BANGKOK (Reuters) - Kenyan middle distance runner David Rudisha was named as the best male athlete of the 2012 London Olympics at the inaugural Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) awards ceremony on Friday.
Chinese table tennis player Li Xiaoxia won the women’s award while Norwegian biathlete Ole Einar Bjoerndalen and Dutch speed skater Irene Wust were recognized as the top male and female athletes at this year’s Sochi Winter Olympics.
Olympic officials hope the awards, held for the first time as part of an initiative to modernize the Games, will become the “Oscars of Olympics sport.”
The prizes were presented at a gala ceremony in Bangkok, attended by more than 1,000 delegates from over 200 countries.
For the inaugural presentation, the winners were decided by a special committee set up by ANOC but in future will be decided by the public, voting through media.
Rudisha, who broke the world record to win the 800 meters in London two years ago, had to beat a star-studded field to win the men’s individual award.
”To win this award really means a lot to me, it’s very special,“ Rudisha said. ”I can’t really forget about it (winning gold), it was the greatest moment in my career.
Li claimed two gold medals in London, in singles and the team event, and was the only Chinese winner at Friday’s awards.
“Winning the title at London 2012 was the proudest moment in my career as an athlete, and one that I will always remember.”
The French handball outfit was named as the best men’s team in London after becoming the first to win back-to-back gold medals in the event, while Brazil won the women’s award in volleyball after clinching a second successive gold.
“It will mean so much to the people of Brazil if we win in Rio 2016 we hope we can give them that,” said Brazil captain Fabiana Marcelino Claudino.
The United States won the award for the most successful country in London after topping the medals table with 104 medals, including 46 gold.
Bjoerndalen won two golds in Sochi, in the 10 km sprint and mixed relay, to become the most decorated Winter Olympian of all time, with a total of 13 medals, including eight golds.
Wust was the leader of the Netherlands team that dominated the speed skating competition in Sochi. She won five medals -- two gold and three silver -- the most by any competitor at the 2014 Olympics.
Canada won the men’s and women’s team awards after claiming gold in both events, while hosts Russia were named most successful country after topping the medals table with 33 medals, including 13 gold.
Former Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina won the oustanding achievement award in recognition of the 18 Olympic medals she won between 1956 and 1964, a record that stood until Michael Phelps surpassed her in London.
Phelps sent her a personal note of congratulation that was read out during the ceremony.
Former International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge received the outstanding lifetime achievement award.
Editing by Ken Ferris