by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Named the best female athlete, Monica Puig received her award at the spectacular 2016 ANOC Awards evening in Qatar from a man, who like the Puerto Rican, was the first ever for his country.
Just as Monica Puig became the first ever Puerto Rican to win a gold medal in any discipline in an Olympic Games, so Jean-Michel Saive became the first Belgian to rise to the top of Men’s World Table Tennis Rankings.
He ascended to the top of the list on Wednesday 9th February 1994 when Monica Puig was five months old; she was born on Monday 27th September 1993. He maintained the exalted position until Thursday 8th June 1995; he returned to the pinnacle on Tuesday 26th March 1996 retaining the status until the following month on Wednesday 24th April. Overall he occupied the prized position for a total of 515 days.
Held in the state-of-the-art Qatar Convention Centre in Doha, the awards evening was part of the two day XXI ANOC General Assembly which concluded on Wednesday 16th November. Only the third time that the gala has been held, the occasion honoured the best sporting achievements from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Jean-Michel Saive was present in his capacity as President of the Athletes Commission of the European Olympic Committee; he attended alongside Thomas Bach, the President of the International Olympic Committee and representatives from no less than 205 National Olympic Committees.
Notably the ANOC, which is an acronym for the Association of National Olympic Committees, has a very close link with Puerto Rico.
It was established in June 1979 during the Constitutive General Assembly in San Juan, the aim being support National Olympic Committees by providing expert advice for development.
Impressively, the ceremony was broadcast live by Al Kass and on the ANOC YouTube Channel; it was distributed to broadcasters all around the world.