Jamaican sprint icon Usain Bolt and Australia's Sally Pearson, the World 100m hurdles champion, were named athletes of the year by athletics' governing body, the IAAF here on Saturday.

Bolt, the Olympic 100 metres champion, wins the award for the third time after being honoured in 2008 and 2009.

This year the 25-year-old notably retained his 200m crown at the World championships in Daegu where he also helped Jamaica defend the 4x100m relay in a new world record time of 37.04sec.

In South Korea Bolt, however, squandered his chance to defend his world 100m crown when he was disqualified from the final for a false start, allowing compatriot Yohan Blake to succeed him.

“This season was a really trying one for me, I really had to work hard and up my game,” said Bolt.

“There were some close races this season, I really had to push myself. So this (award) really means a whole lot to me. Because I really came out there hard this year, and all the hard work I put in paid off.”

It was in Daegu that Pearson, 25, produced the fourth fastest time in history, and the fastest in 19 years, for the women's hurdles event which she dominated in a time of 12.21sec.

She becomes the first athlete from Oceania to be honoured as such by the IAAF since the awards were introduced in 1988.

Although Pearson won 10 of her 11 competitions and produced seven of the season's quickest 11 performances she said she was surprised to win the award.

“It was just such an honour to be in the top ten this year,” said Pearson, who like Bolt was a World Youth champion in 2003.

“To be able to win this for my country and for my region Oceania means a lot and hopefully will inspire junior athletes to stay in athletics.

“It was a little surprising that I won,” added Pearson, who paid tribute to co-finalists Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya and New Zealand's Valerie Adams.

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

Both athletes will pick up cheques for $100,000.

Other award winners at the ceremony included Blake, who was feted for his 19.26s-run — the second fastest 200m performance in history — at the ‘Memorial van Damme' Diamond League final in Brussels.

Cheruiyot also won a prize for her 5,000-10,000m double gold haul at the Daegu championships, a feat achieved only once before, by Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia in the 2005 Worlds.

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