Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner, who became the first human to go through the sound barrier when he made the highest ever freefall from 39km (24 miles) over New Mexico in October, is the Laureus World Action Sportsperson of the Year.
The Austrian was presented with the coveted Award by Laureus World Sports Academy Members Michael Phelps and Tony Hawk at the globally televised Awards Ceremony in Rio de Janeiro. The Laureus World Sports Awards are the premier honours on the international sporting calendar. The winners are chosen by the Laureus World Sports Academy, the ultimate sports jury, made up of 46 of the greatest living sportsmen and sportswomen.
Baumgartner, who jumped out of a balloon from a height of 128,100 ft, also broke the record for the highest ever freefall, beating the 102,800 ft achieved by Joe Kittinger in 1960. Baumgartner reached a maximum speed of 833.9 mph (1,342 kmh) during his fall. It took him just under ten minutes to descend, only using a parachute for the last few thousand feet.
After receiving the Laureus Statuette, Baumgartner said: “Thank you very much, I can’t believe I won. This is for my girlfriend Nicole for putting up with all the craziness in the past. Hey, I promise you I will quit! I think it is over now.
“What next? I had two dreams when I was a little kid. Dream number one was becoming a skydiver, which I did. Dream number two was becoming a helicopter pilot, but I could never afford to take lessons. Finally, six years ago, I became a professional helicopter pilot and now I want to put my skills into public service and rescue people from mountains.”
Laureus World Sports Academy Member and explorer-adventurer Mike Horn, whose expedition around the equator won him the Laureus Action Sports Award in 2001, said: “If you dedicate your life to go beyond limits, you can only be admired. Inspired by others to push human limits further than what has been achieved before, needs passion, dedication, knowledge and a belief in success. Where the will to win becomes bigger than the fear to lose, only when you take that step can you discover new lands. Felix took that step long ago and the proof is in what he has achieved.”
His fellow Laureus Academy Member Robby Naish, who won 23 windsurfing titles in 16 years, said: “Felix Baumgartner just awed the world with his amazing sky dive from space.”
Also nominated in the category with Baumgartner were British BMX rider Jamie Bestwick, French Olympic mountain biker Julie Bresset, Australian surfers Stephanie Gilmore and Joel Parkinson and German windsurfer Philip Köster.