Barcelona, Spain - Usain Bolt (JAM) and Allyson Felix (USA) were today named the Male and Female World Athletes of the Year for 2012.
Bolt, who won the award for the fourth time, and Felix, a first-time winner, received their trophies and US$100,000 prize at the Athletes of the YearAwards Ceremony this afternoon in the Grand Ballroom of the Pullman Skipper Hotel, ahead of this evening’s IAAF Centenary Gala Show in the MNAC Museum.
The awards were hosted by International Athletic Foundation (IAF) Honorary President HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco and IAF & IAAF President Lamine Diack, who presented the trophies to the Female and Male winners respectively.
Usain Bolt, 26, the World Athlete of the Year in 2008, 2009 and 2011, successfully defended both his 100m and 200m titles at the Olympic Games in London, clocking 9.63 and 19.32 respectively, both the fastest times in the World this year. He concluded his Olympic appearance by anchoring a Jamaican quartet to a 36.84 World record in the 4x100m Relay. He won six out of seven competitions in the 100m, and three of four in the 200m.
“This means a lot to me as this was one of my hardest years,” said Bolt. “My coach doesn’t want us to discuss injuries, so I didn’t talk about it, so this means a lot.”
Allyson Felix, 27, following World 200m titles in 2005, 2007 and 2009, won the Olympic 200m title in London and was part of the gold medal-winning 4x100m and 4x400m Relay teams to become the first woman since 1988 to win three gold medals at a single Olympic Games.
The victorious 4x100m Relay quartet in London clocked a 40.82 World record. Her 21.69 victory in the 200m at the U.S. Olympic Trials was the fastest in the world this year and made Felix the fourth fastest woman in history.
“It is pretty much one of the coolest awards I’ve ever received,” Felix said. “Winning it means you are at the top of your sport, which is something we all strive for. To finally reach the goal during the journey of a long career is very special.”
MALE PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR
Presenter – Peter Snell
David Rudisha (KEN) – 1:40.91 800m World record at the Olympic Games in London.
FEMALE PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR
Presenter – Ed Moses
USA Olympic 4x100m Relay – 40.82 World record at the Olympic Games in London.
In what will likely be remembered as one the finest performances ever at an Olympic Games, Rudisha broke his own World record with a stunning solo performance, clocking 1:40.91 in the London final. Running at the head of the field virtually from the outset, the 2010 Athlete of the Year broke his own 1:41.01 record set in Rieti, Italy two years earlier. In London’s he did so without a pacemaker in a display that London LOCOG President and IAAF Vice President Sebastian Coe, himself a former World 800m record holder, described as one of “supreme physical and mental confidence”.
Speaking of the London final, Rudisha said, “I was confident that I was going to win, so I wanted to do something special. I was thinking maybe 1:41, but then I broke the World record.”
“This was a very competitive year – Usain Bolt’s three gold medals, Mo Farah’s two gold medals. So I am very happy to win this award.”
Just a day after Rudisha’s record-breaking heroics in London, the USA quartet of Tianna Madison, Allyson Felix, Bianca Knight and Carmelita Jeter clocked a jaw-dropping 40.82 performance in the 4x100m Relay final, to improve the previous mark by a massive 0.55 seconds, the biggest ever improvement on the World record in the history of the event. Their collective effort brought down what was then the third oldest women’s World record which had been set by the Democratic Republic of Germany on 6 October 1985.
“I had no idea we had that category of nomination, I actually thought we were here just simply to support Allyson (Felix),” a delighted Knight said. “I’m definitely happy about the award. It is one of the biggest awards I’ve ever won. Here today it is definitely an honour to receive it.”
Speaking of the quartet’s historic shattering of the 41-second barrier, Knight added, “It hasn’t sunk in yet.”
“It was pretty close to being a perfect race!” Felix said. “We trusted each other in getting the stick around and we just had fun. We’re still letting it all sink in and we still can’t believe the performance.”
“I think that we belong together now, and with the World Championships coming up I hope we’ll compete together again. There’s a possibility that it might not be the same four, but what we did in London, we’ll never forget that.”
IAAF INSPIRATIONAL AWARD
Presenter – Kip Keino
Aries Merritt (USA)
After producing a string of seven sub-13 second performances, which included a 12.92 run to capture Olympic gold in London, Merritt struck again at the Samsung Diamond League final in Brussels when he shattered the World record with a stunning 12.80 performance. The 27-year-old’s run knocked a 0.07 second chunk from the previous mark set four years ago. Merritt, who raced to the World junior title in 2004, also won the 60m Hurdles at the World Indoor Championships in March.
“I think winning the Olympics was the most inspirational moment of my season,” said Merritt, “especially for my country as the USA hadn’t won the Olympic title in the 110m Hurdles for 16 years, so bringing it back to American soil was very inspirational to the future generation of hurdlers.”
MALE RISING STAR AWARD
Presenter – Jan Zelezny
Keshorn Walcott (TRI)
FEMALE RISING STAR AWARD
Presenter – Marie-José Pérec
Antonique Strachan (BAH)
Walcott 19, produced one of the biggest upsets at the Olympic Games with his shock victory in the Javelin Throw. With a national record throw of 84.58m, he became only the second athlete to win both World Junior and Olympic titles in the same year.
“This has been a fantastic year,” said Walcott. “Back in January, my only target was winning at the World Juniors Championships. I thought I would win an Olympic medal one day, but not so soon. Sometimes it’s still hard to believe everything that has happened.”
Strachan, 19, became the first woman in six years to win the 100m/200m sprint double at the World Junior Championships. Both her 11.20 and 22.53 performances were personal bests – the latter an Area Junior record – and she later reached the Olympic semi-finals.
“I’m stunned,” the teenager said. “I didn’t know anything about getting the Award. I thought I had been invited here to Barcelona to watch and be inspired. Allyson Felix said that she got the Female Rising Athlete of Year nine years ago, so I now have as my target to emulate here and come back to the gala in nine years’ time and be the Female World Athlete of the Year.”
WORLD JOURNALIST AWARD
Presenter – Sebastian Coe
Elias Makori (KEN)
Makori has covered athletics for 20 years, first for the East African Standard and since 1993 for the Nation Media Group, where he currently works as the Sports Editor for one of Africa’s leading English language dailies, the Daily Nation. Choosing to devote much of his career to coverage of track and field, Makori has covered the full spectrum of IAAF World Championship events, the last two Olympic Games, and has worked for several of the world’s leading marathons. Makori has served as an officer for several national, regional and continental professional organisations, and has been a member of the IAAF Press Commission since 2007. [Click here for CV.]
COACHING LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Presenter – Sergey Bubka
Glen Mills (JAM)
Mills, 63, served as the Jamaican national coach from 1987 to 2009, having overseen athletes to 71 World championship and 33 Olympic medals. He currently oversees the Racers Track Club which includes World and Olympic champion and record holder Usain Bolt and 100m World champion Yohan Blake. Mills was named NACAC Coach of the Year in 2008. [Click here for CV.]
MALE MASTER ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Presenter – Dahlan Al Hamad
Rob Lida (USA)
FEMALE MASTER ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Presenter – Robert Hersh
Lynn Ventris (AUS)
Lida, M 75, began his career at the University of Kansas in the 1950s, and hasn’t stopped since. In 2012 he established five World Masters Best including the M 75 indoor 60m, 200m and 400m; and the m75 outdoor 100m and 200m. He is also a member of relays teams which currently hold four world records.
“This is incredible, not only to win this Award but to be here at the Centenary and rub shoulders with the stars of the past and present,” said Lida. “It’s a thrill to share a stage with the likes of Usain Bolt and Allyson Felix but also to meet many of the people who were my heroes in the 1960s when I was running at the University of Kansas like Peter Snell.”
Ventris, W 55, set 11 World Masters Bests in 2012 and won two titles at the WMA Indoor Championships. Four of those records came in the 10Km Race Walk and two in the 3000m Race Walk on the track.
“I had a sneaking feeling I might be winning the Award as I won it last year and Barcelona is a long way from Australia,” Ventris said. “I’m very proud that the IAAF are honouring not just me but race walking.”
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