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Almaz Ayana, who won Olympic gold in the 10,000m in world record time and also won Olympic bronze and the Diamond Race in the 5000m came out on top of a field that included Jamaican Elaine Thompson who won Olympic gold in the 100m and 200m and silver in the 4x100m in Rio.
She was looking to become the third Jamaican to win the awards after Merlene Ottey in 1990 and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in 2013.
Hammer throw record holder and Olympic champion Anita Wlodarczyk from Poland was also among the female finalists.
The finalists were determined by a three-way voting process. The IAAF Council’s vote accounted for 50 per cent of the result, the IAAF Family’s vote accounted for 25 per cent and a public vote, conducted via social media, accounted for 25 per cent of the final result. Usain Bolt is also honored with his sixth IAAF award.
“This means a lot and I want to thank the fans who also voted. I do this for them, they keep me going. I know they don’t want me to retire, I know the [IAAF] president doesn’t want me to retire, but this is special,” Bolt said after receiving his award at the Salle Des Etoiles.
In what was seen by many as a toss up between himself and South Africa’s 400m Olympic champion and world record holder Wayde van Niekerk, Bolt came out on top to claim a record sixth Athlete of the Year award on the back of a triple gold medal return at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Bolt won the 100m and 200m and was part of Jamaica’s gold-grabbing 4x100m relay team which helped him to secure a historic third consecutive Olympic hat trick.
Van Niekerk, who clocked 43.03 to set a new one lap record had also gone below 10 seconds in the 100m to become the first athlete to run faster than 10 seconds for 100m, 20 seconds for 200m and 44 seconds for 400m.
The other male finalist was Great Britain’s Mo Farah, who returned to the Olympics to secure back-to-back 10,000m and 5000m titles.