Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability Award: The Preview
March 7, 2013
The Paralympic Games of London 2012 was for many the sport highlight of 2012.
And it’s no surprise that each of the Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability Nominees featured at the London 2012 Paralympics.
The six Paralympians listed below have been voted the stand-out performers from the Games by the world’s journalists and are now up for the big Award on March 11.
But who do you think deserves the honour over the rest? This recap of their remarkable achievements should help you make your mind up.
PATRICK ANDERSON (Canada) Wheelchair Basketball
Canada’s Patrick Anderson is arguably the best wheelchair basketball player of all time. He has played a key role in the success of the Canadian team since his debut in 1997. Anderson, who lost both legs below the knee in a car accident when he was nine, came out of retirement in 2010 to compete in the Paralympic Games in London, inspiring the Canadian team to their third gold medal in four Paralympics. In the final against Australia, Anderson, aged 33, played some of the best wheelchair basketball of his life, scoring 34 points, with ten rebounds and eight assists in the 64-58 victory.
JOHANNA BENSON (Namibia) Athletics
Johanna Benson made history when she became the first winner of a gold medal for Namibia in either the Olympic or Paralympic Games after her success in the 200 metres T37 sprint. In her first ever Paralympic Games in London, she also won the silver medal in the 100 metres and set African records in both events. Upon her return, Benson, 22, was greeted by thousands of enthusiastic people celebrating her success. Namibian President Dr. Hifikepune Pohamba also announced she would receive a diplomatic passport, a house worth €130,000 in Walvis Bay and a grant of €15,000.
DANIEL DE FARIA DIAS (Brazil) Swimming
Brazil’s Daniel Dias was once again the outstanding swimmer of the Paralympic Games, winning six individual gold medals in London, all in world record times. Four years earlier in Beijing, he had won four gold medals, four silver and a bronze, a feat which earned him the 2009 Laureus Disability Award. Still just 24, he will be one of the home favourites to win more gold medals when the 2016 Paralympic Games are held in Rio de Janeiro. Born with malformed upper and lower limbs, he was inspired to take up swimming after watching Brazil’s Clodoaldo Silver in the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens. After his career is over, he wants to devote time to encouraging more young people with a disability in Brazil to take up swimming.
ALAN FONTELES OLIVEIRA (Brazil) Athletics
After winning a relay silver medal in his first Paralympic Games in Beijing in 2008, the 20-year-old Brazilian surprised the world in London this year with an amazing last 50 metres to beat South African favourite Oscar Pistorius and win the T44 200 metres Paralympic gold medal. It was Pistorius’ first ever 200 metres defeat and secured global headlines for Fonteles Oliveira, who had both legs amputated at the age of 21 days after an intestinal infection led to septicemia. He took up athletics at the age of eight and now he will be one of the big home names to watch when the Paralympic Games comes to Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
DAVID WEIR (United Kingdom) Wheelchair Racing
In arguably the most competitive class of wheelchair racing, Britain’s David Weir used the significant pressure of being the home crowd hero of London 2012 to his advantage. Weir’s face had been on posters throughout London in the build-up to the Paralympic Games and in the T54 class, he proved unbeatable, winning a record four gold medals. In winning at 800 metres, 1,500 metres and 5,000 metres, Weir beat the world record holder Marcel Hug of Switzerland. His fourth and final gold in the marathon saw him beat Australia’s outstanding racer Kurt Fearnley. Despite his tough competition schedule in London, Weir served as a mentor for a number of young athletes and continues to work with talented juniors in his London-based training group. Five months prior to London 2012, Weir won a record sixth London Marathon.
ALEX ZANARDI (Italy) Hand Cycling
Alex Zanardi’s success in winning two hand cycling gold medals and a silver at his first Paralympic Games was made even more poignant by the fact that his successes took place at Brands Hatch, a track he competed on as a Formula One driver. Having lost his legs in a near fatal motor racing accident in 2001, Zanardi has excelled at Paralympic sport, also winning the Venice, New York and Rome marathons, setting new records in New York and Rome. Zanardi is currently training for Alpine skiing, while also being actively involved in the Bimbingamba Project, a charity he set up dedicated to helping children who have lost one or several limbs. In 2005, Zanardi won the Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award after returning to motor racing in the European Touring Car Championship.