In its 10th year as one of the most highly regarded sporting awards in the world, the Laureus Group has taken the honorable decision to drop its usual awards ceremony in acknowledgement of the current international economic situation.
Chairman of the Laureus World Sports Academy, Edwin Moses, has announced that it would be inappropriate to stage a full-scale event along the lines of last year’s in St. Petersburg, Russia, focusing instead on support for the activities of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation.
“Our main priority, as always, is to continue to ensure that nothing impacts on the Foundation’s work and funding in the future. All our energies and resources will be focused on that goal.”
Laureus comprises the Laureus World Sports Academy, the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation and the Laureus World Sports Awards. Its declared aim is to use the power of sport to help tackle pressing social challenges through a programme of sports-related community development initiatives.
In 2008, the Foundation received record funds of almost €8 million which support almost 70 projects around the world that use sport as a means of helping disadvantaged young people.
The winners of this year's awards, who have just been announced, will receive their awards individually at a series of presentations during May and June.
The nominations, for what are regarded by many as the top awards in the sporting calendar, are made by a selection panel of the world's leading sports editors, writers and broadcasters from over 120 countries.
The members of the Laureus World Sports Academy then vote to select the award winners. The Academy comprises 46 of the world’s greatest sportsmen and sportswomen who have made an outstanding contribution to world sport.
Not surprisingly, the 2008 nominees feature many of the outstanding performances from the Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Tennis also features strongly and, incidentally, highlights the dramatic changes of fortune in both the men’s and women’s games in the last 12 months. Last year’s winning man (for a record fourth consecutive time) was Roger Federer. His nemesis, Rafael Nadal, replaces him in this year’s list. Novak Djokovic, chasing Federer hard in the world rankings, makes it to the World Breakthrough list.
Last year’s female winner, Justine Henin, dramatically withdrew from professional tennis shortly after winning the 2008 Women’s Laureus title. One of her long-term rivals, Venus Williams, is up for this year’s title, with Ana Ivanovic joining fellow Serb in the Breakthrough list.
Motorsport is another notable success story, in particular for Lewis Hamilton. The F1 champion was winner of the Breakthrough title last year, and is now nominated for the men’s title.
Nominees for the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year are:
Usain Bolt (Jamaica)—first man to win 100m, 200m and 4x100m Olympic gold medals in world records
Lewis Hamilton (UK)—youngest ever Formula One World Champion at 23 years and 300 days
Rafael Nadal (Spain)—won French Open, Wimbledon and Olympic gold medal to become tennis No.1
Michael Phelps (US)—won eight gold medals in a single Olympiad to overtake Mark Spitz’s record
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)—FIFA World Player of the Year, scored 42 goals for Manchester United
Valentino Rossi (Italy)—beat Giacomo Agostini’s record 68 500cc wins, and won sixth senior world title
Nominees for Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year:
Tirunesh Dibaba (Ethiopia)—became first woman to win 5,000m and 10,000m double at same Olympics
Yelena Isinbayeva (Russia)—created her 24th world record in Beijing to win the pole vault gold medal
Lorena Ochoa (Mexico)—won seven golf titles in 2008
Stephanie Rice (Australia)—won three swimming gold medals in Beijing; set five world records in 2008
Lindsey Vonn (US)—won Alpine World Cup title, and also was World Cup discipline leader in downhill
Venus Williams (US)—won her fifth Wimbledon title in 2008, and also won Olympic doubles gold medal
Laureus World Team of the Year:
Boston Celtics (US)—beat Los Angeles Lakers to win the NBA play-offs for a record 17th time
China Olympic Team—best ever Olympic result, led medals table with 51 gold, 21 silver, 28 bronze
GB Olympic Cycle Team (UK)—dominated the Beijing velodrome with eight gold, four silver, and two bronze medals
Jamaica Olympic Sprint Team—beat US favourites for a near clean sweep of Olympic sprint medals
Manchester United (UK)—won third European Champions League and also English Premier League
Spain Football Team—won European Championship, their first major title for 44 years
Nominees in the other four categories—Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year, Laureus World Comeback of the Year, Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability, and Laureus World Action Sportsperson of the Year—can be found on the Laureus website: www.laureus.com/awards