World pole vault record-holder Renaud Lavillenie and four-time world shot put champion Valerie Adams will make a different type of history on Friday when they become the first active athletes to join the World Athletics Council as full voting members, following the governance reforms introduced in 2016.
The newly elected Athletes’ Commission today selected Lavillenie as the new chairperson and Adams as the deputy chairperson, and they will become the two athlete representatives on the Council for the next four years.
"It's very important to have athletes on the Council because we see that our sport is evolving and we need to keep the athletes at the centre of the discussion," Lavillenie said. "I am very happy to lead a good group of strong athletes who are thinking about the future. We need to be part of the decision-making process, not just the subject of the process. I am excited to have this new mission and to have these athletes with me."
Adams, who is serving her second term on the Athletes' Commission, said she completely supported Lavillenie as chair and was delighted to see two athletes included in the Council.
"It's important to have those two votes in the Council because without athletes there is no athletics," she said. "We are just the mouthpiece for the athletes around the world, but it’s important for us to have that voice."
Former chair Inaki Gomez, who has served as a non-voting member of the Council for the past two years, was not eligible to continue in that role due to a rule requiring each Council member to be from a different country.
Lavillenie, 33 (FRA) and Adams, 35, (NZL) led the ballot when six new members were elected to the Athletes’ Commission during the World Championships in Doha in September-October. Nearly two-thirds of the 1833 athletes present in Doha cast votes.
Distance runner Bernard Lagat (USA), 400m runner Kevin Borlee (BEL), pole vaulter Katerina Stefanidi (GRE) and middle distance runner Aisha Praught-Leer (JAM) were also elected, and attended their first Athletes’ Commission meeting in Monaco today.
They joined six serving members with two years left on their terms – Gomez (CAN), Kim Collins (SKN), Adam Kszczot (POL), Thomas Rohler (GER), Ivana Spanovic (SRB) and Benita Willis (AUS).
Six further members were recently appointed to the Commission by the Council - Majd Eddin Ghazal (SYR), Olga Rypakova (KAZ), Akani Simbine (RSA), Su Bingtian (CHN), Milcah Chemos Cheywa (KEN) and Marie-Josee Ta Lou (CIV).
The Council is able to appoint up to six extra members to ensure that there is sufficient diversity within the athlete group to represent all disciplines and areas of the world.
The importance of athletes to decision-making within World Athletics was recognised and enshrined in legislation as part of the governance and integrity reforms approved in December 2016.
Under the 2019 Constitution, the Chairperson and one other member of the Athletes’ Commission – one male and one female – become full voting members of the IAAF Council.
World Athletics president Sebastian Coe welcomed Lavillenie and Adams to the 26-member Council, saying he expected they would make a substantial contribution to the sport’s decision-making body.
"Since my own competition days, I have been a strong advocate for athletes having a voice within sport," Coe said. "We want our athletes to be leaders and to contribute their opinions on the issues and challenges we face in steering a global sport with 214 member countries in a rapidly changing world. That will only make athletics stronger and more relevant to coming generations."
Renaud Lavillenie (FRA) pole vault - chairperson
Valerie Adams (NZL) shot put - deputy chairperson
Kevin Borlee (BEL) 400m
Milcah Chemos Cheywa (KEN) steeplechase
Kim Collins (SKN) sprints
Majd Eddin Ghazal (SYR) high jump
Inaki Gomez (CAN) race walk
Adam Kszczot (POL) middle distance
Bernard Lagat (USA) distance
Aisha Praught-Leer (JAM) middle distance
Thomas Rohler (GER) javelin
Olga Rypakova (KAZ) triple jump
Akani Simbine (RSA) sprints
Ivana Spanovic (SRB) long jump
Katerina Stefanidi (GRE) pole vault
Su Bingtian (CHN) sprints
Marie-Josee Ta Lou (CIV) sprints
Benita Willis (AUS) distance