Sprinting sensation, Usain Bolt, was yesterday (June 11), named the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year, for his exploits at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
The presentation was made at the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto, Canada, by Laureus World Sports Academy Chairman, Dr. Edwin Moses, and Laureus Academy member, Michael Johnson.
“It says something about the sporting qualities of our winner that he has beaten a man who won eight gold medals in one Olympic Games – that’s truly remarkable,” said Dr. Moses, referring to American swimmer Michael Phelps, who was one of the contenders for the award.
“And to beat the other competitors, this year’s winner has had to be something special and he really is,” added Dr. Moses, the former 400-metre hurdler, who is credited with the longest winning streak in athletic history, winning 122 consecutive races between 1977 and 1987.
Accepting the award, Usain said it was a great honour. “I will cherish this award, but I don’t think there will be a sixth man getting this award until I retire,” he jokingly said.
A very happy Usain Bolt doing his signature pose, moments after receiving the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year award, in Canada, on June 11.
Mr. Johnson, described as the “greatest 400-metre runner of all times and one of the greatest 200-metre runners ever,” said the men’s 100-metre race in Beijing was the single most impressive athletic performance he has ever witnessed.
“Every now and then comes an athlete for the times and I believe the time is now for Usain Bolt. It was my time in 1996, Carl Lewis in 1984, and Jesse Owens in 1936. Usain’s arrival on the scene two years ago has been explosive and he is certainly deserving of the World Sportsman of the Year award,” said Johnson, whose 200-metre world record remained unbroken for 12 years until Usain broke it at the 2008 Olympics.
Charmaine Crooks, former member of the Canadian athletic team, said the Laureus Sports Awards are the most prestigious awards in sports.
“The winners are selected by the ultimate sports jury – the 46 members of the Laureaus Sports Academy – which is a remarkable collection of some of the world’s greatest sporting men and women legends,” she said.
Last week the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year award was presented to Russian pole vault champion, Yelena Isinbayeva. Other Laureus world awards will be given out in different countries over the next few weeks to the team of the year, breakthrough of the year, comeback of the year, sports person of the year with a disability, and action sportsperson of the year.
Usain was in Toronto to take part in the University of Toronto’s Festival of Excellence athletic meet, which took place on June 11 at Varsity Centre. He won the 100-metre race at the meet in 10 seconds flat.