Athletics correspondent James Sullivan gives his snapshot reaction to the IAAF awards

Kenyan 800m runner David Rudisha and Croatian high jumper Blanka Vlasic were awarded the title of male and female world athletes of the year at the World Athletics Gala in Monaco on Sunday 21st November.

Rudisha, 21, becomes the youngest ever winner of the annual award since it was first presented in 1988 and also the first Kenyan winner of the end of year prize. The 800m runner beat off competition from Tyson Gay (USA, 100m/ 200m), David Oliver (USA, 110m Hurdles), Zerseney Tadese (Eritrea, 10000m/ Half Marathon) and Andreas Thorkildsen (Norway, Javelin).  The East African middle distance runner had a sensational season, twice breaking the world record for 800m, first at Berlin on 22nd August when he ran 1:41.09 breaking Denmark’s Wilson Kipketer’s long standing mark of 1:41.11 which had stood for 13 years, and then one week later when he bettered it once more with a stunning 1:41.01 in Rieti, Italy. It seems inevitable that Rudisha will become the first ever man to break 1:41 and is shaping up to be the overwhelming favourite for Olympic gold over the two lap distance at London 2012.

High jumping glamour girl Blanka Vlasic had another memorable year, winning her first European Championship gold medal at Barcelona this summer to add to the two World titles and Olympic silver medal which she has already achieved. The charismatic 27 year old star then went on to captain the European team to victory at the inaugural IAAF Continental Cup in front of her adoring home supporters in Split where she achieved a height of 2.05m, the highest jump in the world this year (tied with American Chaunte Howard Lowe). Vlasic has already at a relatively young age achieved so much and just the Olympic title and Stefka Kostadinova’s world record (2.09m) now allude her, but the second highest female jumper of all time (personal best of 2.08m set in 2009) still has plenty of time on her side to complete the set and you would be hard pushed to find a more popular Olympic champion should she claim the sport’s ultimate prize in two years time. In winning this award the Croatian beat off fellow nominees Alyson Felix (USA, 200m/ 400m), Jessica Ennis (Great Britain, Heptathlon), Veronica Campbell Brown (Jamaica, 100m/ 200m) and Milcah Chemos Cheywa (Kenya, 3000m Steeplechase).

The nominees for this prestigious award are determined partly by the results of an online vote by fans with a special IAAF jury deciding on the ultimate winner. Former recipients include Usain Bolt, Michael Johnson, Yelena Isinbayeva and Paula Radcliffe.

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