The extraordinary nature of Sally Pearson's victory in the 100m hurdles at the world championships has been acknowledged with the honour of becoming the first Australian to be elected athlete of the year.

The Queenslander won gold in Daegu in 12.28 seconds, the fastest time in 19 years and one which moved her to fourth on the all-time list.

It was enough for the sport's world governing body, the IAAF, to acclaim her as their female athlete of the year at a gala function in Monte Carlo on Saturday night.

The men's award went to Jamaican super sprinter Usain Bolt for the third time in four years.

The other women's finalists were world 5000m and 10,000m champion Vivian Cheruiyot from Kenya and New Zealand's shot put supremo Valerie Adams.

"It was such an honour to be in the top ten this year," said the 25-year-old Pearson.

"To be able to win this for my country and for my region, Oceania, means a lot and hopefully will inspire junior athletes to stay in athletics.

"Obviously this is the pinnacle awards for athletics and when I was very young I always watched what these awards were all about, and wondering how to become the best athlete in the world.

"Then all of a sudden I'm standing up there receiving the award and it's pretty spectacular and I hope I can do it more times than this."

Pearson and Bolt - who were also both world youth champions in 2003 - each earned prizemoney of $US100,000 ($A98,800).

The Australian's only defeat of an all-conquering 2011 campaign in the 100m hurdles came in her final race in Brussels when she fell after hitting a barrier.

Pearson's season-long dominance of her pet event - best encapsulated by her remarkable winning margin of 0.19 seconds in the world championships final - should see her enter the London Olympics as the short-priced gold medal favourite.

Bulgarian Yordanka Donkova's 23-year-old world record of 12.21 is also seemingly now well within her reach.

Pearson's triumph came less than 24 hours after her hometown of the Gold Coast won the right to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

"It's still seven years away and we have a lot of work to do but I think we will pull off one of the best Commonwealth Games," she said.

"So it's very special for me being in my hometown but seven years is a long time for an athlete to train."

Bolt, who was also voted male athlete of the year by the IAAF in 2008 and 2009, won gold medals in the 200m and 4x100m at the world titles in South Korea.

He was also famously disqualified for false starting in the 100m final which was won by compatriot Yohan Blake, who was second in Saturday's poll.

"There were some close races this season, I really had to push myself," said Bolt.

"So this award really means a whole lot to me.

"Because I really came out there hard this year, and all the hard work I put in paid off."

The West Australian

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