Racquetball Conrrado Moscoso - The World Games Athlete of the Year. IWGA

Bolivia's Racquetball star Conrrado Moscoso secured the title of The World Games Athlete of the Year 2023 with an astonishing total of 75,389 votes, beating Italy's Luisa Rizzo of Air Sports, who came second with a total of 55,834 votes.

Moscoso (28), and Rizzo (21) led the race from the start of the final round and were very close going over the last 24 hours. Third and fourth place went to Germany's Marius-Andrei Balan (33) and Khrystyna Moshenska (34) from the DanceSport category, as well as Ju-Jitsu ace Faisal Al Ketbi (36) from the United Arab Emirates. 

The German dancers, who have been performing together since 2015, collected 43,560 votes, while The World Games 2017 gold medallist Faisal Al Ketbi received 36,824 votes. 

The International World Games Association (IWGA) is a non-profit international sports organisation recognised and supported by the International Olympic Committee. The IWGA consists of 39 international member sports federations and it administers and promotes The World Games (TWG), a quadrennial multi-sport event featuring approximately 35 sports. 

The next edition of the TWG will take place in Chengdu, China, from 7-17 August 2025. 5,000 participants from more than 100 countries are expected to take part in this 12th edition. The previous Games were held in Birmingham, Alabama (USA).

At the end of the 2023 season, a total of 22 athletes were vying for the title of The World Games Athlete of the Year. As a reminder, the 2022 individual winner was Colombian Valeria Cardenas of the World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF). This year's awards once again saw an equal distribution of votes, with a very balanced gender representation. 

Two men and two women are in the top 3 (with one pair), while four men and three women complete the final top 10 final. These results are in line with the IWGA's mission to promote gender equality.

Conrado Moscoso was Bolivia's flag bearer at the 2019 PanAm Games. GETTY IMAGES
Conrado Moscoso was Bolivia's flag bearer at the 2019 PanAm Games. GETTY IMAGES

IWGA President José Perurena congratulated all the finalists on their success: "On behalf of the International World Games Association, and personally, I would like to congratulate our winner and all the athletes in the Top 10 for their outstanding achievements. They must also be recognised and applauded for the constant, tireless hard work and sacrifices that they make to reach the highest possible level in their sport." 

"This award is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the incredible records and achievements of The World Games male and female athletes from around the world. Athletes are the beating heart of our community, and this trophy symbolises our gratitude," added the Spaniard. 

After the first round, which ended on 22 January 2024, the best 10 athletes with the most votes advanced to the final round, with the voting period ending at noon GMT on Wednesday 31 January 2024. The winner, as well as the second and third place finishers, will receive a trophy and a certificate. The candidates were nominated by their respective federations. 

Inspiring the younger generation 

Conrrado Moscoso has had a highly successful and illustrious career in Racquetball. He is the reigning International Racquetball Federation (IRF) men's singles World champion and currently tops the world rankings. He won two gold medals and a bronze medal at the recent Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile. 

Speaking immediately after the announcement, winner Moscoso said:  "I am incredibly grateful and honoured to receive this award. For myself, of course, but also for the international Racquetball community, which I hope to represent with this title. I want to promote my sport in my country, on my continent and around the world because the sport deserves worldwide exposure. My goal is to inspire the younger generation to get moving and find a passion for sports, maybe Racquetbal!"

IRF President Osvaldo Maggi spoke with great enthusiasm: "On behalf of the global Racquetball community, I would like to wholeheartedly congratulate our champion Conrrado Moscoso from Bolivia on this great achievement. We are so proud of him for winning and we would like to thank our supportive fans for making this possible. We look forward to seeing what the next edition of the World Games in Chengdu will bring!" 

What an honour! 

For 21-year-old Luisa Rizzo, flying her FPV drone around a complex obstacle course at speeds in excess of 160km/h is much more than just a hobby. The remarkable Italian pilot came third at the FAI World Drone Racing Championships in Namwon, Korea in 2023. She also entered the Guinness World Record Book for clearing 56 gates in 60 seconds on live television at the age of 16. 

Very pleased with her second place, Rizzo said: "I am delighted. It is a great honour, not only for me but for the entire air sports community, to receive this award. It has been exciting to follow the evolution of the voting since the beginning of the year and I had no idea that I would receive so much support from the World Games community. I would also like to thank the IWGA for their support of non-Olympic sports. 

Luisa Rizzo, a 16-year-old prodigy of the Air Sports. AIRSPORTS_FAI
Luisa Rizzo, a 16-year-old prodigy of the Air Sports. AIRSPORTS_FAI

World Air Sports Federation President David Monks echoed the young athlete's excitement: "We would like to offer our sincere congratulations to Luisa Rizzo on her second place. The depth of her talent and excellence in one of our disciplines is undeniable and brings us all together. We are honoured that she is beginning to be recognised in her specific field." 

The rise of DanceSport 

From the very beginning of their partnership, Balan and Moshenska became one of the most successful and fascinating couples in the world. They are German Champions and have been finalists in every major competition in the world. They have been number one on the World Dance Sport Federation's World Ranking List since 2020 and continue to dominate the international Latin dance scene. 

Thrilled with their third place, the pair commented: "We are incredibly grateful to come third in The World Games Athlete of the Year Award. We hope that DanceSport gets more recognition around the world because it is an artistic sport that makes you feel and look good." 

World DanceSport Federation President Shawn Tay commented: "I am delighted to witness the remarkable journey of Marius-Andrei Balan and Khrystyna Moshenska to third place in the IWGA Athlete of the Year Award. I've known them for over a decade and have watched them persevere through the triumphs and tribulations of their careers. Their global recognition is a tribute to their sheer hard work, discipline and dedication, as well as an important indication of the growing popularity of our beautiful, artistic sport." 

Dreams can come true 

Born in Abu Dhabi, Ketbi finished fourth out of 22 top athletes. He is the 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019 World Ju-Jitsu champion in the -94kg category. He also won the TWG 2017 gold medal in the same category in Wroclaw, Poland, and the TWG 2022 gold in the -85kg and men's open categories in Birmingham, USA.

Emirati Faisal Al Ketbi is a great master of Jiu-Jitsu. 'X'
Emirati Faisal Al Ketbi is a great master of Jiu-Jitsu. 'X'

Ju-Jitsu Faisal Al Ketbi stated: "I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the visionary leadership of the UAE for their boundless support in making this achievement possible and to all my supporters who have been with me on this incredible journey. This achievement is a testament to the dedication, hard work, and effort that has fuelled my passion for Ju-Jitsu. I dedicate this achievement to my teammates, coaches, family, and fans who have been with me every step of the way." 

"This achievement is not just mine, it's a collective effort, and I'm overjoyed to honour my country with this recognition. Together, we've proven that dreams fuelled by determination can come true. I hope this win serves as a beacon of inspiration, encouraging aspiring athletes to strive for excellence and contribute to the continued success of the sport on the global stage," the athlete concluded.