Swedish heptathlete Carolina Klüft has been voted the Waterford Crystal European Athlete of the Year for 2006, the European Athletics Association announced today.
The 23-year-old, who last won the award in 2003, won each of her three heptathlon competitions in 2006, including the European Athletics Championships in front of her home fans in Gothenburg in August.
Klüft, who was narrowly beaten for the award last year by world pole vault record holder Yelena Isinbayeva, has won her last 16 heptathlon competitions, the longest current win streak in the sport by a woman. Her last defeat in a combined events contest came at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in 2002, and she is planning on defending the crown she won in Madrid in 2005 in Birmingham in March.
For me the sport is all about performing at the major championships and I am really looking forward to the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Birmingham. she said. I won the World Indoor title there in 2003 and my great rival Kelly Sotherton (GBR) will have the home crowd willing her on this time, so it will certainly be a big challenge.
Belgiums Kim Gevaert, who won the sprint double in Gothenburg, and 2005 athlete of the year Yelena Isinbayeva, tied for second place in the voting, just ahead of Olympic long jump champion Tatyana Lebedeva and high jumpers Kajsa Bergqvist (SWE) and Tia Hellebaut (BEL).
The Waterford Crystal European Athlete of the Year internet poll on the European Athletics website was open to Member Federations, the media and the public through three different voting forums. An athlete's points are calculated by adding their position in each of the three voting categories. For example, the media and the public voted Carolina Klüft number one and the member federations voted her number two giving a total of four points (1+1+2=4)
The mens winner will be announced on Tuesday, January 9.
Waterford Crystal European Athlete of the Year 2006 (Women):
1. Carolina Klüft (SWE) 4
=2. Kim Gevaert (BEL) 7
=2. Yelena Isinbayeva (RUS) 7
4. Tatyana Lebedeva (RUS) 14
5. Kajsa Bergqvist (SWE) 15
6. Tia Hellebaut (BEL) 17
7. Susanne Kallur (SWE) 25
8. Tatyana Lysenko (RUS) 26
=9. Lornah Kiplagat (NED) 32
=9. Vanya Stambolova (RUS) 32