LONDON, November 26, 2012
A spectacular year of sport has set up one of the most exciting contests ever for the 2013 Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award, including the ultimate Olympic battle – Usain Bolt v Michael Phelps.
Jamaica sprint king Usain Bolt confirmed his title of ‘fastest man on Earth’ when he won 100 metres, 200 metres and 4 x 100 metres Olympic gold medals in London to repeat his success from Beijing in 2008 – a feat never achieved before. Regarded by many as the greatest sprinter of all time, he could win his third Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award, having already been honoured in 2009 and 2010.
And American Michael Phelps made history when he became the most decorated Olympian of all time, winning four gold and two silver medals to take his career total of medals won to 22 – made up of 18 gold, two silver and two bronze. In London, he became the first man ever to win an Olympic swimming title – 100m butterfly and 200m medley – at three Olympiads.
But it is by no means certain to be an Olympic walkover. There are many other strong contenders for Nomination from non-Olympic sports. In motor sport, Sebastian Vettel won his third Formula One World Championship, Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy topped the money list of both European and US golf tours and the irrepressible Lionel Messi overtook Pele’s 75 goals scored in a calendar year.
The Laureus World Sports Awards is recognised as the premier honours event in the international sporting calendar and the Awards Ceremony provides a high profile focus as stars of the sporting world come together to salute the finest sportsmen and sportswomen of the year. The winners will be unveiled during a globally televised Awards Ceremony in Rio de Janeiro.
Proceeds from the Laureus World Sports Awards directly benefit and underpin the work of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, which supports more than 100 community sports projects around the world that have helped to improve the lives of over one-and-a-half million young people.
The Olympic Games in London produced many superb performances. Mo Farah joined athletics greats such as Zatopek, Kuts, Viren and Bekele as winner of the Olympic 5,000 and 10,000 metres double in London. He thrilled the home crowd with powerful finishes over the last lap to become the first Briton to win gold medals over both distances.
LeBron James joined Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen as the only players in basketball history to have won an NBA title and an Olympic gold medal in the same year. He was named Most Valuable Player in Miami Heat’s victory in the NBA Finals over Oklahoma City and in London became the United States’ all-time leading points scorer with 273.
Britain’s Bradley Wiggins became the only cyclist to win the Tour de France and an Olympic gold medal in the same year. He became the first Briton to win the Tour in July and followed this up one month later with an emotional gold medal ride in front of ecstatic home supporters in the Olympic Time Trial in London. Wiggins has now won seven Olympic medals, including four golds.
American David Boudia beat Chinese favourite Qiu Bo, the world champion, to win the Olympic gold medal in the 10 metre platform diving. It was the first men’s Olympic diving gold for the US since Greg Louganis in 1988. Boudia also won a bronze in the synchronised 10 metre platform.
Regarded as the greatest badminton player of all time, China’s Lin Dan became the first man to win back-to-back Olympic singles gold medals to follow his success in Beijing. In 2012 he also became the first man in 33 years to win the All England Open five times, plus he won a fifth German Open.
German discus thrower Robert Harting won the Olympic gold medal in London to go with his 2009 and 2011 World Championship titles. Harting’s Olympic success meant he was unbeaten in 29 competitions. He famously hurdled down the track, set up for the women’s 100 metres hurdles finals, to celebrate.
Chris Hoy was one of the members of the British cycle team who dominated the London Olympic Games. Hoy carried the British flag at the Opening Ceremony, then won gold medals in the keirin and team sprint to take his career total to six, a British record. He also won gold in the keirin in the World Track Cycling Championships – his 11th world title.
France’s Teddy Riner established himself as the greatest judoka in the world at the age of just 23, after beating Russia’s Alexander Mikhaylin to win an Olympic gold medal in the +100kg category in London. He is also a record six-time world champion.
Away from the Olympic Games, brilliant Northern Ireland golfer Rory McIlroy, 23, established himself as world No 1, topping the money list in Europe and the United States. In August he won the USPGA Championship by eight shots, his second Major victory. He was a key member of the European Ryder Cup team which beat the US at Medinah and became the first European to win four USPGA Tour events in a season.
Germany’s Sebastian Vettel won his third straight Formula One World Championship, clinching the title in the very last race of the season, the Brazilian Grand Prix in Sao Paulo. Only the great Juan Manuel Fangio, who won four straight championships between 1954 and 1957 and Michael Schumacher, with five titles between 2000 and 2004, have a better record of consecutive titles. The key to Vettel’s success came in September when his Red Bull car was upgraded. This resulted in four straight wins in Singapore, Japan, Korea and India.
It was another prolific goalscoring year from Barcelona star Lionel Messi. In November, Messi scored his 76th goal in a calendar year to move ahead of the great Pelé, who scored 75 goals in 1958. At that time it left him just nine behind Gerd Muller’s all-time record of 85 in 1972. In the 2011/12 season (which includes some of the Laureus qualifying year), he scored 73 goals, breaking Muller’s season record of 67 which dated back to 1972/73. He was also leading scorer in the UEFA Champions League for the fourth straight year with 14 goals.
On the last day of the 2011/12 season (which includes some of the Laureus qualifying year), Cristiano Ronaldo scored for Real Madrid against Mallorca to become the first player to score against every team in a single season in La Liga. He finished the season with 36 league goals and 60 goals in all competitions, breaking the Real Madrid record. He won the La Liga player of the season award. Ronaldo also captained Portugal to the semi-finals of the 2012 European Championships.
France’s remarkable Sebastian Loeb won his record ninth consecutive World Rally Championship, appropriately at the Rallye de France. He clinched the championship two rounds early. He also holds the record for most points, most wins and most podium finishes.
The dominant cricketer of the year, Kumar Sangakkara is a talented batsman, wicket-keeper and former captain of Sri Lanka. In 2012 he won no fewer than three International Cricket Council awards - Cricketer of the Year, Test Cricketer of the Year and People's Choice. In 14 Test matches, during the 12-month voting period which ended in August, he scored 1,444 runs, including five centuries and in 37 One Day Internationals, he scored 1,457 runs with three centuries.
Laureus World Sports Academy Chairman and Olympic legend Edwin Moses said: “I always feel in an Olympic year that you are likely to see a strong group of potential Nominees and this year is certainly a great example of that. The Laureus Sportsman of the Year Award is going to be one of the closest contests ever when you look at the wonderful collection of names we have. Of course you have the great stars like Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps that everyone recognises, but this year we have some wonderful achievements right across the whole range of sports, including basketball, badminton, diving, football, golf, judo. The list goes on. Obviously the host country Britain had a wonderful Olympic Games and I expect to see a lot of votes for men like Mo Farah and Bradley Wiggins, but this year there is quality everywhere
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