David Rudisha, Blanka Vlasic honored
MONACO -- Kenyan 800-meter runner David Rudisha and Croatian high jumper Blanka Vlasic have won the IAAF World Athlete of the Year awards.
The 21-year-old Rudisha became the youngest athlete to ever win the award Sunday, succeeding Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt after breaking Wilson Kipketer's 13-year-old world record twice within eight days in August.
Bolt missed the latter part of the season because of tightness in his lower back and was not nominated.
Rudisha clocked 1 minute, 41.01 seconds in the two-lap race on Aug. 29 at the Rieti meeting, shaving 0.08 seconds off the mark he set in Berlin the week before.
"I knew when I broke the record there will be a possibility I would be rewarded with this award and it's now a dream come true," Rudisha said.
Kipketer of Denmark set the previous mark of 1:41.11 in 1997 in Cologne, Germany.
Vlasic won the world indoor championships and was also crowned European champion this year. She won 18 out of 20 competitions and posted a season best of 6 feet, 8 3/4 inches.
American 400-meter runner Sanya Richards won the women's award last year.
Rudisha and Vlasic, who both won the award for the first time, each defeated four other candidates on the short list voted on by nearly 1,800 athletes, officials and journalists.
Both will receive $100,000 checks, despite track and field's governing body pondering this week whether to cancel the bonuses because of its financial problems.
"I can guarantee they will receive their checks," IAAF president Lamine Diack told The Associated Press. "We need to make cuts but I decided today they will get paid, we won't touch the athletes' bonuses."
Rudisha would like to run the 800 in 1:40, but says his main goal will be to win a gold medal at the world championships next year then at the 2012 Olympics.
Kipketer said it's too early to say whether Rudisha will be the first man to go under the 1:40 barrier.
"The door is open for someone to run that time and I'm not putting the pressure on him because I think anybody can come along," Kipketer said. "In two years time we will see. There's young people coming now running 1:42 so is too early to say that."
Vlasic, the reigning world indoor and outdoor champion, said she struggled all season both mentally and physically.
"All my wins were victories against my weaknesses, against my demons and against the other girls," she said. "It was a fight against myself. Every time I enter a competition, I want to give 100 percent because sports is all about winning. Winning is one of my basic instincts and sometimes it's exhausting."
Vlasic has failed in all her attempts to match the world record of 6-10 1/4 set 23 years ago by Stefka Kostadinova.
"It's very hard, very high, but not impossible," Vlasic said. "It's like a perfect pair of shoes in a store when you are a child. They are there, they look so nice and you want them so much. But some day, you know, you'll have the opportunity to buy them."
Vlasic said she will not compete this winter and will skip the whole indoor season as part of her preparations for the 2011 world championships at Daegu, South Korea.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press