Nov 24, 2012, 4:57 PM EDT
World record sprinter Usain Bolt was named the IAAF world athlete of the year Saturday in Barcelona, beating out American hurdler Aries Merritt and Kenyan distance runner David Rudisha, who both won gold in London. It was the fourth time in five years that the Jamaican took home the honor.
“I really worked hard and I was really focused this year,” Bolt said of his season. “This season was one of my toughest. I had my ups and downs, even though we don’t like to talk about them.”
The other two men didn’t leave empty-handed, though: Merritt earned the Inspiration award after winning gold in the most competitively 110m hurdle field in history, and then breaking the event’s world record a month later at a Diamond League meet.
Rudisha, who was the only other athlete to win top honors over the last five years when he took it in 2010, earned the performance of the year award for becoming the first person to ever dip below 1:41 in the 800m.
American sprinter Allyson Felix earned female athlete of the year honors after she won the 200m and ultimately took home three gold medals from London. She beat out British heptathlete Jessica Ennis and New Zealand shot putter Valerie Adams.
“My biggest defeats have come at the Olympic Games,” Felix, who finished with silver in the Athens and Beijing 200m races, explained. “But I decided to rededicate myself even harder and it was a blessing in disguise. I was able to work harder than ever before and finally it all came together.”
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