Posted on 26 November 2009.
Photograph: Stephane Danna/AFP
The Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt and United States 400 metres runner Sanya Richards have won their second IAAF World Athlete of the Year awards.
Bolt retained the honour for winning the 100m and 200m finals in world record times at the World Championships in Berlin, matching his sprint double at the Beijing Olympics.
“It’s been an amazing year for me,” said Bolt, whose training was hampered by a foot injury after he crashed his car in April. “I had to refocus my goals and put in a lot of hard work. I did extremely well and I’m proud of myself.”
Richards, the 2006 winner, won her first individual gold medal at a major championships in Berlin. She also won at all six Golden League meetings in Europe to claim a share of the $1m jackpot (£605,000) offered to athletes who swept their event.
“I am so excited and overwhelmed,” said the Jamaican-born Richards. “You work so hard to be a world champion. It’s right up there with winning the title in Berlin.”
Lamine Diack, the president of the International Association of Athletic Federations, praised Bolt for raising his performances to “an unimaginable level”. “We need stars in the sport,” he said. “He brings a lot of prestige to our sport and is one of the best-known people on the planet.”
The 23-year-old Bolt said he aimed to go unbeaten through the 2010 season, when he will compete at seven of the 14 meets which make up the new global Diamond League circuit.
He has signed a contract to race against Tyson Gay, of the US, and his fellow Jamaican Asafa Powell. “A lot of people are going to watch out for the showdowns,” Bolt said.
Gay said he wanted a 100m rematch with Bolt at the New York City meeting on June 12. “That would make track and field huge again in the United States,” Gay said at a Diamond League launch.
Richards credited Bolt and other Jamaican sprinters for inspiring her in Beijing with their obvious love of the sport.
“These athletes were just having so much fun,” Richards said. “I was so focused on winning, the medals and the money and everything that came with being a champion that I forgot the simple enjoyment and fun of track and field.”
Richards said she watched videos with her parents of her running as a child aged seven and began to relax during races. “I just felt like I was running a lot lighter, the races became a lot easier,” she said.
Richards said her goal for 2010 is to break the US record of 48.70 she set in Athens three years ago.
Her next main event is marriage to the New York Giants cornerback Aaron Ross in Austin, Texas, on her 25th birthday in February.
Bolt topped a shortlist that included his sprint rival Gay and three other world champions: the 5,000m and 10,000m winner Kenenisa Bekele, of Ethiopia, the pole vaulter Steven Hooker, of Australia, and the Norwegian javelin thrower Andreas Thorkildsen.
Richards beat her fellow world champions Valerie Vili, the shot putter from New Zealand, the Croatian high jumper Blanka Vlasic, Poland’s Anita Wlodarczyk, who set a world record winning the hammer, and the Russian pole vault world record holder, Yelena Isinbayeva.
Votes were cast by nearly 1,800 athletes, officials and journalists.
Artcle by guardian.co.uk