Tina Maze heads strong Winter Olympic challenge for Laureus Sportswoman Award
January 14, 2015
Big name stars from a wide range of sports are in fierce competition for the 2015 Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award, which is promising to be one of the closest contests ever.
Among the likely contenders: the Winter Olympics in Sochi produced an array of brilliant gold medal winners including Marit Bjørgen, Darya Domracheva and Tina Maze; China’s No.1 tennis player Li Na closed her amazing career with a second Grand Slam victory in the Australian Open; New Zealand shot putter Valerie Adams extended her winning streak to 56; while American gymnast Simone Biles, 17, had another spectacular year, dominating the World Championships.
The Laureus World Sports Awards is recognised as the premier honours event in the international sporting calendar. The SIX Nominees for the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award, as voted by the Laureus Global Media Selection Panel, will be announced on February 11, with the eventual winner being revealed at the Laureus Awards Ceremony in Shanghai on April 15.
Slovenian ski sensation Tina Maze will be many people’s favourite to be nominated for a second straight year after winning two Olympic gold medals in Sochi, taking the blue riband Downhill (shared with Dominique Gisin) and the Giant Slalom. In a fine all-round performance, she was also fourth in Super Combined, fifth in Super G and eighth in Slalom.
Versatile Austrian Anna Fenninger won the Super G Olympic gold by more than half a second, then three days later followed that with a silver medal in the Giant Slalom. After Sochi, she returned to the World Cup where she also secured the Overall and Giant Slalom titles.
At 33, Norway’s cross-country skier Marit Bjørgen became the most decorated female Winter Olympian in history by winning three gold medals in the 15km Skiathlon, Team Sprint and 30km Freestyle events. Her career successes now total six Olympic gold medals, three silvers and a bronze.
Darya Domracheva from Belarus became the first woman to win three biathlon titles at the same Winter Olympics, in 10km Pursuit, 12.5km mass start and 15km individual, while short track Chinese speed skater Zhou Yang took the gold medal by defending her 1,500 metres title.
In tennis, China’s Li Na won her second Grand Slam, the Australian Open, in January and a month later achieved a career-best ranking of world No.2. However, seven months later she was forced to retire, at the age of 32, because of knee injuries. Over the course of her career, Li Na also won the 2011 French Open and reached the final of the Australian Open in 2011 and 2013. She was the first Chinese player to win a Grand Slam which resulted in a significant increase in tennis in China.
After a disappointing start to the year in the first three Grand Slam events – going out in the fourth round in Australia, third round at Wimbledon and second round in the French Open – American Serena Williams found her form to beat Caroline Wozniacki in the final of the US Open to secure her 18th career Grand Slam victory. The Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova won her second Wimbledon title, beating Eugenie Bouchard in straight sets, and climbing to No.4 in the world rankings.
At just 17, and in only her second year of senior competition, American Simone Biles showed that she is a gymnastic great in the making by winning four golds and one silver medal at the World Championships in Nanning. Most impressively she won the All-Around gold medal for the second straight year, as well as the Floor Exercises. Her other gold medals came in Beam and the Team Championship, with silver in Vault.
For the fourth straight year, world and Olympic shot put champion ValerieAdams ended the season undefeated, having won all her 14 competitions, bringing her unbeaten streak to 56. The New Zealander totally justified being named IAAF Women’s Athlete of the Year after she won all seven Diamond League events and gold medals in the World Indoor Championships and the Commonwealth Games.
Also in track and field, Dutch heptathlete Dafne Schippers gambled on dropping her favourite discipline at the European Championships in Zurich in favour of the sprints and amazed the athletics world when she won the 100 metres and 200 metres double, while Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba became only the third athlete to break three world records in two weeks - in Karlsruhe, she broke the 1,500 metres indoor record, five days later it was the 3,000 metres in Stockholm and then the two mile record in Birmingham.
Among the highlights in other sports, Spanish swimmer Mireia Belmonte completed an outstanding year with four gold medals in the World Short Course Championships in Doha, including world records in the 200 metres butterfly and 400 metres individual medley. One week later during the Spanish Championships she broke the 1,500 metres freestyle short course world record. Earlier in the year at the European Championships in Berlin she had won two gold, two silver and two bronze medals.
At just 22, Australia’s cricket captain Meg Lanning led her team to their third straight World Twenty/20 Championship victory, beating England in the final. She was the star of the show with a match-winning 44 runs from 30 balls. Earlier in the tournament she had scored 126 runs from 65 balls against Ireland, the highest individual score in a women's international. She was named ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year.
Malaysia’s Nicol David once again totally dominated her sport of squash, winning her fifth British Open, her third straight US Open and her ninth Hong Kong Open. Ireland’s Katie Taylor won her fifth consecutive gold medal at the AIBA Women's World Championships in South Korea in the lightweight final, drawing level with Indian boxer Mary Kom.
Magali Harvey was voted Women’s Rugby Player of the Year after Canada reached the World Cup final for the first time. She was the first Canadian to receive the award. And British cyclist Lizzie Armitstead (UK) won the gold medal in the road race at the Commonwealth Games, as well as securing the nine-stage UCI Women's Road World Cup title with a race to spare.
Laureus World Sports Academy Member and skiing great Franz Klammer, who was the Olympic Downhill champion in 1976, said: “The Winter Olympics produced some amazing performances in Sochi and I am not surprised to see that so many gold medal winners are being considered as possible Nominees. Lindsey Vonn won this Award in 2010 and as a skier myself I would be delighted if we could have another skier as the winner in 2015. I wouldn’t like to pick out one name as they all achieved so much. That is the measure of great sport; delivering an outstanding performance when you have to in the biggest competitions.”