Cape Town – Who should be crowned the best woman and man in the sporting world for 2021?
Well, the Laureus World Sports Awards aim to do just that, and they announced their nominees on Wednesday – and it will be no easy task separating so many superstars.
For the World Sportswoman of the Year, Jamaican sprinter Elaine Thompson-Herah may stand out for many as a favourite after clinching gold in the 100m, 200m and the 4x100m relay at the Tokyo Olympics.
Laureus Academy Member and athletics legend Michael Johnson said: “Elaine Thompson-Herah, 100 metres, 200 metres, repeating as champion, which is very difficult to do, and threatening one of the oldest and most impressive world records in the books, the women’s 100 metres. I mean, we haven’t talked about anyone threatening that record for years.”
But what about Australian swimmer Emma McKeon, who claimed an unbelievable four gold and three bronze medals at the Olympics?
The category for the World Sportsman of the Year is not an easy choice either. NFL star Tom Brady, who announced his retirement on Tuesday at the age of 44, is the best ever quarterback, and secured a seventh Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
But can Novak Djokovic be ignored? Despite his controversial exit from Australia recently due to Covid-19 issues, the Serbian ruled the tennis world last year, winning three Grand Slam titles – the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon – to move up to 20 in total.
How about Max Verstappen, who held off Lewis Hamilton in one of the most thrilling finales to a Formula One season to become the world champion in Abu Dhabi? Or American swimmer Caeleb Dressel’s five gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics?
Then we haven’t even mentioned Kenyan star Eliud Kipchoge’s successful defence of his Olympic marathon title, or striker Robert Lewandowski’s 40 goals in a season for Bayern Munich…
Dutch driver Verstappen said on Wednesday: “Thank you to the world’s media for nominating me for the Laureus Sportsman of the Year Award. It is great to be nominated after the intense Formula 1 2021 season. The biggest thank you, though, must go to my team, Red Bull Racing, who together with Honda provided me with a winning car.
“For many years the team has fought and pushed to get better and close the gap, and at last we managed it. Being the world champion, it’s something incredible. Also a big thanks for my fans for supporting me, it’s really great to see the Orange Army all over the world.”
Hamilton’s Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One team are among the Team of the Year nominees for winning their eighth constructors title, while British tennis starlet Emma Raducanu is on the list for the Breakthrough of the Year award for winning the US Open at the age of 18.
The winners will be decided by a vote of the 71 members of the Laureus World Sports Academy, and will be announced in a virtual ceremony in April.
Laureus World Sports Awards Nominees
World Sportsman of the Year
* Tom Brady (USA) American Football – the greatest NFL quarterback, he won a record seventh Super Bowl
* Novak Djokovic (Serbia) Tennis – won three Grand Slams in 2021 to take his total of career wins to 20
* Caeleb Dressel (USA) Swimming – outstanding male swimmer in Tokyo with five Olympic gold medals
* Eliud Kipchoge (Kenya) Athletics – became third person in history to win back-to-back Olympic marathons
* Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Football – surpassed Gerd Muller’s record of 40 goals in a season for Bayern
* Max Verstappen (Netherlands) Motor Racing – won his first Formula One World Championship in 2021
World Sportswoman of the Year
* Ashleigh Barty (Australia) Tennis – world No 1, won Wimbledon, her second career Grand Slam
* Allyson Felix (USA) Athletics – surpassed Carl Lewis as the most decorated track and field US Olympian
* Katie Ledecky (USA) Swimming – won 800 and 1,500 metres freestyle golds in Tokyo, plus two silver medals
* Emma McKeon (Australia) Swimming – won four gold and three bronze in Tokyo, the most by an individual
* Alexia Putellas (Spain) Football – Barcelona captain; won Ballon d’Or and UEFA Women’s Player of Year
* Elaine Thompson-Herah (Jamaica) Athletics – won Olympic 100 and 200 metres and 4x100m relay
World Team of the Year
* Argentina Men’s Football Team – won Copa America; Lionel Messi’s first international trophy, at age of 34
* Barcelona Women’s Football Team (Spain) – won first Champions League, beating English club Chelsea 4-0
* China Olympic Diving Team – won gold medals in seven of the eight events staged in the pool in Tokyo
* Italy Men’s Football Team – under Roberto Mancini won European Championship for first time since 1968
* Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team (Germany) – won record eighth Constructors Championship
* Milwaukee Bucks (USA) Basketball – inspired by Giannis Antetokounmpo, won a second NBA championship
World Breakthrough of the Year
* Neeraj Chopra (India) Athletics – won javelin to become India’s first winner of an Olympic athletics gold
* Daniil Medvedev (Russia) Tennis – won his first ever Grand Slam, dropping only one set in the US Open
* Pedri (Spain) Football – 19, played 53 times in 2020/21 for Barcelona, and every game for Spain in Euro 2020
* Emma Raducanu (UK) Tennis – became a global sensation when she won the US Open at the age of 18
* Yulimar Rojas (Venezuela) Athletics – broke 26-year-old world record to win triple jump gold in Tokyo
* Ariarne Titmus (Australia) Swimming – aged 20, beat champion Katie Ledecky at 200 and 400m in Tokyo
World Comeback of the Year
* Simone Biles (USA) Gymnastics – after withdrawing in Tokyo, she came back to win bronze in the beam
* Sky Brown (UK) Skateboarding – aged 13, recovered from fractured skull to win bronze medal in Tokyo
* Mark Cavendish (UK) Cycling – fought back from depression to win second Tour de France sprint title
* Tom Daley (UK) Diving – had knee surgery in June, but won 10 metres synchronised gold in Tokyo
* Marc Márquez (Spain) Motor Cycling – first win in 581 days, after recovering from broken arm at start of 2020
* Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands) Cycling – won Olympic time trial days after missing gold in road race
World Sportsperson of the Year With a Disability
* Diede De Groot (Netherlands) Wheelchair Tennis - first player to complete the calendar-year Golden Slam
* Marcel Hug (Switz) Wheelchair Athletics – won Paralympic gold medals in 800, 1 500, 5 000m and marathon
* Shingo Kunieda (Japan) Wheelchair Tennis – host-nation hero, won fourth Paralympic gold of his career
* Jetze Plat (Netherlands) Para Cycling / Para Triathlon – won three Paralympic gold medals in two sports
* Susana Rodríguez (Spain) Para Triathlon – won gold in Tokyo in triathlon PTVI, her first Paralympic medal
* Sarah Storey (UK) Para Cycling – won three golds from three events to take her career total to 17
World Action Sportsperson of the Year
* Ítalo Ferreira (Brazil) Surfing – in Tokyo became the first-ever surfing Olympic gold medal winner
* Alberto Ginés (Spain) Climbing – aged 18, scaled 15-metre wall in 6.42 seconds to win speed climbing gold
* Yuto Horigome (Japan) Skateboarding – won first ever skateboarding Olympic gold to delight of host nation
* Carissa Moore (USA) Surfing – won first ever women’s Olympic surfing gold, then added her fifth world title
* Momiji Nishiya (Japan) Skateboarding – at 13, won first-ever Olympic gold medal in women’s street event
* Bethany Shriever (UK) BMX – first woman to win both Olympic and World Championship gold in same year
Laureus Sport For Good Award (Programmes shortlisted by a specialist selection panel; Laureus Academy select the winner)
* Ich will da rauf! (Germany) Climbing – disabled and non-disabled share challenge of the climbing wall
* Jucà Pe Cagnà (Italy) Multi-sport – provides safe places to play away from the influence of crime
* Kick 4 Life (Lesotho) Football – supports young people through health education and HIV testing
* Lost Boyz Inc. (USA) Baseball/Softball – works in Chicago to decrease violence and improve social conditions
* Monkey Magic (Japan) Climbing – promotes free climbing for those with visual impairment