Sayra Laguna, centre, received her award from Olympic silver medallist Michelle Richardson ©FIAS

Sayra Laguna, a multiple Pan American sambo champion, became the first sambist in Nicaragua's history to claim the Best Athlete of the Year award at a ceremony at an Olympic gala night in Managua.

Members from 31 national sports organisations took part in the gala night with the top three athletes from each sport awarded special commemorative tokens.

Performances in both domestic and international competition were taken into consideration before the awards were handed out.

The three sambo athletes awarded were Laguna, Jefryd Garcia and Mario Quintero.

The main Best Athlete of the Year award was contested by 11 nominated athletes from different sports federations with the winner being chosen by a vote held among Presidents of National Federations and members of the Supreme Election Committee, which comprises of 40 athletes and coaches from each country.

Sayra Laguna was given a car as part of her Best Athlete of the Year award ©FIAS
Sayra Laguna was given a car as part of her Best Athlete of the Year award ©FIAS

Laguna, who participated in the 2017 Sambo World Championships in Sochi, Russia, came fifth in last year's awards but claimed the prize this time around with 197 votes after an excellent performance in the Pan American Championships, where she won gold in the 60-kilogram category.

The Nicaraguan National Olympic Committee also presented Laguna with a car as part of her award.

Upon receiving her award, Laguna told the International Sambo Federation website: "This is my first car, and now I have to learn how to drive.

"I've had a smattering of it but do not remember a thing, so I'd have to practice a lot.

"Of course, it's a great pleasure to get such recognition from such respectable people.

"Especially because it was a legend of Nicaraguan sports, Olympic silver winner in swimming Michelle Richardson, who handed me my award.

"However, I’m not going to be complacent.

"My main goal is to win a World Sambo Championships medal."