Tennis player David Goffin and athlete Nafissatou Thiam were named Sportsman and Sportswoman of the year at the 51st Sports Gala. The ceremony was held in Brussels on Saturday evening. It’s the first time both of the awards have gone to French speakers in the same year. The separate award for Sportswoman was created in 1975. The Sportsman award has existed since 1967.
Nafissatou Thiam from Namur was expected to be chosen for her award. It’s her third in four years and second in a row. She is the Heptathlon World Champion. The choice of David Goffin from Liège has been met with more controversy. He was up against the World Number One cyclist and winner of the Paris-Roubaix race, Greg Van Avermaet. In the end Goffin, a Masters and Davis Cup finalist, beat Van Avermaet, who was Belgian Sportsman of the year 2016, by quite a big margin (501 points).
Goffin is the first male tennis player to win this award, whereas female tennis players have won it 16 times. Winners include Sabine Appelmans (twice), Dominique Monami (once), Kim Clijsters (8 times), Justine Henin (4 times) and Kirsten Flipkens (once).
The cycling world has consoled itself with the fact that Lotte Kopecky, 22, was named Best Hope of the year. The world champion team track racer (with Jolien D’hoore) and Omnium world number one was picked over junior judo world champion Matthias Casse.
The tennis world celebrated both David Goffin’s award and winning Team of the year. It was won by the Davis Cup team, who reached the final twice in three years but didn’t win. They also won the Team of the year award in 2015.
Along with his star pupil (Nafissatou Thiam), Roger Lespagnard retained his title (Coach of the Year).
After getting second place in 2015 and third place in 2016, 41 year old Peter Genyn was named Paralympian Sportsman of the year. He won two medals in Rio and got the 400m record in 2016; this year he got two world titles in 100m and 400m wheelchair racing (category T51).