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Top stars nominated for Laureus World Sport Awards



Verstappen, Raducanu, Italy’s football team among the stars nominated for Laureus World Sport Awards

Emma Raducanu of Great Britain celebrates with the championship trophy after defeating Leylah Annie Fernandez of Canada during their Women's Singles final match on Day Thirteen of the 2021 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 11, 2021 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo: Elsa/Getty Images)
By Craig Ray
02 Feb 2022 1

The new Formula One world champion, 2021 US Open winner and the victorious Euro 2020 winning squad are just some of the big names nominated on Wednesday for the world's foremost honours.

The annual Laureus World Sports Awards is now considered the ‘Oscars’ of sport and recognises a variety of athletes, abled and disabled, in seven major categories.

South Africa has no nominees this year, but in the past, the Springboks have won World Team of the Year twice (2008, 2020) following their Rugby World Cup wins the previous year. Rugby player Schalk Burger won the “Comeback of the Year” title in 2015 after a near-death experience following surgery to remove a cyst from his spine.

Six nominees have been selected in each of seven categories and the names of the Winners will be revealed in April, following a vote by the Laureus World Sports Academy — the world’s ultimate sports jury — made up of 71 of the greatest sporting legends of all time.

Athletes of the year

The battle for the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award will be one of the most competitive ever. The recently retired Tom Brady, the NFL’s greatest-ever quarterback could be an emotional winner.

He is nominated along with Bayern Munich’s prolific goalscorer Robert Lewandowski, new Formula One world champion Max Verstappen, tennis world No 1 Novak Djokovic, and two of the greatest Olympians: swimmer Caeleb Dressel, who won five gold medals in Tokyo 2020, and Eliud Kipchoge, who won back-to-back marathon gold medals.

Race winner and 2021 F1 World Drivers Champion Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 12, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Great track runner and Laureus Academy Member Sebastian Coe appeared to reveal his choice: “I think we have to conclude that Eliud Kipchoge is now the greatest marathon runner of all time. I had the great privilege of watching him win his Olympic title in Sapporo. He was so in command of that race that day. His contribution to athletics is Muhammad Ali-esque.”

Several historic Olympic performances dominate the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award category.

Elaine Thompson-Herah matched fellow Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt with gold medals in the 100, 200 and 4×100 metres relay with her haul in Tokyo.

Sprinter Allyson Felix passed Carl Lewis as the most decorated track and field US Olympian in Tokyo and is up for the award. Third nominee, Australian swimmer Emma McKeon’s four gold and three bronze medals in Tokyo tied the record for the most won by a woman in a single Olympic Games.

American swimmer Katie Ledecky won two more gold and two silver medals in Tokyo to add to her list of achievements. Also short-listed are world No 1 tennis player Ashleigh Barty, who won Wimbledon in 2021 and recently won the 2022 Australian Open (although that doesn’t form part of this nomination cycle), and Alexia Putellas, captain of FC Barcelona’s Women’s Team. Putellas was named 2021 FIFA Women’s Footballer of the Year.

Laureus Academy Member and athletics legend Michael Johnson said: “There’s another athlete who just completely dominated their sport last year. Elaine Thompson-Herah, 100 metres, 200 metres, repeating as champion, which is very difficult to do, and threatening one of the oldest and most impressive world records in the books, the women’s 100 metres. I mean, we haven’t talked about anyone threatening that record for years.”

Thompson-Herah clocked 10.54 in a meeting in Eugene, Oregan last year, which is the closest anyone has come to the record of 10.49 set by late US sprinter Florence Griffith-Joyner in 1988.

Breaking through

Britain’s Emma Raducanu became a global tennis sensation when she won the US Open at the age of 18, and unsurprisingly she is one of the nominees for the Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year Award, along with Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, who won the men’s title.

Other nominees are Neeraj Chopra, India’s first winner of an Olympic athletics gold medal, Spanish football prodigy Pedri — at 19 voted best young player at the Ballon d’Or — Venezuela’s Yulimar Rojas, who broke the triple jump world record which had stood for 26 years, and Australia’s Ariarne Titmus, who made her Olympic debut at 20, beating defending champion Katie Ledecky at both 200 and 400 metres in the swimming pool.

The nominees for the Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award include several sporting giants and one brilliant youngster. The indomitable gymnast Simone Biles showed her courage and determination to come back to win a bronze medal on the beam in Tokyo.

Cyclist Mark Cavendish fought back from mental and physical health problems to equal Eddie Merckx’s record of 34 Tour de France stage wins.

Diver Tom Daley had knee surgery in June, but still won his first-ever Olympic diving gold medal, eight-time MotoGP world champion Marc Márquez celebrated his first Grand Prix win for 581 days after a broken arm, and Dutch cyclist Annemiek van Vleuten won the Olympic time trial three days after missing out on road race gold.

One of the most talented of a thrilling group of young skateboarders, Sky Brown, recovered from a skull fracture to win a bronze medal in Tokyo, at the age of just 13 years and 28 days.

Players of Italy celebrate following their team’s victory in the penalty shoot out during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Final between Italy and England at Wembley Stadium on July 11, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)

The brilliant Italy Men’s Football Team are among the frontrunners for the Laureus World Team of the Year Award after their victory in Euro 2020.

There are two other football Nominees: the Argentina Men’s Football Team, including Lionel Messi, who won the Copa America; and FC Barcelona Women’s Football Team, who won their first Champions League.

They are joined by the China Olympic Diving Team, who won gold medals in seven of the eight events, the Milwaukee Bucks, inspired by Giannis Antetokounmpo, who ended their 50-year wait for a second NBA championship, and the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team which won a record eighth consecutive Constructors’ World Championship.

Italy coach Roberto Mancini said: “We are very excited to be nominated for this important Laureus Award and, on behalf of the team, I thank the world’s media for their support.

“Italy last won this Award after the 2006 World Cup win. That was a massive day for Italian football — and I believe that what we achieved last year was perhaps even more important for so many reasons.

 “Italian football was not in a good place after failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, and the country was suffering with many problems caused by the Covid pandemic. But the national team is a symbol of a country that in difficult moments has always known how to get up again. So, thank you Laureus for understanding that.” DM

Full Nominees list


Tom Brady (US) American Football

Novak Djokovic (Serbia) Tennis

Caeleb Dressel (US) Swimming

Eliud Kipchoge (Kenya) Athletics

Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Football

Max Verstappen (Netherlands) Motor Racing



Ashleigh Barty (Australia) Tennis

Allyson Felix (US) Athletics

Katie Ledecky (US) Swimming

Emma McKeon (Australia) Swimming

Alexia Putellas (Spain) Football

Elaine Thompson-Herah (Jamaica) Athletics



Argentina Men’s Football Team — won Copa America

Barcelona Women’s Football Team (Spain) — won first Champions League, beating English club Chelsea 4-0

China Olympic Diving Team — won gold medals in seven of the eight events staged in the pool in Tokyo

Italy Men’s Football Team — won European Championship for first time since 1968

Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team (Germany) — won record eighth Constructors Championship

Milwaukee Bucks (US) Basketball – inspired by Giannis Antetokounmpo, won a second NBA championship



Neeraj Chopra (India) Athletics — won javelin to become India’s first winner of an Olympic athletics gold

Daniil Medvedev (Russia) Tennis — won his first ever Grand Slam 

Pedri (Spain) Football — 19, played 53 times in 2020/21 for Barcelona, and every game for Spain in Euro 2020

Emma Raducanu (UK) Tennis — became a global sensation when she won the US Open at the age of 18

Yulimar Rojas (Venezuela) Athletics — broke 26-year-old world record to win triple jump gold in Tokyo

Ariarne Titmus (Australia) Swimming — aged 20, beat champion Katie Ledecky at 200 and 400m in Tokyo



Simone Biles (US) Gymnastics — after withdrawing in Tokyo, she came back to win bronze in the beam

Sky Brown (UK) Skateboarding — aged 13, recovered from fractured skull to win bronze medal in Tokyo

Mark Cavendish (UK) Cycling — fought back from depression to win second Tour de France sprint title

Tom Daley (UK) Diving — had knee surgery in June, but won 10 metres synchronised gold in Tokyo

Marc Márquez (Spain) Motor Cycling — first win in 581 days, after recovering from broken arm at start of 2020

Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands) Cycling — won Olympic time trial days after missing gold in road race



Diede De Groot (Netherlands) Wheelchair Tennis first player to complete the calendar-year Golden Slam

Marcel Hug (Switzerland) Wheelchair Athletics won Paralympic gold medals in 800, 1,500, 5,000m and marathon

Shingo Kunieda (Japan) Wheelchair Tennis — host-nation hero, won fourth Paralympic gold of his career

Jetze Plat (Netherlands) Para Cycling / Para Triathlon — won three Paralympic gold medals in two sports

Susana Rodríguez (Spain) Para Triathlon — won gold in Tokyo in triathlon PTVI, her first Paralympic medal

Sarah Storey (UK) Para Cycling — won three golds from three events to take her career total to 17



Ítalo Ferreira (Brazil) Surfing — in Tokyo became the first-ever surfing Olympic gold medal winner

Alberto Ginés (Spain) Climbing — aged 18, scaled 15-metre wall in 6.42 seconds to win speed climbing gold

Yuto Horigome (Japan) Skateboarding — won first ever skateboarding Olympic gold to delight of host nation

Carissa Moore (US) Surfing — won first-ever women’s Olympic surfing gold, then added her fifth world title

Momiji Nishiya (Japan) Skateboarding — at 13, won first-ever Olympic gold medal in women’s street event

Bethany Shriever (UK) BMX — first woman to win both Olympic and World Championship gold in same year



Programmes shortlisted by a specialist selection panel; Laureus Academy select the winner

Ich will da rauf! (Germany) Climbing — disabled and non-disabled share challenge of the climbing wall

Jucà Pe Cagnà (Italy) Multi-sport — provides safe places to play away from the influence of crime

Kick 4 Life (Lesotho) Football — supports young people through health education and HIV testing

Lost Boyz Inc. (US) Baseball/Softball — works in Chicago to decrease violence and improve social conditions

Monkey Magic (Japan) Climbing — promotes free climbing for those with visual impairment


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  • The reason for the nomination of Verstappen eludes me – he was outclassed in the deciding race for the Championship until an extraordinary and I feel biased decision regarding the final stages of the race allowed him to overtake Hamilton.

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