Jamaican sensation Usain Bolt and American Sanya Richards, who both dominated their respective event during the 2009 track and field season, were named IAAF world athletes of the year on Sunday.
Bolt, who was winning the prestigious award for the second year in a row, established world records in both the 100 metres and 200 metres with two sensational runs in the Berlin world championships in August.
“He has raised (his performances) to an unbelievable level,” International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) president Lamine Diack told a news conference, calling Bolt a brilliant runner in both his specialties.
“He brings a lot of prestige to our sport,” Diack said. “He is one of the best-known people on the planet.”
Richards, who previously won in 2006, described the honor as being on the same level with her Berlin victory, her first global title.
“I am going to be dancing all night,” the 24-year-old Richards said ahead of the IAAF’s annual gala.
With no Olympic or world title at stake, Bolt said his biggest goal in 2010 would be to go undefeated on the new Diamond League circuit.
The 23-year-old Jamaican is expected to face American world silver medalist Tyson Gay, the second-fastest 100 meters runner of all-time, at least three times with Jamaican compatriot Asafa Powell, the former world record holder, joining the pair in several races.
“With three great athletes in one race, anything is possible,” Bolt said.
“I am going to be hard to beat if I am in shape,” added the Olympic and world champion who did not lose a final in 2009. “But if I get beat, I would not be surprised.”
In the long term, Bolt said it would be important for him to defend his world and Olympic championships.
“I don’t consider myself a legend until I defend most of my titles,” he said.
Richards said Bolt was one of the reasons she finally won a global crown in the 400 meters.
“I realized when I watched Usain Bolt compete and a lot of the other athletes that had great success…(that they) were having so much fun,” Richards said.