GAME CHANGERS: New Generation of Champions Join All-Time Greats as Laureus World Sports Awards Anno

The Nominees for the 23rd annual Laureus World Sport Awards, revealed today, include some of the greatest athletes on the planet. The world’s media have voted across seven categories to honour the sportsmen, sportswomen and teams who set new standards in a year like no other.
Tom Brady, Ashleigh BartyRobert Lewandowski and Elaine Thompson-Herah are among the sporting icons hoping to see their name on one of the famous Laureus statuettes at this year’s Awards. Also nominated are members of a generation of athletes who broke new ground: we may not have known names such as Emma Raducanu, Pedri or Momiji Nishiya 12 months ago, but their achievements drove these teenagers to the top of their sports, and that’s where they plan to stay.
As the pandemic continued in 2021, fans were not always present to take part when the biggest shows in sport returned. The delayed Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, football’s European Championship – both postponed from 2020 – and other elite tournaments and events found a way to take place safely.  Sometimes we had to watch from afar and the athletes had to perform without support or atmosphere, adding pressure to their performance.  Nonetheless, audiences found new ways to engage and to show their support, just as Laureus itself has found new ways to approach the staging of the Awards for which is it perhaps best known – and has lead to a rethink of how Laureus’ ultimate purpose - Sport for Good – engages with the 150-plus community-based sports programmes around the world in a post-pandemic era.
Through the use of a ‘virtual’ format, adapting the Awards show to a pandemic context,  Laureus continues to recognise athletes and organisations who inspire us not just inside the sporting arena but away from it, and this year that includes some who contributed directly to the ongoing fight against Covid-19.
Four Olympians compete in the category of Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year, and each claimed their own piece of history. On the track, Elaine Thompson-Herah emulated her fellow Jamaican Usain Bolt with golds in the 100, 200 and 4 x 100metre relay, while Allyson Felix became the USA’s most decorated track-and-field Olympian. In the pool, Emma McKeon’s four gold and three bronze medals tied the record for the most won by a woman at a single Games, and Katie Ledecky, who added two gold and two silver medals to become the most decorated female swimmer in Olympic history. Also short-listed are world No.1 tennis player Ashleigh Barty, who won Wimbledon, and Alexia Putellas, Champions League winner with FC Barcelona and the winner of the Ballon d’Or.
The Tokyo Games also provided two of our Nominees for the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award: Caeleb Dressel, who won five golds in the pool, and Eliud Kipchoge, who defended his title in the marathon. They are up against former winner Novak Djokovic, Bayern Munich’s star striker Robert Lewandowski and Max Verstappen, who won the Formula One Drivers’ Championship on a dramatic final race day in Abu Dhabi. The list is completed by Tom Brady, who led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to victory in Super Bowl LV and established himself as the greatest quarterback in NFL history.
If Brady’s incredible story is nearing its end, Emma Raducanu’s historic journey from qualifier to champion at the US Open at the age of 18 typified those sportsmen and women who gave us a glimpse of a thrilling future in 2021 and she is one of the Nominees for the Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year Award, along with Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, who won his first Grand Slam title in New York. Neeraj Chopra became India’s first Olympic champion in athletics with victory in the javelin; Spanish football prodigy Pedri was voted best young player at the Ballon d’Or; Venezuela’s Yulimar Rojas broke a triple jump world record which had stood for 26 years, and Australia’s Ariarne Titmus made her Olympic debut at 20, beating her idol, Ledecky, at both 200 and 400 metres.
The pandemic presented all our Nominees with different challenges during 2021, but only Susana Rodríguez combined Paralympic gold with a frontline role as a doctor in the fight against Covid-19. Rodríguez trained for the Tokyo Games between gruelling shifts caring for patients and returned from Tokyo as champion in the women’s PTVI paratriathlon. Rodríguez is nominated for the Laureus World Sportsperson with a Disability Award, and is joined by Marcel Hug, the Swiss wheelchair athlete who won four gold medals (800 metres, 1500 metres, 5000 metres and marathon); Diede De Groot, who completed the first Golden Slam in wheelchair tennis, winning all four Major titles plus the Olympic tournament; Shingo Kunieda won the men’s wheelchair tennis and the fourth Olympic gold of his career; Jetze Plat won three golds across two sports – triathlon and road cycling; and Sarah Storey became Britain’s most successful Paralympic athlete with three cycling golds in Japan.
The Nominees for the Laureus World Comeback of the Year include several sporting giants and one brilliant youngster. The indomitable gymnast Simone Biles showed her courage and determination to win a bronze medal on the beam in Tokyo, having withdrawn from all previous competition due to issues around her mental health – an announcement which made news around the globe. Tom Daley had knee surgery in June but won his first Olympic diving gold medal eight weeks later. Eight-time MotoGP world champion Marc Márquez celebrated his first Grand Prix win for 581 days after a broken arm, while Mark Cavendish fought back from mental and physical health problems to equal Eddie Merckx’s record of 34 Tour de France stage wins. Dutch cyclist Annemiek van Vleuten won the Olympic time trial three days after missing out on road race gold. Finally, one of the most talented of a thrilling group of young skateboarders to bring that sport to the Olympics for the first time, Sky Brown, recovered from a skull fracture to win a bronze medal in Tokyo, at the age of just 13 years and 28 days.
Three football teams that ended the season with silverware are nominated for the Laureus World Team of the Year Award. The Italy Men’s Football Team were victorious in the rescheduled Euro 2020, following a dramatic penalty shoot-out win over England in the final. The Argentina Men’s Football Team, including Lionel Messi, won the Copa America in similarly epic fashion, vanquishing their arch-rival Brazil in the final, while FC Barcelona Women’s Football Team won their first Champions League title. Those three are joined by the China Olympic Diving Team, who won gold medals in seven of the eight events in Tokyo, the Milwaukee Bucks – led 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.
The Laureus World Sports Awards honour not only elite achievement on the field of play, but life-changing endeavour away from it, and every year the Laureus Sport For Good Award is given to a programme that brings young people together and provides at-risk communities with better choices.
Our shortlisted programmes in this category reflect the global reach and impact of the year-round work supported by Laureus.  The 2022 Award Shortlist includes Ich will da rauf! (I want to get up there!), which brings together able-bodied and disabled young people in Germany to break down the social and sporting barriers that can limit the choices of the latter group. In Sanita, Italy, Jucà pe Cagnà provides a safe environment for young people to play sport and explore educational opportunities away from the organised crime that is rife in their community. In Lesotho, a country ravaged by AIDS, Kick4Life uses football to educate young people about the disease and promotes testing – over 250,000 have participated in the project so far. Monkey Magic in Tokyo was founded by Para climbing legend Koichiro Kobayashi, who lost his sight at the age of 28. The five-time world champion established the programme to promote free climbing for those with visual impairment. And in Chicago, USA, Lost Boyz Inc. uses baseball to provide a haven from the gang violence that is part of life in the South Shore community and to build better futures for the young people involved.
From the world’s elite athletes, whose record-breaking achievements are broadcast around the globe, to children and young people for whom sport provides a way to improve life in one of its forgotten corners, the Laureus World Sports Awards is a celebration of all that sport can give us. We believe in the words of our founding patron, Nelson Mandela: Sport has the power to change the world.

Email Sign up

Email Sign-up

Sign up for all things Laureus

Get regular updates throughout the year