European Athletics is pleased to announce that German marathon star Irina Mikitenko and Estonian Olympic Discus champion Gerd Kanter have been selected as the European Athletes of the Month for April.
Mikitenko caused a sensation last year when she won the London Marathon for the first time, but this year her victory was less of a surprise when the German crossed the line in a world-leading performance of 2:22:11.
The former Kazakhstan athlete, who set a new German record of 2:19:19 when she won the Berlin Marathon last September, has now placed herself at the top of the world rankings, currently leads the world marathon majors table by a huge 25-point margin and is favourite to land the $500,000 top prize at the end of the year.
The 37-year-old, who finished fifth in the Sydney Olympic 5,000m in 2000, has yet to confirm if she will compete at the IAAF World Championships in Berlin, although with a second London victory already under her belt she may well be tempted by the possibility of a victory in front of her passionate home supporters.
The 30-year-old Kanter, meanwhile, will be going for his third successive major global title in Berlin, and on the back of his early season achievements he looks as near a certainty as is possible.
He started 2009 with a win in Discus at the European Cup Winter Throwing in Spain in March before setting a world indoor Discus best of 69.51m in Växjö.
In April at a world record challenge event in Chula Vista, Calif., he launched the discus out to a distance of 70.84m, the longest throw in the world this year.
With this throw, Kanter also achieved the distinction of throwing over 70m for the fifth successive year, another feat achieved by only a handful of throwers before him.
The runners-up in the women's poll were Norwegian double Olympic 20km Walk silver medallist Kjersti Tysse Plaetzer and Polish Pole Vaulter Sonia Grabowska, while Britain's Andrew Lemoncello and Italian marathon runner Ruggero Pertile were the runners-up in the men's poll.
The European Athlete of the Month initiative was launched in January 2007 and is designed to recognise outstanding performers at all levels of the sport in Europe.
European Athletics names a male and female winner each month and features the athlete on the European Athletics website. Selections are based on votes by the public, the media and a panel of European Athletics experts, with each counting for 33.3 percent of the final vote.
No athlete who has previously served a two-year anti-doping ban can be nominated for or win the European Athlete of the Month.
For more information, please visit European-Athletics.org.