Series16 Nov 2019

Fab five: multiple winners of the World Athlete of the Year award


Sanya Richards-Ross and Usain Bolt with their 2009 Athlete of the Year awards (© Getty Images)

Ahead of the World Athletics Awards 2019, we toast a special quintet of athletes from yesteryear who have all enjoyed great success at the glittering annual event.


Usain Bolt

2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2016

Usain Bolt with his 2013 IAAF World Athlete of the Year award


It is no surprise the most successful athlete in the 31-year history of the athlete of the year awards is the incomparable Usain Bolt.

The Jamaican sprint icon who transcended the sport like no other grabbed the Male World Athlete of the Year trophy on six occasions – 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2016. As a measure of his excellence, during those six years he won eight Olympic golds medals, eight world titles and broke seven world records.


Sanya Richards-Ross

2006, 2009

Sanya Richards-Ross with her 2006 Athlete of the Year award


The US one-lap star enjoyed an outstanding career and was rewarded with Female World Athlete of the Year trophies in 2006 and 2009.

Unbeaten outdoors over 400m throughout 2006, Richards-Ross set the fastest time for the 400m distance for 10 years with a North American record of 48.70 on her way to victory at the World Athletics Final in Athens.

In 2009 she was no less impressive, striking World Championship gold and recording two sub-49-second clockings during another dominant year.


Hicham El Guerrouj

2001, 2002, 2003

Hicham El Guerrouj with his 2003 Athlete of the Year award


At his best, the Moroccan middle-distance maestro was a near invincible force. From 2001 to 2003, when he collected a hat trick of Male World Athlete of the Year prizes, El Guerrouj lost just twice, both over the 5000m, a distance where he was a relative novice.

In that period he swept to successive world outdoor 1500m titles in 2001 and 2003 (to add to his world crowns in 1997 and 1999) and snared the 2001 world indoor 3000m title.


Carl Lewis

1988, 1991

Carl Lewis receives the Athlete of the Century award


The winner of the inaugural Male World Athlete of the Year award in 1988, the US sprint/jump superstar banked a second trophy three years later.

A triple gold medallist at the Seoul Olympics with victory in the men’s 100m, long jump and 4x100m, Lewis was also a star at the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo, taking gold medals with world records in both the 100m and 4x100m and also claiming silver in that epic men’s long jump final in which Mike Powell set a world record.

In 1999 Lewis was also honoured with the Male Athlete of the Century Award.


Michael Johnson

1996, 1999

Michael Johnson with his 1999 Athlete of the Year award


Michael Johnson secured the 1996 Male World Athlete of the Year award on the back of an outstanding year. At the US Trials in June he set a world 200m record of 19.66 before going on to make history as the first man to compete the 200m and 400m double at the Olympic Games, obliterating his 200m world record with a 19.32 clocking in Atlanta.

In 1999 he earned a second athlete of the year award after lowering the 11-year-old world 400m record with a 43.18 mark to win the world title in Seville.


Steve Landells for World Athletics