Silva Named Winner Of Abebe Bikila Award For 2011

Gérman Silva is a two-time winner of the ING New York City Marathon. Photo: NYRR Media

The former NYC Marathon champ has always given back.

From: NYRR Media

Gérman Silva is a two-time winner of the ING New York City Marathon. Photo: NYRR Media

When Gérman Silva returned to his homeland in 1994 after winning the New York City Marathon for the first time, the Mexican government asked him what he would like as a reward. Electricity for my village, he told the officials. A month later, Tecomate had lights.

In 1997, Silva turned his quest for a third victory in New York into a fundraiser for Solo por Ayudar (Only to Help). “I drive through Mexico City and I see a lot of poor children,” he told Bert Rosenthal of the Associated Press before the race that year. “Women just 13 or 14 already have children or are pregnant. I want to help these children.”

For his lifelong commitment to giving back through running in ways large and small—organizing running events in rural communities, encouraging children to run, and distributing running shoes during his travels throughout Mexico—the two-time winner of the New York City Marathon (1994, 1995) has been named winner of the Abebe Bikila Award for 2011, it was announced by New York Road Runners president and CEO Mary Wittenberg.

The award, named for legendary 1960 and 1964 Olympic marathon champion Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia, has been presented annually by NYRR since 1978 to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the sport of long distance running both on and off the field of competition. Past recipients include Grete Waitz, Bill Rodgers, Fred Lebow, Allan Steinfeld, and last year’s winner, Paul Tergat.

Silva is best known for the first of his two New York City Marathon wins when he mistakenly veered off the course in the final mile and then made an astounding recovery to overtake his compatriot Benjamin Parades in the final steps. He was also a two-time Olympian, finishing sixth in the 10,000 meters in the 1992 Barcelona Games, the same position he achieved in the marathon in the 1996 Atlanta Games. He posted his career-best time of 2 hours, 8 minutes, and 56 seconds in Boston in 1998.

“One wrong turn made Gérman famous, but it is a whole career of giving back to the community through and with his running that made him a true champion,” said Wittenberg. “Always one of our favorites here in New York, Gérman has earned the accolades and recognition of our entire sport.”

Silva will be presented with the award as part of the Marathon Opening Ceremony in Central Park on the evening of Friday, November 4. His wife, Miranda, and their children, Zyanya and Riwan, will join Silva at the Opening Ceremony, which is open to the public.

“Receiving this award causes a lot of emotions,” said Silva, 43. “I feel so honored and proud. It awakens a lot of memories and how New York has changed my life forever. I’d like to dedicate the award to my family, to all of my Mexican friends. Thank you sincerely, all of you, and let us continue touching the lives of many more! The world needs a lot of runners.”

Silva currently coaches several leading Mexican long distance runners and is the head coach at the La Loma high altitude training center in San Luis Potosí. He officially retired from competition in 2001, but he has continued to run the ING New York City Marathon. He finished in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2009, and he is expected to run again this year.

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