Six-times Olympic champion Usain Bolt of Jamaica has been announced as the first name on the longlist for the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) men’s Athlete of the Year award following the closure of the opening round of voting.
Bolt successfully defended his 100 metres and 200m titles, as well as being part of the Jamaica team to retain their 4x100m crown, at the World Championships in Beijing in August, and has amassed the most votes in the sprinting category.
The Jamaican sprint king, widely regarded as the best athlete in history, came into the event in the Chinese capital with convicted doping cheat Justin Gatlin of the United States as the favourite to snatch his titles away from him.
But he was once again in stellar form, beating the American in the 100m before clocking a world-leading time of 19.55sec to win gold in the 200m as he finished the competition having increased his personal World Championships total to 17.
Reigning world 200m champion Dafne Schippers of The Netherlands is the sprint nomination for the women’s award following a hugely-successful year, which also included silver in the 100m race in Beijing.
She clocked a European record time of 21.36 to reign supreme in the 200m, while her effort of 10.81 in the 100m was the quickest-ever by a Dutchwoman.
In October, the IAAF family, which includes IAAF Council members, Member Federations and IAAF Committee and Commission members, were asked to choose nine men and nine women to form the longlist for the awards.
Athletes will be selected from nine categories - sprints, hurdles, middle and long distance, road running, race walking, jumps, throws, combined events and multi-terrain - with further nominees set to be confirmed over the coming days.
The nominations will then be whittled down to three men and three women, which will be selected by a list of experts, comprising of representatives from all six continental areas of world athletics’ governing body.
From those finalists, the Council of the International Athletics Foundation (IAF) will select the male and female World Athletes of the Year.
The awards will be presented at the IAF's World Athletics Gala in Monaco on November 28.
This year’s awards will not be open to athletes who have had serious doping suspensions, such as Gatlin, the twice-sanctioned sprinter whose shortlisting last year caused a huge outcry and prompted a boycott from another nominated athlete, Germany’s Olympic discus champion Robert Harting.
Bolt has already won the men's prize five times, but last year it went to French pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie.
New Zealand's shot putter Valerie Adams won the 2014 women's award.
October 2015: IAAF avoids repeat of 2014 Gatlin award controversy by ruling out serious doping offenders
November 2014: Lavillenie and Adams voted IAAF World Athletes of the Year
October 2014: Serial drugs cheat Gatlin fails to make final three for IAAF World Athlete of the Year award
October 2014: Coe has "big problems" with Gatlin's IAAF award nomination
October 2014: Harting asks IAAF to remove him from World Athlete of the Year shortlist in protest at Gatlin nomination