Usain Bolt, Yelena Isinbayeva win Athlete of the Year awards

The Associated Press ~ staff The News
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MONTE CARLO, Monaco Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt and Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva won the IAAF World Athlete of the Year awards on Sunday.

Bolt set world records in the 100 and 200 metres at the Beijing Games in August, and his third gold medal came in Jamaicas 400 relay, also a world record. He is the first man to win the three Olympic events in a single games since Carl Lewis in 1984.

Isinbayeva successfully defended her Olympic title and remained undefeated in outdoor competitions in 2008.

I have a motto that anything is possible, said Bolt, wearing a tuxedo and bow tie and accompanied by his parents at the ceremony. But this really is such an honour. Just to be included with every great name in the sport is wonderful.

American sprinters Michael Johnson and Lewis and Moroccan middle-distance runner Hicham El-Guerrouj are among the past winners.

Bolt will be remembered for his archer-like signature victory pose, and for running 9.69 seconds in the 100 final to break the world record mark despite easing off 15 metres from the finish line and beating his chest in joy.

By contrast, the Jamaican had to run to the line to beat Johnsons 200 mark by two hundredths of a second, crossing in 19.30.

Isinbayeva cleared 5.05 metres in Beijing to set her 24th career world record and retain the Olympic title.

This year has been like a dream come true, said Isinbayeva, who also won the award in 2004 and 05. This award is the perfect way to end 2008.

Cuban hurdler Dayron Robles and Ethiopian long-distance runner Kenenisa Bekele were the other contenders in the mens category, while Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia and Kenyan teenager Pamela Jelimo were nominated on the womens side.

All the contenders won Olympic gold and achieved extraordinary feats: Robles broke the world record in the 110 hurdles, Jelimo collected the US$1 million Golden League jackpot, and Bekele and Dibaba remained undefeated throughout 2008.

Robles won the mens Performance of the Year award for running 12.87 to set a world record in June in Ostrava, Czech Republic.

Dibaba and Czech javelin thrower Barbora Spotakova shared the womens award.

Dibaba ran 14:11.15 to smash the world record in the 5,000 by more than five seconds in Oslo in June, while Spotakova threw 72.28 metres in Stuttgart in September to improve the world mark by 58 centimetres.

Organizations: Beijing Games, Golden League

Geographic location: MONTE CARLO, Monaco, Czech Republic Beijing Ethiopia Ostrava Oslo Stuttgart

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