Bolt, ‘Shelly’ top Golden Cleats
Though they weren't there to collect their male and female awards in person at Saturday night's sixth annual Scotiabank/JAAA annual Golden Cleats awards ceremony inside the Chinese Benevolent Association building (CBA) on Old Hope Road, track megastars Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce gushed with pride and expressed gratitude to organisers Scotiabank and Jamaicans, following their wins.
The decorated sprinters spoke via video recordings.
Sprint king Usain Bolt, who last won the award in 2013, upstaged the big shot putter, O'Dayne Richards, who had won the award in 2014.
Bolt won three gold medals at this year's IAAF World Championships, including the sprint double under trying circumstances due to injuries which limited his training time.
"For me it feels great and it makes me want to work even harder," he said. "What makes this win special for me ... it was a tough, trying season with lots of ups and downs. This one means a lot more because I put in a lot of hard work to get back to where I needed to be so I could win this award, so for me it's a big one," said Bolt.
He thanked his "coach, close teammates, friends and management team ... fans, the ones who stood by me through the season. I will try to do my best and try to continue conquering the world and just 'bigging up' Jamaica," he added.
Decorated female sprinter, Fraser-Pryce, who outclassed her 100m rivals at the Beijing World Championships' women's final, and who also copped the 4x100-metre gold medal, staved off stiff competition from hurdles World champion Danielle Williams and 200m silver medallist Elaine Thompson, among others.
"Winning the JAAA Golden Cleats Award, it's a wonderful feeling for me. It shows hard work and just being committed to what I set out to do in the year and being able to accomplish that and being rewarded for that accomplishment is wonderful, so I would like to say thank you to each and every one who voted for me to win this award," Fraser-Pryce noted. "I will be representing the country to the max."
Among other awardees were veteran MVP track and field coach, Stephen Francis, who is based at the University of Technology, for Coach of the Year, while Outstanding Performance of the Year went to the women's 4x400m gold medal winning team from the Beijing World Championships. Novlene Williams-Mills, Christine Day, Stephenie-Ann McPherson and Shericka Jackson were the members. The award was collected by Day.
The prestigious Howard Aris Award went to Edwin Allen High's Deamar Gayle, who excelled in a non-traditional event, where he dominated in the discus and shot put at the ISSA Boys and Girls' Champs, CARIFTA and Pan Am Games.
BEST YOUTH ATHLETE
Fifteen-year-old Christopher Taylor took the Best Youth Athlete of the Year Award for his dazzling 45.27 seconds at the World Youth Championships in Cali, Colombia, the fastest time ever in his age group.
Shanice Love of Excelsior High School won the Scotiabank-sponsored Howard Aris Scholarship, awarded to the Jamaican student-athlete with the top grade point average, and for being a discus bronze medallist at the Junior Pan Am Championships. The scholarship is valued at $250,000.
Scotiabank's vice-president of asset management, Lissant Mitchell, said: "Today we celebrate sport and more importantly our athletes. Let me just say what a pleasure it is to be associated with you. I am sure I speak on behalf of every Jamaican when I say you give me goosebumps every time. Each time you take the track, it is an euphoric experience that stops the entire country and leaves us all in a great frame of mind."