Three brilliant world sprint records earned Jamaican Usain Bolt the 2008 IAAF Athlete of the Year Award at a spectacular Gala organised by the world track and field federation in Monaco on Saturday night.
And the indefatigable Russian Pole vaulter, Yelena Isinbayeva, was named the top woman athlete at the black tie dinner held in the Principality of Monaco and presided over by Monaco’s Prince Albert II at the Monte Carlo Sporting Club.
Last year’s winners were American sprinter Tyson Gay and Ethiopia’s middle distance star Meseret Defar, who both struggled this season.
Bolt won three Olympic gold medals in Beijing in the 100m, 200m and 4x100 metres relay races, all in world record times, while Isinbayeva defended her Olympic pole vault gold in Beijing and remained undefeated in the season.
Kenya’s 800m sensation, Olympic champion Pamela Jelimo, and Ethiopia’s double Olympic champion (5,000m and 10,000m) Tirunesh Dibaba, both finalists for the top award, lost it in the final sprint to the Russian while the other men’s finalists were world marathon record holder Haile Gebrselassie and Olympic 110m hurdles champion and world record holder Dayron Robles of Cuba.
Jelimo won the Revelation of the Year Award while former Kenyan multiple world record holder, Henry Rono, now based in the USA, winning the Inspirational Award. Other category winners included Dibaba and Czech’s Barbora Spotakova (female performance of the year) and Robles (male performance of the year)
“It is a great honour for me to be named the athletes of the year and I will work hard to win this award year after year,” Bolt, 22, said.
“I don’t wanna put pressure on myself… I like just going out there and being me,” the Jamaican said.
Bolt shattered his own 100m in Beijing, running 9.69 seconds which he clocked while easing off from the finish line at the Olympic final which equalled the biggest ever winning margin.
The Jamaican star then improved American Michael Johnson’s 12-year-old 200m record by two hundredths of a second, running 19.30 seconds