Tue, Nov 14, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Powell, Richards get top awards

QUICK TAKE Record-breakers Asafa Powell and Sanya Richards were honored as the World Athletes of the Year in recognition of their performances during the 2006 season


Jamaican sprinter Asafa Powell and American 400m runner Sanya Richards were named World Athletes of the Year by the IAAF on Sunday.

Powell won the men's title after twice equaling his world record of 9.77 seconds in the 100m, while Richards broke the longstanding American 400m record held by Valerie Brisco.

"Last year I wanted to win this title but I didn't because I got injured," Powell said.

"I'm thankful to get this award," he added. "It is a major accomplishment to realize that people recognize the hard work that I put in the sport and they actually vote for me."

Powell and Richards earned US$100,000 each.

Having set the world record in June last year in Athens, Greece, Powell equaled it in June at the British Grand Prix in Gateshead, England, and again in August at the Weltklasse in Zurich, Switzerland.

"Zurich is definitely the best memory of my 2006 season. It's a race that I won't forget," Powell said. "Brussels is also another good moment ... it would have been another World record if I hadn't had such a bad start."

Powell timed 9.99 at Brussels' Van Damme Memorial in August.

"Maybe that was the fastest I have ever ran over the last 90 meters," he said at the time.

In September, world silver medalist Richards clocked 48.70 seconds at the Athens World Cup, beating Brisco's mark of 48.83 at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

"I was so excited when I found out that I was the Athlete of the Year," Richards said.

"This is more than just the icing on the cake," she said.

In the last two years, Richards has won Olympic gold in the 4x400 relay and earned the world No. 1 ranking.

Breaking the US record wasn't on Richards' mind at the time.

"I actually thought it wasn't going to happen this year," she said.

Richards is coached by Clyde Hart, who also trained Michael Johnson -- the first man to win Olympic gold in the 200 and 400 in 1996.

Richards has set her sights on the 200-400 Olympic double in Beijing in 2008. That feat has only been achieved by Brisco in 1984 and France's Marie-Jose Perec in Atlanta in 1996.

There were six nominees in total for the two awards, which were judged by a special jury of IAAF members.

Joining Powell on the men's list were Lithuanian discus thrower Virgilijus Alekna -- the two-time world and Olympic champion -- and hurdler Liu Xiang (劉翔) of China.

Richards won the women's title over Jamaican sprinter Sherone Simpson and Ethiopian distance runner Meseret Defar, the Olympic champion in 5,000m.

Liu won the IAAF performance of the year with a new 110m world record of 12.88 at the Super Grand Prix in Lausanne in July. It was .03 better than the time he ran to win gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Defar's 5,000m world record of 14 minutes, 24.53 seconds at the Reebok Grand Prix in New York in June earned her the women's performance of the year.

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