MONACO (AFP) – France’s pole vault world record holder Renaud Lavillenie and New Zealand’s unstoppable shot-putter Valerie Adams were named the IAAF’s World Athletes of the Year in Monaco on Friday.
Lavillenie, who set the new world record of 6.16m in Donetsk on February 15, succeeds sprint star Usain Bolt as the best athlete of the year and is the first French winner since 1988.
“There can’t have been a better year than 2014 and now I have the acknowledgement of the athletics family,” said 28-year-old Lavillenie, who is also the reigning Olympic champion.
Adams, who has won 56 successive events, said it was rare for field events to muscle out the “glamour” events such as sprinting.
“(This is) for me, my family, my country and all women shot-putters,” said double Olympic champion and four-time world champion Adams.
Friday’s awards marked the first time that field event athletes had won both accolades and was also the first time that a male pole vaulter or a female thrower had won the World Athlete of the Year award.
Lavillenie won 21 of his 22 competitions in 2014, a series which included victories in the Diamond League Race as well as at the European Championships and IAAF Continental Cup.
“I think the world record contributed to the award, but I won other competitions too. I wasn’t as good as Valerie, I lost one competition, but 21 out of 22 is not too bad in an event which is quite unpredictable,” added the Frenchman.
Adams, 30, may have thrown farther in previous seasons than she did in 2014, but the Olympic champion added a ninth senior global title to her collection when she successfully defended her world indoor crown in Sopot, and triumphed at the Commonwealth Games.
She was the only athlete in the world to win at all seven IAAF Diamond League fixtures in any discipline and was a clear winner of the women’s shot put Diamond Race.
“This is the icing on the cake for 2014. There’s been a lot of pain but I love what I do, I love competing. I’m mentally strong and I have a high pain threshold so that makes it easier,” the New Zealander added, with her delight evident for all to see.