SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR
Messi scoops historic double at Laureus World Sports Awards
Argentina soccer icon Lionel Messi was named 2023 Laureus World Sportsman of the Year after his exploits at the Fifa World Cup in 2022.
For a man who has won just about everything there is to win, Lionel Messi found a way to make history on Monday night when he won two Laureus World Sports Awards at the 2023 ceremony in Paris.
Messi, who guided Argentina to win the 2022 Fifa World Cup, was named Sportsman of the Year at the “Oscars of sport” and was also on hand to receive the team award on behalf of the Argentina men’s football team.
Argentina’s dramatic penalty shootout win over France in the Qatar 2022 final secured the team award for La Albiceleste, while their talisman Messi was duly honoured individually.
Jamaican sprinting queen Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce was crowned World Sportswoman of the Year after winning the 100m world title in 2022 and dominating the event yet again.
Messi, who plays for French club Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), was in attendance at the gala event at the Pavillon Vendome in Paris to receive the awards. It was his second world Sportsman of the Year gong after jointly winning it in 2020 with Formula One legend Lewis Hamilton.
But the Argentina superstar became the first athlete to win the individual and team prizes at the Laureus awards.
“This is a special honour, particularly as the Laureus World Sports Awards are in Paris this year, the city that has welcomed my family since we came here in 2021,” Messi said.
“I want to thank all my teammates, not only from the national team but also at PSG — I have achieved none of this alone and I am grateful to be able to share everything with them.
“I want to thank the Laureus Academy — what makes these awards so special to us as athletes is the fact that they are voted for by these incredible champions, my heroes, and this puts my sporting achievements in true context.
“This is the first time I have been the sole winner of the Laureus Sportsman of the Year Award and after a year when we finally won another prize we had been chasing for a long time, at the Fifa World Cup in Qatar, it’s an honour to be able to hold this Laureus Statuette.
“I was looking at the names of the incredible legends that won the Laureus Sportsman of the Year Award before me: Schumacher, Woods, Nadal, Federer, Bolt, Hamilton, Djokovic … it really sunk in what unbelievable company I’m in and what a unique honour this is.
“And I am even happier that the team I was a part of at the World Cup have also been recognised by the Laureus Academy tonight. The World Cup was an unforgettable adventure for us, and I can’t describe how it felt to return to Argentina and see what our victory had given to the people of my country.
“It was an experience I can never forget and I want to thank the academy for honouring our achievement.
“I play in a team sport and Argentina won the World Cup because of our team. To be recognised within that team — and to be the first athlete from a team sport to win the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award — is an extraordinary honour.
“Individual prizes are not the reason we play — but the Laureus World Sports Awards give us a unique opportunity to celebrate what we do alongside great athletes from other sports.
“Finally, this Laureus Statuette represents more than sporting achievement, and that’s one of the reasons that I can see from the stage great champions from across the world of sport — we are here to celebrate not just the athletes in this room, but the work of Laureus on a global scale.
“I’d like to add my support to Laureus Sport for Good and the work they are doing to use the power of sport to change the world.”
Sixth-time lucky for Fraser-Pryce
Fraser-Pryce won a record fifth 100m gold at the World Athletic Championships in 2022, 13 years after her first. She has more world sprint titles than any other athlete and in 2022 ran sub-10.7 seconds in the 100m seven times, three more than the previous best for a female sprinter in a calendar year.
Whether the benchmark is speed, consistency or longevity, nobody came close to Jamaica’s “Pocket Rocket” and after her sixth nomination for the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award, this is her first win at the Laureus awards.
“I was thrilled to be nominated alongside such inspiring women athletes, and to win this award, voted for by some of the greatest sportsmen and women of all time, is just amazing,” Fraser-Pryce said.
“This is the sixth time I’ve been nominated in this category, so to finally hold the Laureus Statuette in my hands is one of the greatest honours of my career.
“When athletes have the spotlight, it’s important the example we set is the best it can be. We have a responsibility to influence the next generation in a positive way and that’s what the Laureus awards are all about.”
Rising tennis star Carlos Alcaraz’s victory at the 2022 US Open and elevation to the world No 1 spot saw him collect the Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year Award.
Manchester United and Denmark midfielder Christian Eriksen was the recipient of the Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award after recovering from cardiac arrest to return to Premier League football with Brentford and then United.
Alcaraz enjoyed a phenomenal 2022 in which he won the US Open and became tennis’s youngest men’s No 1 player — the Spaniard only turned 20 a few days before picking up his Laureus Statuette.
At the start of 2022, Eriksen was without a club and his future in the game was uncertain as he continued his recovery from cardiac arrest, which occurred on 12 June 2021, during Denmark’s match against Finland at Euro 2020.
By the end of the year, he had returned to the Premier League first with Brentford and then, after once again proving himself as an elite creative force in midfield, for Manchester United.
He ended the year playing every minute of Denmark’s World Cup campaign. His acceptance of the Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award, in front of his wife Sabrina Kvist, was one of many moments of high emotion in the awards show.
In the category of Laureus World Action Sportsperson of the Year, winner Eileen Gu was 18 during the Winter Olympics in Beijing, where she became the first athlete to win three medals in freestyle skiing at a single Games: gold in the halfpipe and big air events, and silver in slopestyle at her home Olympics.
Gu also won two crystal globes in the World Cup, including one for a perfect record across the four rounds of the halfpipe competition.
TeamUp wins the Sport for Good award
The global support intervention TeamUp was the recipient of the Laureus Sport for Good Award.
Developed by Save the Children, Unicef, the Netherlands and War Child, the TeamUp intervention has been recognised for its work in using movement-based group activities based on sports and play to positively impact the psychosocial wellbeing of children affected by conflict and war.
Now present in 26 countries, it has been supported by Laureus via the Sport for Peace Humanitarian Action Fund, launched in 2022.
Announcing TeamUp as the winner of the award was Laureus ambassador and Ukrainian football legend Andriy Shevchenko. He has first-hand experience of the programme after making an emotional visit to a TeamUp session in Poland last year, set up to care for children who had been displaced from neighbouring Ukraine since the Russian invasion.
“I would like to congratulate TeamUp on this deserved award. I was lucky enough to be able to visit a programme in Warsaw last year to see the work they do supporting refugee children, relieving stress via physical activities,” Shevchenko said.
“It was an emotional day and the smiles on those children’s faces will live long in my memory. The work that is going on is a big help to support war-stricken families, and it goes some way to keeping the children happy and healthy.
“When TeamUp are presented on stage, it will be a powerful reminder of the role sport can play in our societies and proof of our founding patron, Nelson Mandela’s words that sport has the power to change the world.”
The Laureus World Sportsperson with a Disability Award was presented to Catherine Debrunner, who started 2022 as an elite force in wheelchair track sprinting and ended it as the benchmark in the marathon.
Debrunner set four world records at her home event in Nottwil, Switzerland, in May — at T53 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m. By late September she had set her sights on a debut marathon in Berlin, followed by London, seven days later — and she won them both.
The full list of winners
- Laureus World Sportsman of the Year: Lionel Messi
- Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year: Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce
- Laureus World Team of the Year: Argentina Men’s Football Team
- Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year: Carlos Alcaraz
- Laureus World Comeback of the Year: Christian Eriksen
- Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability: Catherine Debrunner
- Laureus World Action Sportsperson of the Year: Eileen Gu
- Laureus Sport for Good: TeamUp DM