Rutherford, Schippers big winners at 2015 European Athletics Golden Tracks awards

Greg Rutherford and Dafne Schippers were the big winners at the European Athletics Golden Tracks awards in Lausanne.

Reuters| Updated: Oct 18, 2015, 08:43 AM IST
Rutherford, Schippers big winners at 2015 European Athletics Golden Tracks awards

Lausanne: Greg Rutherford and Dafne Schippers were the big winners at the European Athletics Golden Tracks awards in Lausanne on Saturday.

Rutherford was named the European male athlete of the year, while Schippers claimed the women`s crown.

Rutherford completed a full-house of major titles in August when he added world gold to his Olympic, Commonwealth and European long jump crowns.

The 28-year-old Briton dominated the competition and won with a best effort of 8.41 metres in the fourth round - the longest leap by a European this year.

Rutherford joined an illustrious quartet of British athletes who have simultaneously held Olympic, world, European and Commonwealth titles in their events -- Daley Thompson, Sally Gunnell, Jonathan Edwards and Linford Christie. An emotional Rutherford said it was possibly his best championship performance.

"It`s been an incredible year. Awards like this you never really expect when you go into professional sport, you just want to do as well as you possibly can and it`s wonderful these accolades come along with doing incredibly well. Arguably this has been my best ever year as an athlete; to win the world championships and then to win the Diamond League as well that`s something really, really special for me,"

Rutherford told Reuters. "It will never be as good as the Olympics in 2012 but still 2015 is by far my best athletic year."

Three years ago, Rutherford had been one of three British gold medals on "Super Saturday" during the London Olympics, but his victory was less widely recognized than those of Jessica Ennis-Hill and Mo Farah.

Rutherford beat Farah, who was also nominated, to the Golden tracks title while Ennis-Hill missed out to Schippers.

Rutherford struggled to come to terms with beating Farah to an award,

"That is a very funny thing for me again to sort of go along with because Mo (Farah) is a huge superstar and what he does for the sport by being such a huge name is fantastic. We need more people to get involved and want to be involved with athletics and we have to have these superstars such as Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis and the likes of… so then to actually win an award over somebody like that is very surreal for me," he said. "I very much didn`t expect it at all so I`m absolutely chuffed to bits with that. So again, Mo has had a wonderful year as he often does and I`m sure again next year he`ll be in contention for these awards."

Rutherford is now focusing on 2016 where he will have the opportunity to defend his European and Olympic titles as well as compete at the world indoor championships.
"The major goal of next year, obviously the world indoors as well, but it`s going into an Olympic Games again as defending champion and walking away with another gold medal," he said. "And I believe with the people I have around me that`s a real possibility now. So I`m very, very excited going into next year. I feel incredible, I feel ready to go out there and win more championships and I believe I have the ability to do that now."

The last year will also be remembered as the one Dutch flier Schippers completed her transformation from heptathlete to world champion sprinter when she ran the fourth fastest 200 metres of all time to win gold at the world championships.

The 23-year-old European champion clocked 21.63 seconds to beat Jamaica`s Elaine Thompson by three-hundredths of a second and add gold to the silver medal she won in the 100m behind Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

Only Americans Florence Griffith-Joyner, the world record holder, and Marion Jones, who was later banned for doping, have run faster.

And Schippers proved she will be the sprinter to beat over 200 metres at next year`s Rio Games with victory over Olympic champion Allyson Felix at the Diamond League athletics finale in Brussels in September.

It`s the second year in a row she has won the Golden Tracks award.

"Oh it`s very special and it was a very special year with the indoors and the outdoors, both and just very special and I`m very happy to win also this prize," Schippers told Reuters.

Schippers is contemplating taking on the long jump next season and she believes she can leap seven metres, a feat that would put her among the top six performances of 2015.
However, Schippers said she would focus on the 100, 200 at the Rio Olympics next year.

"For the next year I do the 100 and the 200 metres in the Olympics, the European I don`t know; I choose 100 or 200 metres. I think I do a little bit of long jump for fun in some competitions but not very…it`s not the most important one. It`s the 100 and 200 is the most important."

The long jump is nothing new to the world sprint champion because she holds the Dutch record of 6.78 meters from her heptathlon days.

In the Rising Star categories, Konrad Bukowiecki of Poland won the men`s award and Switzerland`s Noemi Zbaeren claimed the women`s title.

Bukowiecki has been the dominant junior shot putter this year. He won the European junior title with an effort of 22.62 metres and he set a world junior best of 20.78m with the senior implement.

Zbaeren won the European Athletics U23 Championships 100m hurdles in a personal best time of 12.71 seconds before going on to finish sixth at the IAAF World Championships.