SEVILLE (Reuters) – Formula One champion Max Verstappen has been named the 2022 Laureus Sportsman of the Year while Tokyo’s three-time Olympic gold medalist Elaine Thompson-Herah won the highest female honor at the award ceremony digital prizes in Seville on Sunday.
Verstappen became the first Dutch driver to win the world championship when he clinched his maiden crown by beating seven-time winner Lewis Hamilton on the final lap of the final race of the 2021 season in Abu Dhabi in December.
“Since I was little I dreamed of being on the top step and winning the championship,” said Verstappen, 24. “The reaction in Holland has been incredible from all the newspapers and fans. It’s something we’ll never forget. It was a lot of hard work and years of preparation. I’m incredibly proud… It means a lot to be recognized for this award, one of the most prestigious in the world, so I am incredibly happy.
Verstappen, who won the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix earlier on Sunday, follows Rafael Nadal who won the men’s prize last year and arch-rival Lewis Hamilton, who shared the men’s prize with Lionel Messi in 2020.
Jamaica’s Thompson-Herah became the first woman to win back-to-back Olympic sprint doubles when she retained her 100m and 200m titles in Tokyo last year and capped a memorable Games with gold in the relay 4x100m.
“I know Usain [Bolt] has won Laureus Awards before, so bringing this trophy home to the Caribbean, also to Jamaica, is very special,” said Thompson-Herah. “I watched this [100m] run about a thousand times now. I would say I’m very, very proud, but I can’t dwell on the past… My motivation is to be even better. I told myself that I wanted to be the greatest female sprinter.
The awards are organized by the Laureus Sports Foundation and the 2021 winners were selected by a 71-member panel led by All Black rugby great Sean Fitzpatrick.
In a sign of the ephemeral nature of sporting achievements, the Italian men’s football team, which won the Euros last year and missed the World Cup this spring, have been voted ‘Team of the Year’ for the second time , after receiving the honor after winning the World Cup in 2006.
British tennis star Emma Raducanu, who has struggled for consistency since winning the US Open last year, received the ‘breakthrough of the year’ award.
The ceremony mopped up other big stars with a series of special awards.
NFL great Tom Brady, who made a U-turn in his retirement plans this year, received the Lifetime Achievement award after winning a record seventh Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Bayern Munich’s Polish striker Robert Lewandowski has won the outstanding achievement award after scoring a record 41 goals in the German Bundesliga last season to beat Gerd Muller’s mark of 49.
Seven-time MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi, who ended a career spanning more than two decades last year, won the Sporting Icon award – his third Laureus honor after winning Comeback of the Year (2011) and Spirit of Sport (2006) awards.
“This award was created in 2000 when Nelson Mandela said ‘sport has the power to change the world’ and I wholeheartedly agree with that,” Brady said. “Pelé was elected for this award in 2000. Billie Jean King was elected last year. People I really admired.
Skateboarder Sky Brown won ‘Comeback of the Year’ at the age of 13.
She fractured her skull in training in June 2020 and was unresponsive when she arrived at hospital. She recovered and competed in Tokyo winning bronze and becoming Britain’s youngest Olympic medalist at 13 years and 28 days.
Swiss wheelchair racer Marcel Hug has been named ‘World Sportsman of the Year with a Disability’ for the second time after winning gold medals at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo in the 800m, 1,500m, with a record of the world, 5000 m and marathon.
He also won the Berlin, New York and Boston marathons in 2021.
Britain’s Bethany Shriever has won the ‘Action Sportsperson’ award after winning gold medals at the Olympics and BMX World Championships. She funded her Olympic campaign with crowdfunding after UK Sport cut her support.
The Real Madrid Foundation and a Chicago youth baseball program, Lost Boyz Inc, were also awarded.
Gerald Asamoah, a former Germany international, and other black German footballers known collectively as the ‘Black Eagles’ have won the ‘Athlete Advocate’ award for their campaign against racism.
Posted in Dawn, April 26, 2022