South African 400 meter runner Wayde van Niekerk and Puerto Rican tennis player Monica Puig claimed the best male and best female athletes of Rio 2016 titles at the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) Awards Gala.
Van Niekerk was awarded for the the stunning world record time of 43.03 seconds he ran en-route to gold over one lap in the Brazilian city.
The time, 0.15 seconds quicker than the previous record mark achieved by Michael Johnson in 1999, was particularly noteworthy because it was run from lane eight.
Puig, meanwhile, claimed a shock women’s singles gold medal in Rio despite having never progressed beyond the fourth round before.
The 22-year-old outsider, ranked number 34 in the world at the time, beat Germany’s Angelique Kerber to become the first ever Olympic champion from Puerto Rico.
Organized by the Qatar Olympic Committee, the event aimed to “celebrate and honor the best sporting achievements from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.”
Fiji’s rugby sevens squad were a popular winner of the best male team award after their historic gold at the Deodoro Stadium – the Pacific island nation’s first Olympic medal in any sport.
Britain were beaten finalists on that occasion, but made amends with the best female team award courtesy of their hockey team’s thrilling penalty shootout victory over The Netherlands.
They were also awarded the most successful National Olympic Committee (NOC) of Rio 2016 award after finishing second on the medals table at the Brazilian Games.
Their haul, which consisted of 27 gold, 23 silver and 17 bronze, marked the first time a country had ever improved upon their medals tally in the next Games after they had played host.
Puerto Rico and Fiji were two of nine nations handed breakthrough NOC awards after taking a first Olympic gold in the Brazilian city.
Bahrain, Ivory Coast, Jordan, Kosovo, Singapore, Tajikistan and Vietnam were similarly honored.
Ruth Jebet claimed 3,000 meter steeplechase gold for Bahrain, while Ivory Coast’s Cheick Sallah Cisse and Jordan’s Ahmad Abughaush each claimed taekwondo victories.
Judoka Majlinda Kelmendi claimed Kosovan gold in the country’s Olympic debut, with the under 52 kilograms star singling out International Judo Federation President Marius Vizer for praise during her speech.
Singapore won courtesy of swimmer Joseph Schooling while Tajikistan hammer thrower Dilshod Nazarov and Vietnamese shooter Hoang Xuan Vinh completed the set.
The Refugee Olympic Team received an ANOC Award for Inspiring Hope through Sport, while Rio 2016 and Brazilian Olympic Committee President Carlos Nuzman received a special award celebrating the success of Rio 2016.
Qatar Emir and IOC member Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani received an ANOC Award for Contribution to the Olympic Movement, but it was accepted on his behalf by Qatar Olympic Committee head, Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al-Thani.
“The Rio 2016 Olympic Games produced many memorable sporting memories created by inspirational athletes from around the world,” said ANOC President Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah.
“The athletes and their respective NOCs are at the very heart of every Olympic Games.
“It is their hard work and commitment that contributes to the success of the Games and it is important these achievements are recognized and honored.
“Tonight has been a fantastic evening for the world’s NOCs, an opportunity to thank and give back to them after all they give to the Olympic Movement.”
By Nick Butler
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz.