Usain Bolt has won the IAAF World Athlete of the Year for a record sixth time ©Getty Images

Usain Bolt earned a record sixth World Athlete of the Year award here tonight after acknowledging the efforts by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to reform itself in the wake of the scandal that has beset the sport within the last year.

Speaking before the awards ceremony, where he was overwhelming favourite to win ahead of challengers Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa and the absent Mo Farah of Great Britain, the 30-year-old nine-times Olympic sprint gold medallist responded to a question about tomorrow's crucial Special Congress vote by saying: "I know that Seb Coe is trying to make track and field more transparent to everyone so they can see what shape it is in and to make sure there is not one person fully in control.

"That’s a big move from him as IAAF President. 

"That’s also helped the sport to make people more confident and to trust the sport more."

Speaking of the award, which he last won for a fifth time in 2013, Bolt added: "For me it is definitely a big deal - when you get athlete of the year it means all the hard work has paid off. 

"Trying to win it for a sixth time means a lot to me, because other athletes work hard, and they have to build the sport also.

"If I can win it for a sixth year it definitely means as much as the first one."

Coe commented: "Usain dazzled us, his unique Olympic treble making history for the third time."

The women's award was claimed by Ethiopia's Almaz Ayana, winner of the Olympic 10,000 metres this year in a world record of 29min 17.45sec, eclipsing the 23-year-old mark set by China's Wang Junxia.

Winner of the first IAAF President's Award was Kenya's former marathon world record holder Tegla Loroupe, the inspiration behind and the Chef de Mission for the Refugees Olympic Team at Rio 2016.

Bolt announced earlier this week that next year would mark his last season as an athlete and that he would only be doing the 100m and 4x100m as he targeted final global golds at the IAAF World Championships in London.

Ethiopia's Almaz Ayana won the 2016 female IAAF World Athlete of the Year ©Getty Images
Ethiopia's Almaz Ayana won the 2016 female IAAF World Athlete of the Year ©Getty Images

Asked here if, like the swimmer Michael Phelps, he could see himself coming back from retirement for Tokyo 2020 to add further Olympic golds to the nine he currently owns, he was adamant.

"No," he said. 

"I am never going to do that.

"I discussed this with my coach, and he told me: ‘Do not retire and come back’. 

"That was why he always said to make sure and take it a year at a time, to make sure I’m ready.

"Most athletes that leave the sport and come back - it never goes well.

"If you leave track and field and put weight on, and do no form of running - to come back two years later and compete again is not going to be the same."

Asked to name the race that was most special to him, Bolt cited the IAAF World Junior Championships that took place in his native Kingston in 2002, where he earned the 200m title as a 15-year-old running against opponents who were more than two years older than him.

"That was the beginning in Jamaica 2002, in front of all the country, the first step in my career," he said.

"For me, that was the biggest step. 

"But I also enjoyed winning the 4x100m at the [2008] Beijing Olympics."

Asked if he had any regrets, the man whose world 100m and 200m records of 9.58sec and 19.19sec, set in 2009 while winning world titles in Berlin, remain unbeaten admitted that he regarded his failure to better 19 seconds in his favourite event of the 200m was the nearest to it.

"That is probably the only thing, I wouldn’t say regret, but something I missed out on… for me it was something that was possible, could be possible, but I missed out," he said.

Kenya's Tegla Loroupe was winner of the first IAAF President's Award ©Getty Images
Kenya's Tegla Loroupe was winner of the first IAAF President's Award ©Getty Images

Recalling his disappointment that he had not managed to break the 19 seconds barrier at Rio 206, despite retaining his title, he said: "In my mind I genuinely thought I could run under 19 seconds until I came round that corner and my legs decided I couldn’t do anything about that."

Asked if he could understand the decision to retire announced today by the newly-installed Formula One world champion Nico Rosberg, Bolt’s initial reaction was to say that he did not. 

However, he added: "But if you have accomplished all you wanted to accomplish, if you reach your goal, then I can understand."

Bolt denied that he had considered a similar announcement himself, saying that he always wanted to push on to Rio 2016 in order, as he has said in the past, to make himself "a legend".

That status is now assured, whether or not he is able to steer himself through to London without suffering injury. 

That, rather than any more world records, is uppermost in his mind.

Meanwhile, the 24-year-old South African Van Niekerk seemed ready to accept the fact that the Athlete of the Year award might not be heading his way despite the fact that he had broken the world 400m world record from the outside lane in an Olympic final.

"I saw something on social media the other day, ‘Usain Bolt is the king of sprints, and Wayde van Niekerk is the prince,'" he said. 

"That was definitely a feelgood moment for myself."