Birgitta Kervinen received the World Trophy at the Women in Sport Awards ©IOC/Flickr

Finnish grassroots and gender equality advocate Birgitta Kervinen and Japanese synchronised swimming pioneer Kaneko Masako were among the winners at the international Olympic Committee's (IOC) annual Women in Sport Awards here tonight. 

Kervinen received the World Trophy from IOC President Thomas Bach and IOC Women in Sport Commission chair Lydia Nsekera for her "tireless and long-standing efforts to promote gender equality in sport and society".

The former chair of the Finnish Workers' Sports Federation has worked in both the European Commission and the Council of Europe and spent eight years as chair of the European Non-Governmental Sport Organisation until 2015.

"Having enjoyed an extensive and influential career as a voluntary sports leader both nationally and internationally, Kervinen has been instrumental in uplifting and mainstreaming gender equality, and is a role model for many women and girls," the IOC said in a citation.

Introduced in 2000, the IOC Women and Sport Awards are given to women, men or organisations who have made "remarkable contributions to the development, encouragement and reinforcement of women’s participation in sport".

Continental winners pose during the Women in Sport Awards ©IOC/Flickr
Continental winners pose during the Women in Sport Awards ©IOC/Flickr

Continental awards were given to Burkina Faso's Lidé Anne Ouoba Zoma, Argentina's Patricia Sangenis, Cyprus' Androulia Vassiliou and Palau's Judy Otto.

The Japan Ladies Tennis Federation were honoured with the Asian prize.

For the first time, lifetime achievement awards were also given to male and female coaches.

Japanese synchronised swimming coach Kaneko Masako received the women's award after coaching medal winners at every Olympic Games between Los Angeles 1984 and Athens 2004.

American Jon Urbanchek received the corresponding men's prize after training over 40 swimmers to over 20 Olympic medals at six Olympic Games.

"I am delighted that the IOC is honouring so many inspirational role models with this year’s IOC Women and Sport Awards," said Nsekera. 

"Each winner has shown what can be achieved by those who are committed to empowering women and girls through sport - giving them the opportunity to break free of barriers and negative stereotypes and demonstrate what they are truly capable of."