Lewis Hamilton may have found a last-lap burst to claim the 2008 Formula One title in dramatic style but, like so many Olympic hopefuls, the Briton had nothing for sprint king Usain Bolt when it came to the Laureus Academy's 'World Sportsman of the Year' nomination.

Hamilton was among several stars of last season - including MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi - left trailing as Olympic 100m and 200m champion Bolt received the award from fellow athletes Michael Johnson and Laureus World Sports Academy chairman Ed Moses on the eve of the Festival of Excellence track and field meet in Toronto.

The Jamaican became the first man in history to win the 100 metres, 200 metres and 4x100 metres relay gold medals (37.10secs) in world record times in the same Olympiad when he completed the hat-trick at last year's Beijing games. Having stunned the world with his 9.69secs run to 100m glory, Bolt's 200 metres time of 19.30secs broke the long-standing world record set by Laureus Academy member Johnson in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

"Usain's 100 metres in Beijing was the greatest sprinting performance I have ever seen, no doubt about it," Johnson said, "His arrival on the scene over the last two years has been explosive and he thoroughly deserves to be Laureus World Sportsman of the Year.

"Every now and then comes an athlete for the times and I believe Usain Bolt is that athlete. It happened for me in 1996, it happened with Carl Lewis in 1984 and Jesse Owens in 1936 - and now it is happening for Usain. He doesn't just want to win races and medals, he wants to test the limits of human ability. I am happy for him and I congratulate him on breaking my 200 metres world record.

"I can't say he's the greatest sprinter I've ever seen - yet. For him to be the greatest, he'll have to win gold at another Olympics or a World Championship, show some consistency and longevity. But there's no reason for me to think he can't do it."

Hamilton and Rossi were joined by Olympic swimming sensation Michael Phelps, Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal and Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo among those overshadowed by Bolt's achievements.

Sebastian Vettel remains a contender for Laureus' Breakthrough Award - won in 2008 by Hamilton - following his Italian GP victory with Scuderia Toro Rosso, as the Academy announces its winners one-by-one in deference to the global financial crisis, which it felt mitigated against the sort of single glitzy ceremony staged in recent years.


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