gold medal is such a great feeling.

"People now see me more as a 200m runner but I am trying to do the 100m and 200m."

He received his trophy from Lord Coe who said: "There is a real renaissance in British, European and global athletics and tonight is a really good example of that. We have a very strong future to look forward to."

The 21-year-old Kuchina, took high jump silver at the European Athletics Championships, won at the European Team Championships, shared gold at the IAAF World Indoor Championships and also won the Diamond Race.

Bubka, who handed the award to Kuchina, said: "We have a lot of great young talent and athletics is a popular sport and youngsters enjoy it. We have a fantastic and bright future with our young generation."

It was a wonderful evening for European Athletics, with special mention of Team Europe winning the IAAF Continental Cup in Marrakech in September, and President Wirz said: "We have the great winners of today. But let us not forget these winners help us bring our sport to the youngsters."

Azerbaijan Athletics Federation President Chingiz Husseinzade hailed the evening and said: "We welcome the best athletes to Baku and we look forward to seeing you again and again."

The winning athletes were decided by counting votes from fans, media, European Athletics Member Federations as well as an expert European Athletics panel, with the results from each group of voters counting for one quarter of the athlete's final score.

More than 9,000 fans voted on the Golden Tracks Awards at www.facebook.com/EuropeanAthletics.

Men’s 2014 European Athlete of the Year Top 3

1. Renaud Lavillenie FRA

2. Bogdan Bondarenko UKR

3. Mo Farah GBR

Women’s 2014 European Athlete of the Year Top 3

1. Dafne Schippers NED

2. Anita Wlodarczyk POL

3. Ruth Beitia ESP

Men's 2014 European Athletics Rising Star Top 3

1. Adam Gemili GBR

2. Konrad Bukowiecki POL

3. Wilhem Belocian FRA

Women's 2014 Rising Star Top 3

1. Mariya Kuchina RUS

2. Angelica Moser SUI

3. Anezka Drahotova CZE