Australian hurdler Sally Pearson, the 2011 world female athlete of the year award winner, has called New Zealander and fellow nominee Valerie Adams a "role model athlete".
Pearson won the award over shortlisted nominees Adams and Kenyan long-distance runner Vivian Cheruiyot.
Pearson, 25, dominated the women's 100m hurdles this year, winning 10 of her 11 competitions while producing seven of the season's quickest 11 performances. The highlight was her sensational 12.28secs effort in taking the world title, making her the fourth fastest woman in history with the fastest performance in nearly two decades.
"It was just such an honour to be in the top 10 this year," said 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.
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"It was a little surprising that I won," Pearson said. "Vivian was a three-time world champion and Valerie just dominates every time she's out there. She's the role model athlete everyone should look up to."
Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt won the men's award for the third time. Also aged 25, Bolt successfully defended his title in the 200m at the World Championships in Daegu clocking 19.40, the second fastest performance of the year. He was disqualified from the 100m due to a false start but concluded the championships by anchoring a Jamaican quartet to a 37.04 world record in the 4x100m relay and ended the season undefeated in four 200m races. He was also the 2011 world leader in the 100m at 9.76, and won five of his six races over the distance.
"This season was a really trying season for me, I really had to work hard and stand up my game," said Bolt, who was also named athlete of the year in 2008 and 2009.
"There were some close races this season, I really had to push myself. 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."
Bolt and Pearson were awarded their trophies at a gala evening in Monaco.