By Mike Rowbottom in Monte Carlo

Usain Bolt_and_Sally_Pearson_Monte_Carlo_November_12_2011November 12 - Never before in the history of the IAAF's World Athlete of the Award has the prize gone to someone whose highest profile action in the year was to be disqualified from the World Championship 100 metres final for false-starting.

But then Usain Bolt, named here today as the International Association of Athletics Federations' male athlete of the year - with Australia's high hurdler Sally Pearson expressing her surprise at getting the female award for the first time - is unusual.

Of course Bolt, who took this accolade for the third time, famously made up for his high profile gaffe by winning the world 200m title in the 19.40sec, then the fastest performance of the year, and anchoring the Jamaican sprint relay team to a world record of 37.04.

The world and Olympic record holder rounded off his year by recording the fastest 100m time of 2011, 9.76, at the Samsung Diamond League meeting in Brussels.

"This season was a really trying season for me," said  the 25-year-old Jamaican, who won his final race of the season by holding off the two othe athletes shortlisted for the prize, Kenya's 800m world champion David Rudisha, and his 21-year-old training partner Yohan Blake, who won the 100m in his absence in Daegu and won the 200m in Brussels in 19.26sec, the second fastest time ever behind Bolt's world record of 19.19.

Among those who did not make the shortlist was Britain's Mo Farah, world silver and gold medallist at 10,000 and 5,000m respectively.

"I had to work really hard and stand up my game," Bolt added. 

"There were some close races this season.

"I really had to push myself.

"So this really means a whole lot to me."

Usain Bolt_with_2011_Athlete_of_the_Year_award
Pearson, who won the world 100m hurdles title in 12.28, the fastest time recorded in almost 20 years, had dominated her opposition all year, although a fall in Brussels meant she failed to secure the Diamond Race trophy.

"It was just such an honour for me to be in the top 10 this year," said Pearson, who held off final opposition from world 5000 and 10,000m champion Vivian Cheruyiot and New Zealand's world shot put champion Valerie Adams.

"It was a little surprising that I won.

"Vivian was a three-times world champion and Valerie just dominates every time she's out there. She's the role model athlete everyone should look up to."

Blake and Cheruyiot had the consolation of winning awards for Performance of the Year, while Rising Star awards went to Grenada's 19-year-old world 400m champion Kirani James and Germany's Christin Hussong, who won the world youth javelin title in Lille with a championship record.

The Coaching Lifetime Achievement award went to Kenya's John Velzian, while Alain Billouin of L'Equipe won the Journalist Lifetime Achievement Award.

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