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Jamaica's Usain Bolt edged fellow Olympic star Michael Phelps to win the international media's athlete of the year award. ((Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press))

In a clash of Olympic stars, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt edged American swimmer Michael Phelps to be voted the 2008 athlete of the year by the international media.

Olympic pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva took the top place as sportswoman of the year.

The only honour to buck the Olympic trend went to Spain's football squad, which was voted team of the year after winning the European Championship.

In a poll by the International Sports Press Association, journalists from 96 nations gave Bolt a narrow edge of 1673 points to 1557 over Phelps.

Bolt won a three gold medals, setting world records in the 100 and 200-metre races and the 400-metre relay to become the star of Beijing's Bird's Nest stadium.

In the Water Cube, Phelps was the outstanding star with a history-making eight gold medals in the pool for the United States.

In the wake of his thrilling victory over Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final, Spain's Rafael Nadal came third with 444 points.

He edged Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo, who had 401 points, and new Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton (275).

On the women's side, Isinbayeva was undefeated outdoors in 2008, defending her Olympic pole vault title in Beijing with one of her four world records this year.  

The Russian dominated the poll with 1723 points, way ahead of fellow athletic star Pamela Jelimo, of Kenya, who had 631.

Jelimo bolted out of nowhere this year to take Olympic gold in the 800 metres, and also collected the $1 million US Golden League jackpot by winning her event at all six participating meetings.