American decathlete Ashton Eaton and Ethiopian track runner Genzebe Dibaba have been named as the IAAF World Athletes of the Year for 2015.
Both set world records during the 2015 athletics season and won gold medals – Eaton in the decathlon and Dibaba in the 1,500m – at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing.
Eaton is the first decathlete to be recognised as World Athlete of the Year after what was his only decathlon in 2015, where he set a new world record of 9045 – improving on his own three-year-old mark by nine points.
“Notable among his individual events in Beijing was a 45.00 [time in the] 400m at the end of the first day, the fastest one lap of the track ever run within a decathlon,” said the IAAF website.
Reacting to the news, Eaton said: “Athletes spend the most vigorous years of human life, arguably called the ‘best years’, working to hone their abilities. So when an athlete competes, what people are witnessing is the manifestation of what a human being is capable of when they choose to direct all of their time and effort towards something.”
He continued: “I’m grateful and thankful to the IAAF for excellent competitions, the canvases that allow us to display our work.
“While I’m honoured that I am considered the ‘artist’ of the year, I did not beat Usain and Christian; my work simply differed in design. They are some of the most talented and beautiful performers of all time. I’m flattered to be among them. I accept this award on behalf of all of us athletes who love what we do.”
For the women’s award, the IAAF described Genzebe Dibaba as an “exemplary” athlete.
Following a world indoor 5,000m record of 14:18.86, the Ethiopian was subsequently unbeaten in five 1,500m races during the summer – including setting a new African record of 3:54.11, the fastest time in the world for nearly 12 years, and smashing that with a 3:50.07 run in Monaco to set the first new world record since 1993.
The IAAF said Dibaba’s performance in Beijing as “majestic through all three rounds of the 1,500m”, while she also claimed bronze in the 5,000m.
“I am humbled and honoured to receive this award from the IAAF,” said Dibaba. “It feels so good to be the World Athlete of the Year. After being a finalist and narrowly missing out on this award one year ago, I am very proud to be recognised by the fans and experts of our sport.
“I had a great season and truly enjoyed competing around the world, from Monaco where I managed to establish a world record, to Beijing where I finally captured my first world outdoor title.
Dibaba paid tribute to this year’s women’s finalists Dafne Schippers and Anita Wlodarczyk. who she said have been “incredible all year round” on the track in 2015.
“Maybe your time will come next year,” she added.
IAAF president Sebastian Coe, who recently gave up his ambassadorial work with Nike over allegations of conflict of interest, said Ashton and Dibaba’s performances this year “are an inspiration and examples of true sporting excellence”.