Femke Bol from the Netherlands and Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen were crowned European Athletes of the Year for the second successive year at the glittering annual Golden Tracks award ceremony in Vilnius, Lithuania on Saturday (21) evening.
Bol and Ingebrigtsen, who was presented with his trophy by European Athletics President Dobromir Karamarinov, amassed exceptional seasons both indoors and outdoors at a variety of distances.
Both athletes came away with two gold medals at the Istanbul 2023 European Athletics Indoor Championships as a precursor to brilliant outdoor campaigns highlighted by gold medals at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest.
But for all their brilliance this season, both athletes had to overcome adversity before being rewarded with gold in Budapest.
Bol stumbled and fell when in contention for the mixed 4x400m title on the first day before rebounding with an imperious win in the 400m hurdles before closing the championships with a dramatic and emotionally-charged anchor leg for the Netherlands in the 4x400m to complete the redemption arc.
For the second championship in a row, Ingebrigtsen was pipped for the 1500m title by a Brit - this time Josh Kerr - but the 23-year-old unleashed a devastating sprint finish to reel in Spain’s Mohamed Katir to defend his world 5000m title.
Both athletes have also revised the record books this year. Bol began her award-winning campaign by running a world indoor 500m best of 1:05.63 before smashing Jarmila Kratochvilova’s world indoor 400m record of 49.59 from 1982 - a mark many people thought might never be surpassed - with 49.26 at the Dutch Indoor Championships in Apeldoorn, the host city for the 2025 European Athletics Indoor Championships.
Outdoors, Bol became the first European to break the 52 second-barrier in the 400m hurdles with a sparkling 51.45 clocking in the London Diamond League, one of three sub-52 second clockings. In a European setting, Bol now has ownership of the eight fastest times and 12 of the 13 fastest times in history.
Ingebrigtsen has also left an indelible mark on the record books. Among his many accolades, the Norwegian smashed the world two mile best with 7:54.10 in Paris, eclipsed the world 2000m record with 4:43.13 and lowered his European 1500m record to 3:27.95 and 3:27.14 in Oslo and Chorzow respectively.
But it was at the Eugene Diamond League where Ingebrigtsen was arguably at his most masterful, winning the mile and 3000m on back-to-back afternoons in European records of 3:43.73 and 7:23.63 respectively to move to third on the world all-time lists in both events.
Bol was one of three finalists for the women’s European Athlete of the Year award alongside fellow world champions Maria Perez from Spain and Yaroslava Mahuchikh from Ukraine while Ingebrigtsen was shortlisted alongside Sweden’s Armand Duplantis and Miltiadis Tentoglou from Greece, both of whom also won gold medals at the World Athletics Championships.
Bol becomes the first female to be crowned European Athlete of the Year in back-to-back years since her recently retired compatriot Dafne Schippers in 2014 and 2015 while Ingebrigtsen keeps the men’s award in Norwegian hands having also won last year, succeeding Karsten Warholm in 2019 and 2021.
Bol and Ingebrigtsen are also previous winners of the Rising Star award.
Rising Star trophies for Topic and Furlani
European U20 champions Angelina Topic from Serbia and Italy’s Mattia Furlani were crowned this year’s Rising Stars at the Golden Tracks.
Having been among the final three in their respective categories last year, both athletes came away from the ceremony with trophies in a category which originated in 2007 to award and recognise Europe’s outstanding young athletes.
After winning gold medals at the European Athletics U18 Championships last year, both Topic and Furlani continued their progression through the age-group ranks with gold medals in the high jump and long jump respectively at the European Athletics U20 Championships which also took place in Jerusalem.
Just weeks before her 18th birthday, Topic cleared an outright Serbian high jump record of 1.97m in the Paris Diamond League while Furlani - who only took up the long jump seriously last year having showed initial promise as a high jumper - flew out to a marginally wind-assisted 8.44m long jump in Savona, the longest ever mark recorded in all conditions by a junior.
Both Topic and Furlani will still be U20 athletes when they compete at the Roma 2024 European Athletics Championships from 7-12 June last summer.
Topic topped the polling for the women’s Rising Star award ahead of double European U20 champion Agate Caune from Latvia and world 400m fourth-placer Rhasidat Adeleke from Ireland while Furlani was one of the three finalists alongside European U20 1500m and 5000m champion Niels Laros from the Netherlands and European U23 400m champion Havard Bentdal Ingvaldsen.
Inspirational figures on and off the track recognised in Vilnius
The important contribution made by those behind the scenes was also recognised at the Golden Tracks award ceremony.
The first of the yearly European Athletics Coaching and Member Federation awards were presented live on stage. Estonia's Taivo Mägi and Latvia's Alona Fomenko were the recipients of the Coaching award and Lithuania's Alfonsas Buliuolis was presented with the Member Federation award.
Poland’s European 400m bronze medallist Anna Kielbasinska was the first recipient of the biennial European Athletics Women’s Leadership Award for her role as a mentor to young athletes as part of her responsibility as President of the Athletes’ Council of the Polish Athletics Association (PZLA).
A full list of award winners in these categories can be found here.
Two moments of sportsmanship at the European Athletics Team Championships which transcended the athletics world were also recognised at the Golden Tracks award ceremony.
Croatia's Dino Bosnjak was presented with the Fair Play Award after assisting his friend and rival Vid Botolin from Slovenia who collapsed through exhaustion in the home straight of the 5000m in the 2nd Division.
Jolien Boumkwo was also presented with the Team Spirit Act of Recognition award for selflessly filling the vacant slot on the Belgian team in the 100m hurdles at the European Athletics Team Championships 1st Division in Silesia where Belgium were fighting to avoid relegation.
Primarily a shot putter, Boumkwo’s efforts yielded two points for the Belgian team and her contribution gained worldwide attention and recognition.
Summary of award winners:
- Women’s European Athlete of the Year - Femke Bol (NED)
- Men’s European Athlete of the Year - Jakob Ingebrigtsen (NOR)
- Women’s Rising Star - Angelina Topic (SRB)
- Men’s Rising Star - Mattia Furlani (ITA)
- Team Spirit Act of Recognition Award - Jolien Boumkwo (BEL)
- Fair Play Award - Dino Bosnjak (CRO)
- European Athletics Women’s Leadership Award - Anna Kielbasinska (POL)
- European Athletics Coaching Award - Taivo Mägi (EST) and Alona Fomenko (LAT)
- European Athletics Member Federation Award - Alfonsas Buliuolis (LTU)
Highlights of the 2023 European Athletics Golden Tracks, as well the complete live stream of the glittering gala night, can be found on the European Athletics YouTube channel.