Track and field's world governing body has selected Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco and Paula Radcliffe of England as its 2002 Athletes of the Year.
The honors were bestowed at the annual World Athletics Gala in Monte Carlo, Monaco. The festivities were sponsored by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). Among those on hand for the athletics fiesta was IAAF President Lamine Diack of Senegal.
Hicham El Guerrouj puts his name in the record books as the first man to win Athlete of the Year titles in consecutive years since the award was created in 1988. Nicknamed the "Master of the Middle Distances," the 28-year-old El Guerrouj had an outstanding year. He was unbeaten in 11 races at 1500-meters or one mile.
The Moroccan star is hoping to win gold medals in both the 1500-meters and 5000-meters distances at the 2003 World Track Championships in Paris, as well as the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
Paula Radcliffe also had an outstanding year. Paula retained her IAAF World Cross Country title, won gold medals at both the European Championships and the Commonwealth Games, and then capped a fantastic 2002 by setting a new world record (2:17:18) in the women's marathon in Chicago.
The World Athletics Gala in Monte Carlo also honored the man known as "the father of Kenyan distance running." Kip Keino received the first ever Primo Nebiolo Lifetime Achievement Award. The award is named after the former IAAF President.
Kip Keino won the Olympic 1500-meters title in 1968 and the 3000-meters steeplechase title in 1972. Keino also set world records in both events. Kip Keino's achievements are not just on the track, though. Following his illustrious running career, Keino turned his own home into an orphanage for Kenyan children and he recently founded a school in his home town of Eldoret.