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Athletics - 23. November 2007.

An Array of Champions - past and present - at World Athletics Gala - UPDATE

Thursday 22 November 2007

Monte-Carlo - With just three days to go to the announcement of the winners of the prestigious World Athlete of the Year and Performance of the Year awards at the World Athletics Gala, which will be hosted at the Salle des Etoiles of the Sporting Club d’Eté, on Sunday 25 November, a long list of world class athletes from the past and the present are already on their way to the Principality to celebrate yet another great year of athletics.

The legendary Carl Lewis, winner of 9 Olympic gold medals in a career spanning two decades, will be among the star-studded audience who will be welcomed by International Athletic Foundation (IAF) Honorary President HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco and IAF & IAAF President Lamine Diack.

Lewis has already been honoured four times in the history of the World Athletics Gala as he was elected World Athlete of the Year in 1988 and 1991 and then Athlete of the Century in 1999. Lewis was also presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997.

Five-time World Cross Country champion John Ngugi, who was part of the successful organisation of the World Cross Country Championships in Mombasa, will be another notable guest on Sunday evening. The East African nation will also be represented by former World record holder Henry Rono, an icon of Kenyan Athletics.

Of the five Kenyan gold medallists in Osaka, 800m champions Janeth Jepkosgei and Alfred Kirwa Yego and Marathon winners Luke Kibet will also be part of Sunday’s celebration.

UPDATE - we are delighted to be informed that Kenya's two-time World Marathon champion, Catherine Ndereba, the world’s most consistently successful woman marathon runner - click here for previous story - will now also be attending the Gala.

A candidate for the Performance of the Year award, Janeth Jepkosgei will be in excellent company with three great ladies of the two-lap event: former Olympic champion Nadezhda Olizarenko of the Ukraine and two-time World champion Ana Quirot of Cuba. 1996 Olympic champion and IAAF Ambassador Svetlana Masterkova will also be in attendance.

Other IAAF Ambassadors who will take part in this end-of-year party include the reigning double Olympic champion Hicham El Guerrouj, former World champions Stéphane Diagana and Frank Fredericks, and World record holder Mike Powell.

The evening is expected to be a celebration of world class sprinting highlighted by the presence of double Olympic champion Valeriy Borzov of the Ukraine who won the sprint double at the 1972 Games, the 1968 200m Olympic champion Tommie Smith and the 1968 400m Olympic champion Lee Evans, both of the USA. John Carlos and Robson Caetano da Silva, both Olympic medallists at 200m are also expected to attend the World Athletics Gala.

The longest running distance in the Olympic programme is another event which will be in the spotlight on Sunday evening with World champion Catherine Ndereba and World record holders Haile Gebrselassie and Paula Radcliffe. It will be the first encounter of these Marathon living legends since the Ethiopian set a breathtaking 2:04:26 World record in Berlin, the British super mum won the New York Marathon only ten months after the birth of her first child and the Kenyan specialist took her second World title in Osaka.

The High Jump will also be honoured with the presence of former World record holder and Olympic champion Dick Fosbury, and inaugural World champion Tamara Bykova. These great figures of the past will meet with reigning World champions Donald Thomas and Blanka Vlasic, the latter being a finalist for both the Athlete of the Year and Performance of the Year awards. Germany’s Heike Henkel, former World Indoor record holder and Kajsa Bergqvist, the woman who broke her record last year, will also attend the World Athletics Gala.

In total 18 World champions from Osaka, including World record holders Yelena Isinbayeva, Nathan Deakes and Roman Sebrle will gather in the Sporting Club on Sunday to make the 2007 World Athletics Gala a unique celebration of our sport.

2007 World champions expected to attend the World Athletics Gala:

Nathan Deakes (AUS)
Meseret Defar (ETH)
Tyson Gay (USA)
Yelena Isinbaeva (RUS)
Maryam Yusuf Jamal (BRN)
Janeth Jepkosgei (KEN)
Luke Kibet (KEN)
Tatyana Lebedeva (RUS)
Xiang Liu (CHN)
Catherine Ndereba (KEN)
Yargelis Savigne (CUB)
Roman Šebrle (CZE)
Barbora Špotáková (CZE)
Zersnay Tadese (ERI)
Donald Thomas (BAH)
Blanka Vlašic (CRO)
Jeremy Wariner (USA)
Alfred Kirwa Yego (KEN)

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