MONACO Jamaican Usain Bolt and Australian Sally Pearson were named Athletes of the Year by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) on Saturday.
Bolt, winning the award for the third time, bounced back from disqualification for false starting in the world 100 meters final to retain his 200m title, before anchoring Jamaica to win the 4x100m relay in a world record time.
Pearson enjoyed a phenomenal season, winning 15 of 16 races and taking the world 100m hurdles title in 12.28 seconds, the fastest time in 19 years.
Bolt beat compatriot and 100m world champion Yohan Blake, along with Kenyan David Rudisha, to the award, while Pearson pipped Kenyan world 5,000 and 10,000m champion Vivian Cheruiyot and world shot put champion Valerie Adams of New Zealand.
Bolt was in less dominant form this year after returning from a back injury that ended his 2010 season, but still clocked the fastest 100m of the season (9.76secs) in Brussels on September 16, the same night that Blake ran the second fastest 200m of all time - second only to the Olympic champion.
Blake's superb run in the Belgian capital earned him male performance of the year.
"This season was a really trying one for me, I really had to work hard and step up my game," Bolt told a news conference before heading to an IAAF gala to receive his award.
"There were some close races. I really had to push myself -- there were some ups and downs throughout the season. For me this one (award) means a lot, I'm really proud of myself."
Pearson, 25, is the first Australian to win the award since it was introduced in 1988.
Her Daegu run made her the fourth fastest woman of all time over 100m hurdles, but the 2008 Olympic silver medalist said she could improve.
"I'm quite a perfectionist when it comes to my technique, there are quite a few things I can improve on," she said.
"You can never be truly happy with a race until you have won an Olympic gold medal, and that's what I want to do next year."
(Editing by Stephen Wood)