Monte Carlo: Sprint superstar Usain Bolt has won the IAAF male Athlete of the Year for an unprecedented sixth time, while Almaz Ayana has taken the female title.
Bolt, who bagged three golds for the third Olympic Games in a row in Rio earlier this year, claimed the track and field’s world governing body’s year-ending prize here on Friday ahead of Britain’s distance runner Mo Farah and South African Wayde van Niekerk, reports Xinhua.
The Jamaican nine-time Olympic champion of men’s 100 meters, 200m and 4X100m relay was previously named Athlete of the Year in 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013.
“It’s definitely a big deal,” Bolt told a press conference ahead of the evening’s awards gala held at Sporting Monte Carlo.
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“When you get to be athlete of the year, it means that all the hard work has paid off. So, if I can win it for a sixth year, it means as much as the first one,” the 30-year-old added.
His award was presented by International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) President Sebastian Coe, who sang high praise of the Jamaican, saying “there’s been nobody since Muhammad Ali who’s got remotely near to what this guy has done in terms of grabbing the public imagination.”
“I live for the moments when I walk into a stadium and I hear a loud roar and Rio was outstanding,” Bolt commented.
“One of the main reasons I’m continuing for another year is because of the fans; they don’t want me to retire. I have to give thanks to them.”
Ethiopia’s Ayana, who broke a 23-year-old record in the women’s 10,000m at the Rio Olympics, won the prize over Bolt’s countrywoman Elain Thompson, the 100 and 200m golds winner in Rio, and Poland’s Olympic hammer champion and world record holder Anita Wlodarczyk.
She became the third Ethiopian woman to win this award, following Genzebe Dibaba in 2015 and Meseret Defar in 2007.
Canada’s Rio 200m silver and 100m bronze medalist Andre De Grasse, 21, was named male rising star of the year, with Belgian Nafissatou Thiam, the heptathlon champion at the Rio Olympics, taking the women’s award.