Andreas Thorkildsen (NOR) is the male Waterford Crystal European Athlete of the Year 2008.
Norway's Andreas Thorkildsen successfully defended his Olympic men's Javelin title this summer and his triumph in Beijing has been instrumental in him being voted the male Waterford Crystal European Athlete of the Year 2008.
Thorkildsen has developed a well-deserved reputation for finding his form on the big occasion and in the Chinese capital he sent the spear out to a new Olympic record of 90.57m, finishing nearly four metres clear of his nearest rival.
"To have the chance to throw in an Olympic final when one is feeling just so incredibly good is absolutely fantastic. I have only had this feeling two to three times before. I was in great shape today," said the modest 26-year-old Thorkildsen in the wake of his marvellous victory.
"It has been a strange season, but I knew I could get the distance. I was doing big distances in practice but not in competition. I was just fortunate that this was the right time and place to put it all together."
Thorkildsen is the second successive Javelin thrower to win the honour of being the male Waterford Crystal European Athlete of the Year, coming after his friendly rival Finland's Tero Pitkämäki took the award 12 months ago.
His winning throw in Beijing, in still conditions which were far-from-ideal for long distances, came in the fifth round, but Thorkildsen dominated the competition from the outset.
The Oslo-based thrower, although he was born in Kristiansand which is 300km away from the Norwegian capital, took the lead with 84.72m in the first round. He improved with his following two throws to 85.91m and 87.93m before unleashing his massive effort with his penultimate attempt.
After just two days rest at home ("In my own bed. It was the thing I was looking forward to as soon as I'd got my gold medal," said Thorkildsen after a riotous reception for him at Oslo airport on his return to Norway) he cemented his position as the best thrower in the world this year with a throw of 90.28m at the ÅF Golden League meeting in Zurich.
No other thrower in the world this year had gone over the 90-metre barrier. The season was to end on a slightly downbeat note for Thorkildsen as a slight groin injury restricted him from throwing at his best in his final two meetings of the season, the ÅF Golden League meeting in Brussels and the IAAF World Athletics Final in Stuttgart - where he finished third and second respectively - but nothing was going to take the shine off his gold medal in Beijing.
Thorkildsen believes that, despite his two Olympic gold medals and a victory at the 2006 European Athletics Championships, he is still capable of improving.
One factor in his confidence that the best is yet to come is that his coach, Åsmund Martinsen, will now be devoting himself entirely to Thorkildsen's ambition of equalling the feat of the Czech legend Jan Zelezny whose Olympic record he erased in Beijing, and winning at three consecutive Games.
Martinsen has been Thorkildsen's mentor since he moved to Oslo in 2001. The pair have always worked closely together but the relationship has been on a part-time basis until now because Martinsen was also employed as a teacher.
However, Martinsen announced two weeks ago that he was going to devote himself entirely to working with the thrower.
"I've been working with Åsmund since I was 17-years-old but It'll be great to be working 100 per cent with him. I think I'll make even greater steps forward now and should be throwing even further on a regular basis by the time London plays host to the Olympics," added Thorkildsen, after Martinsen had made the decision public.
Andreas Thorkildsenwill be presented his award at the European Athletics Awards Dinner in Amsterdam on Saturday 18 Oct.