Brazil names its Olympic sports athletes of the year
Brazil’s Olympic Committee announced the nation’s Olympic sports athletes of the year Tuesday, another indicator of host nation athletes to watch at the Rio 2016 Olympics.
Gymnast Arthur Zanetti won the men’s award, while sailors Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze shared the women’s honor.
The awards, formerly chosen by the public, were voted on by journalists, sports officials, former athletes and sports personalities this year.
Zanetti became Brazil’s first Olympic gymnastics medalist in 2012 when he won still rings gold. He won silver at the World Championships this year behind China’s Liu Yang.
Grael and Kunze won the 49er FX class at the World Championships this year and the Olympic test event in Rio.
Brazil has won more Olympic gold medals in sailing than any other sport.
Zanetti won the men’s award for the second time in three years. Grael and Kunze became the first female sailors to win the women’s award.
No men’s or women’s soccer player has won the award, given since 1999.
They are eligible, as Marta has been a finalist before, though Brazil has never won an Olympic men’s or women’s soccer gold.
This year’s other finalists were archer Marcus Vinicius d’Almeida and basketball player Tiago Splitter for the men and open-water swimmer Ana Marcela Cunha and judoka Mayra Aguiar for the women.
In other awards news Tuesday, speed skater Ireen Wust and soccer player Arjen Robben won the Netherlands’ athletes of the year.
Wust was the most decorated athlete at the Sochi Olympics with five medals, including two golds.
Robben, who hasn’t competed in an Olympics, won over all of the Netherlands’ individual Olympic champion speed skaters -- Jorrit Bergsma, Stefan Groothuis, Sven Kramer and Michel Mulder.
Wust won over European track and field champions Dafne Schippers (100m and 200m) and Sifan Hassan (1500m) and Olympic 1500m speed skating champion Jorien Ter Mors.
Spain’s Olympic Committee honored figure skater Javier Fernandez and swimmer Mireia Belmonte with its athlete of the year awards.
Fernandez just missed becoming Spain’s third Winter Olympic medalist ever in Sochi, finishing fourth. He won World Championships bronze in March and silver at the Grand Prix Final in Barcelona last week.
Belmonte won six medals at the European Championships, including two golds.