The Trailblazers - Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability

Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability Nominees 2024
Our nominees for Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability include record breakers and world champions who show a new generation of athletes that ‘if you see it, you can be it’. 
When it comes to nominations for the Laureus World Sports Awards, the bar for entry is already incredibly high. If your name appears on one of our shortlists, the chances are you are the very best at what you do – maybe one of the best to ever do it.  

However, in the category of Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability, the criteria are unique. Every one of our 2024 Nominees – selected by a specialist panel from the International Paralympic Committee – is not just a champion, but a multiple champion; they include world record breakers on the track and in the pool; a cyclist who dominated on the road and in the velodrome; and a tennis player who was unbeatable in 2023.  

And they did all this while embodying the message at the heart of our Awards: that sport has the power to change the world. Because every time they stepped into the sporting arena, they illuminated a pathway for the next generation of athletes to follow.  
New Zealand cyclist Nicole Murray won global titles on both the road and the track in 2023. At the Road Para Cycling World Cup Murray, a left-hand amputee from a childhood accident, won two gold and two silver medals in the C5 category. Then, at the UCI Cycling World Championships in Glasgow, she won a gold, a silver and a bronze.

Our next two Nominees made their mark in 2023 at the Allianz Para Swimming World Championships in Manchester. Danylo Chufarov had not won a major title in 10 years, but at the age of 34 he won gold in the 100 metres butterfly, the 100 metres freestyle and the 200 metres medley, plus silver in the 100 metres breaststroke, breaking two world records on the way. That alone would have made him one of the event’s outstanding competitors, but Chufarov’s story goes far beyond sport. He and his wife Yaryna fled the Ukrainian city of Mariupol in 2022 as it was under attack by Russian forces; their home was destroyed and before their evacuation the Chufarovs survived with limited food and water. His story is one of triumph under unimaginable conditions.

Simone Barlaam dominated the S9 category at the same event in Manchester, winning an incredible six golds, which included a world record in the 50m freestyle, when he became the first S9 swimmer to go under 24 seconds. It is in this event that the 23-year-old Italian won his only Paralympic gold four years ago, but this summer he will surely have his sights set on more than that. He is a 19-time world champion and destined to be one of the stars of the Paris Games.   
At the Para Athletics World Championships in Paris, Hungary’s Luca Ekler won the 200 and 400 metre titles, plus long jump gold, in T38, and she took silver in the 100 metres. She is from a sporting family – she has two brothers who have represented Hungary at water polo – and will return to Paris for the Paralympics this summer, where she will be targeting a first Olympic title.

Markus Rehm specialises in the long jump, and with incomparable results. The German won a sixth world title, to go with four Paralympic golds. He set a new world record for the 14th time and has now gone undefeated in competition for an incredible 13 years. Rehm’s right leg was amputated below the knee as the result of a wakeboarding accident and he uses a bladed prosthetic which he designed with his team. Now 35, this is Rehm’s third nomination for a Laureus. 

Our final Nominee is Diede de Groot, who in 2023 continued a phenomenal winning streak in wheelchair tennis. The Dutch athlete extended her run without defeat to 127 matches, claiming a third successive calendar Grand Slam – a feat unmatched in the history of tennis. She is also world No.1 in doubles – she won two of the four majors as a doubles player – and will go to the Paralympics as the reigning champion in both singles and doubles. As she says: “I have a pretty big target on my back.”

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