Estonia's sportspeople of the year have been revealed following a gala reception Friday night.
The winners of the sportswoman, sportsman, coach and sports team of the year categories were announced, based on a combination of a public phone-in which took place while the event (see gallery above) was in progress, and whose results were added to votes from recognized sports journalists and sporting organizations in Estonia.
Sportswoman of the year: Eneli Jefimova
Swimmer Eneli Jefimova was nominated sportswoman of the year.
Jefimova just turned 17, and had a great 2023, culminating in her winning gold at European Short Course Swimming Championships this month, in the 100-meter breaststroke – the first Estonian to do so.
Six more junior title medals and sixth in the world championships in summer are other highlights.
The swimmer has also qualified for the Paris Olympics next year, the first Estonia to do so via A category of olympic standards.
Jefimova said on accepting her award that: "Honestly, I wasn't ready to speak too much today and I can't string any words together right now."
"It's an honor to win a title like this, amid such strong competition. I don't think I've even been so nervous before a competition!"
"I'm ready for the next year and my next goals, but I can't promise that I won't be fast asleep when you're knocking at my door at five in the morning," Jefimova joked, directing that comment towards her coach, Henry Hein, also honored on Friday.
Jefimova was shortlisted for the award alongside disc golf star Kristin Tattar and fencer Nelli Differt.
Sports coach of the year: Henry Hein
Henry Hein, Jefimova's coach as noted, is the first swimming trainer to have been awarded coach of the year, and, at 32, one of the youngest ever to have bagged the prize.
Hein was recognized for guiding Jefimova towards the successes she has enjoyed this year.
"Eneli: dream big, work hard and trust the process. Your abilities have no limits," said Hein in his acceptance speech. "I know that this journey hasn't been easy and it won't get any easier either. Those mornings when we go training at 5 a.m., plus those evenings when we have to study for a geography test, in addition to the doping checks [that all swimmers have to undertake] are some of the things that other people don't see."
Hein made the shortlist alongside BC Kalev/Cramo basketball team coach Heiko Rannula and biathlong coach Indrek Tobreluts.
Sportsman of the year: Karel Tilga
Decathlete Karel Tilga won the 2023 sportsman of the year award.
"I've been sitting for three hours thinking about what I might say when I get here. To be honest, my head is completely empty now," Tilga said, on accepting his award.
"I want to thank all the people who made this possible. Thank you to my partner Nina, who is my number one supporter, and thank you to my coach Jeff [Huntoon] who is the brains behind the team," Tilga, 25, went on.
Tilga finished fourth in this year's world athletics championships. His points tally of 8,681 would have put him in the medals at all previous world championships, while he took first place overall International Association of Athletics Federations multi-event tour, thanks to his performances at the Multistars decathlon held in Italy (in which he accrued 8,482 points), the Götzis decathlon in Austria (8,409 points) and the world championships in Budapest in August.
400 m hurdler Rasmus Mägi and biathlete Kristjan Ilves were the other two athletes shortlisted.
Team of the year: Estonian women's national volleyball team
Team of the year went to the women's national volleyball team, who won the European silver league in 2023, giving them promotion to the gold league for next year, and took part in Group D in the European championships, held at home, in Estonia, in August.
The BC Kalev/Cramo basketball team and curling duo Marie Kaldvee and Harri Lill were also shortlisted.
Editor: Andrew Whyte
Source: ERR Sport