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UPCOMING OLYMPIC GAMES

Tokyo 2020 #1YearToGo

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Renaud Lavillenie had the perfect end to his "perfect year" here tonight as he received the Men's World Athlete of the Year award at the International Athletics Foundation Gala, with the International Association of Athletics Federations' (IAAF) Women's award going to New Zealand's shot putter Valerie Adams, unbeaten now in 56 consecutive competitions.

The French pole vaulter acknowledged that his historic feat in beating Sergey Bubka's world record of 6.15 metres just short of 21 years after it was set, with a clearance of 6.16m in Donetsk on February 15, was a big reason for his latest accolade, but not the only one.

"Yes, I think it has certainly contributed but it was not the only thing," he said.

"I lost in one meeting - I was not as strong as Valerie - but 21 out of 22, this is not too bad.

"I also won a fifth Diamond Race trophy, the European title and at the Continental Cup, so it felt quite a regular winning rhythm in an event which is quite unpredictable.

"I am very, very grateful to the world of athletics.

"It is extraordinary what is happening to me this year."

Lavillenie, the reigning Olympic champion, was only the third specialist field eventer to have won the men's award since Carl Lewis took the first one in 1988, and the first since javelin thrower Jan Zelezny's success in 2000.


Adams is the first woman thrower to receive the award.

Never before have two field event athletes swept the board in a single year.

"It's really awesome to be here to represent throwers, and women in sport," said the 30-year-old Adams.

"It is difficult for us to be able to compete against the glamour events on the track, but we train just as hard as anybody else.

"We want to showcase our sport in all areas, because it is not just track, but track and field.

"I have a passion and motivation to be competing, especially when I am wearing the black singlet with the single fern.

"New Zealand has got four million people and 60 million sheep so we punch above our weight!

"To compete against the rest of the world and come out on top, we've got to be proud of that.

"This is definitely the icing on my cake for 2014, which has been a physically challenging one for me with injuries."

Asked what it took to maintain her winning run this year, she responded: "It takes a lot of guts, four operations, a lot of pain, a lot of suffering.

"But if you've still got the passion firing within it makes all the difference.

"If you love something it's not a chore, it's what you want to do, so it becomes easier for you.

"I'm not 21 any more, you have to manage these things.

"But my pain threshold is very high, and my goal is to stay unbeaten for as long as possible."

Looking ahead to next year's IAAF World Championships in Bejing, Adams commented: "Going back to the Birds Nest stadium will be amazing.

"I won my first Olympic title there in 2008 so it will be great to re-live that moment and to try and win the title for a fifth successive time, which I believe has never been done by a female athlete."

For Lavillennie, Beijing has a different resonance.

"For me it will be interesting in Beijing because I don't have the gold medal for the worlds, so that will be the only thing I want for the next year," he said.

"But for me the most important thing is to be ready for Rio 2016 - I want to be world champion to be sure to be ready for the Olympic season."

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