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.”
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the American sprinters whose raised-fist salutes at the 1968 Olympics are an ageless sign of race-inspired protest, will join the U.S. Olympic team at the White House next week for its meeting with President Barack Obama.
Smith and Carlos were sent home from the Olympics after raising their black-gloved fists in a symbolic protest during the U.S. national anthem. They called it a “human rights salute.”
USOC CEO Scott Blackmun asked them to serve as ambassadors as the federation tries to bring more diversity to its own ranks. They will join the team at the White House next Wednesday, then later that evening at an awards celebration in Washington.
The sprinters have been referenced frequently in the recent protests, spurred by Colin Kaepernick, during national anthems at NFL games. One player, Marcus Peters of the Chiefs, raised his own black-gloved fist before Kansas City’s season opener.
“I think Tommie and John have played an important and positive role in the evolution of our attitudes about diversity and inclusion, not only in the United States but around the world,” Blackmun said Friday night at a dinner to celebrate the U.S. performance in Brazil this summer.
MORE: Usain Bolt says he received offers to play wide receiver in the NFL (video)
The men’s marathon world record has been broken five of the last nine years at the Berlin Marathon.
Kenya’s Wilson Kipsang, who broke the world record at the 2013 Berlin Marathon, believes that he can do it again on Sunday, when the race will stream live on the NBC Sports app beginning at 2:30 a.m. ET.
“I’ve trained well and, three years down the line from my world record here, I feel good and believe I have the potential to attempt the world record once more,” he said at today’s press conference, according to the IAAF. “Running at the top level, there is a lot of wear and tear on the body, especially when you are running for a time, but I am very focused on the world record.”
Kipsang clocked 2 hours, 3 minutes, 23 seconds when he broke the world record in 2013. A year later, fellow Kenyan Dennis Kimetto lowered it to 2:02:57 on the same course. Kimetto will not race in Berlin this year.
Kipsang will be challenged by Kenyan compatriot Emmanuel Mutai, who has the fastest time (2:03:13) in the field, and Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele.
Bekele is a three-time Olympic track champion and the 5000m and 10,000m world-record holder, but acknowledged that his marathon personal best of 2:05:04 places him a distant fourth in the field.
“I consider my personal best of 2:05 to be slow compared to the best runners,” he said. “I want to run as fast as I can on Sunday and beat my best.”
MORE: Berlin Marathon to live stream on NBC Sports app