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(photo credit: Lidor Goldberg / ITA)
Tennis star Andy Ram was all smiles on Wednesday evening as he received Jerusalem's inaugural Athlete of the Year award.
In a special ceremony held at the municipality building, Ram looked back on outstanding year in which he became the first Israeli to win a Wimbledon title when he won the mixed doubles with Russian Vera Zvonerava and, with his men's doubles partner, Yoni Erlich, become the first Israelis to reach the season-ending ATP Masters Cup.
Ram was born in Uruguay but moved to Israel at the age of five and grew up in Jerusalem, where he first started playing tennis.
Accepting his award from Deputy Mayor Yigal Amedi, Ram said he felt enormous pride as a Jerusalemite and added that this was one of the most important awards he had received this year.
"I couldn't ask for more this year," Ram said. "But I believe that I still have much room for improvement. I hope that 2007 will be even better for me and 2008, with the Olympics coming, will be even greater and I hope to win a gold medal."
Reflecting on his 2006 achievements, he added: "This was our best year ever. Beating Britain in the Davis Cup for the first time in history was great. And to also get to the finals of the Masters was amazing, but to win Wimbledon was clearly the highlight."
The tennis player was chosen by a committee made up of members of the municipality's Sports Authority. A city spokesman told The Jerusalem Post that choosing Ram as the outstanding athlete was "a natural selection given what he has achieved this year."
"I don't think we need to elaborate," the spokesman said. "For an Israeli athlete to make it to the top 10 in doubles is wonderful. It brings a lot of pride not only to Jerusalem but to the whole State of Israel."
Ram was not the only athlete honored at Wednesday night's ceremony. Alon Sasson, the European junior judo champion, was honored as an Outstanding Athlete, as were synchronized swimmers Anastasia Gloushkov and Viktoria Yarmolinskaya, who finished the year ranked 10th in the world rankings.
Finally, disabled badminton player Amir Levy, the reigning European champion.
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