Ayana had a record-breaking year. After recording the fastest 10,000m debut in history in June, the Ethiopian went on to win the Olympic title at the distance in a world record of 29:17.45.
She added to her Olympic medal haul in Rio by taking bronze in the 5000m, her only loss of the year. Having recorded three of the eight fastest times at 5000m, she ended the year as the Diamond Race winner for that discipline.
She becomes the third Ethiopian woman to win this award, following Genzebe Dibaba in 2015 and Meseret Defar in 2007.
"I don't have words to explain my feelings right now, I'm so excited," said Ayana whose award was presented by International Athletics Foundation (IAF) Honorary President HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco. "Really, I'm so pleased."