Great Britain’s Mo Farah and Spain’s Ruth Beitia have been crowned the respective men’s and women’s European athletes of the year at the Golden Tracks gala here tonight.
It was an historic night for 33-year-old Farah, who becomes the first athlete to win the men’s award on three occasions having also achieved the feat in 2011 and 2012.
At the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in August, Farah became only the second man in history to retain the 5,000 metres and 10,000m Olympic double, following in the footsteps of legendary Finn Lasse Virén, who did the same double-double in 1972 and 1976.
Like Virén at the 1972 Games in Munich, he recovered from a fall in the 10,000m final to win gold in 27min 05.17sec before taking the 5,000m a week later in 13:03.30.
His 10,000m triumph made him the first Briton to win three Olympic gold medals in athletics and he was also Europe’s fastest man over 1,500m, 3,000m, 5,000m, 10,000m and the half-marathon this year.
Farah saw off competition from Italian Gianmarco Tamberi, who won the high jump title at both the World Indoor Championships in Portland and the European Athletics Championships in Amsterdam, and Germany’s Thomas Röhler, who threw 90.30m at Rio 2016 to claim the Olympic javelin title.
Spanish high jumper Beitia, 37, won the women’s award having become the oldest Olympic champion in a jumping event by winning in Rio de Janeiro with a height of 1.97m.
This success was achieved just a few weeks after a leap of 1.98m in Amsterdam brought European Athletics Championships gold for the third time in a row.
Her Rio glory made her the first Spanish woman to win an Olympic athletics event and was justification for her decision to return to the sport four years ago having briefly retired in 2012.
Receiving her Golden Tracks award from European Athletics President Svein Arne Hansen, Beitia was on a three-strong shortlist that also featured Olympic and European pole vault gold medallist Ekaterini Stefanidi of Greece and Olympic, European and world record-holding hammer thrower Anita Wlodarczyk of Poland.
The winners of the rising star awards were also named this evening with European triple jump champion Max Hess of Germany claiming the men’s title and Rio 2016 gold medal-winning heptathlete Nafissatou Thiam of Belgium receiving the women’s crown.
Hess established his position on the senior ranks with silver at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Indoor Championships in Portland in March.
He then took one step up the podium at the European Athletics Championships in Amsterdam, just four days before his 20th birthday.
Hess won with a second round jump of 17.20m, which was his only registered mark in the final - he had two fouls and three passes.
His triumph came in both a personal best and the European leading-mark of 2016.
Awarding him with the trophy was European Athletics vice-president Dobromir Karamarinov.
Thiam, meanwhile, broke Belgium's national heptathlon record in Rio and set the world-leading mark of 6,810 points to beat Britain’s defending champion Jessica Ennis-Hill by 35 points.
She also posted five personal best marks - in the 100m hurdles, high jump, long jump, javelin and 800m - with her success coming six days before her 22nd birthday.
Thiam, one of the initial 10 nominees for the women’s athlete of the year award, received her trophy from IAAF President Sebastian Coe.
A record 200,000 fans cast their votes on social media to choose the winners of the prestigious titles.
UK Athletics' programme #clickyourclock weekly competition was named the winner of the 10th European Athletics innovation award.
The programme was established to promote the Runbritain handicap scoring system and embellish an individual journey in a mass sport.
Project leaders Geoff Wightman and Gavin Lightwood, both from Britain, received the prize this evening.