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WATCH: Max Verstappen, Elaine Thompson-Herah the big winners at Laureus World Sports Awards

Max Verstappen, who secured his first World Championship at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in December, won the Sportsman of the Year award at the Laureus World Sports Awards. Picture: Supplied:

Max Verstappen, who secured his first World Championship at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in December, won the Sportsman of the Year award at the Laureus World Sports Awards. Picture: Supplied:

Published Apr 24, 2022

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Seville, Spain - Leading an illustrious group of sports stars honoured by the Laureus World Sports Academy were Formula One world champion Max Verstappen and Jamaican Olympic sprint queen Elaine Thompson-Herah, who were named Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year at the Laureus World Sports Awards, hosted in a digital ceremony from Seville on Sunday.

The Awards recognise the greatest sporting achievements of 2021, one of the highlights of which was the European Championship victory by the Italian Men’s Football Team who win their second Laureus Team of the Year Award as a result, while global tennis sensation Emma Raducanu receives the Laureus Breakthrough of the Year Award following her US Open victory at the age of 18.

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The Laureus World Sports Academy also made special presentations to three giants of sport: Tom Brady, seven-time winner of the Super Bowl, is honoured with the Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award; Robert Lewandowski receives the Laureus Academy Exceptional Achievement Award for achievements including breaking Gerd Muller’s long-standing goalscoring record in the Bundesliga; and hugely popular motor cycle racer Valentino Rossi is presented with the Laureus Sporting Icon Award, after retiring in November at the end of a 25-year career.

Max Verstappen, who secured his first World Championship at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in December, said: “I was very happy, of course, but it was a lot of hard work and years of preparation. I’m incredibly proud. Since I was a little kid I dreamt of being on the top step and winning the championship. I said to my dad [Former Formula One driver Jos Verstappen] ‘We did it, this is what we worked for all these years and now we are here, the two of us, all the memories, all the years of travelling all over Europe, going for that one goal and we achieved it’.

“I’m the first Dutch driver to win the World Championship, so the reaction back in Holland was amazing from all the newspapers and fans, it’s something we’ll never forget. It means a lot to be recognised for this Award, one of the highest ones in the world, so I’m incredibly happy.”

Elaine Thompson-Herah, who defended her 100 and 200 metres Olympic titles in Tokyo, and also won a third gold in the 4 x 100m relay, has been described as the female Usain Bolt. She said: “I know Usain has won Laureus Awards before, so to bring this trophy back home to the Caribbean, also in Jamaica, is very special.

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“I have watched that [100 metres] race about a thousand times now. I would say I am very, very proud, but I cannot dwell on the past. Even though it’s very special, it’s memories. I cannot just sit and say ‘OK, I’m a double Olympic champion, I’m a five-time Olympic gold medallist. I have to continue working because my motivation is to be even better. I told myself that I want to be the greatest female sprinter, so I am just going to focus on what the future holds for me.”

Emma Raducanu is a popular winner of the Laureus Breakthrough of the Year Award after becoming the first qualifier in tennis history to win a Grand Slam. She came through three rounds of qualifying and seven main draw matches at the US Open without dropping a set. It was only her second Grand Slam event.

After being presented with the Laureus Statuette, Emma received a message by video link from tennis star and Laureus Academy Member Li Na, who is one of her role models. She said: “Thank you so much Li Na. You have been a great inspiration to me all my career. It’s been a great year for me. Thank you to all the Laureus Academy Members for voting for me. I really want to congratulate all the other Nominees too.”

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Laureus World Comeback of the Year Winner is skateboard star Sky Brown, who suffered a skull fracture when she landed headfirst from a half-pipe in training in June 2020. She was unresponsive when she arrived at hospital, but recovered fully and was able to compete in the Olympics. Aged 13 years and 28 days, she finished third in the park final to win a bronze medal, making her Britain's youngest ever Olympic medallist.

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Brady's brilliant career has been a superb example of remarkable longevity in a very tough sport. He is the only quarterback to win a Super Bowl in three different decades. At 43 years 188 days, he became the oldest to win the Super Bowl as starting quarterback and the oldest to be named Super Bowl MVP.

He said: “I’ve played the sport of American Football for 31 years. I was very fortunate to fall in love with the game that’s brought so many memorable moments in my life. This Award was founded in the year 2000 when Nelson Mandela said ‘Sport has the power to change the world’ and I totally agree with that. Sport transcends borders, races, religions and ethnicities. It brings so many people together in a positive way. In my view it brings the best out in individuals.

“Pelé was voted for this Award in 2000. Billie Jean King was voted last year. People I really looked up to. Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart. It is an incredible honour to achieve this tonight.”

The full list of Winners is:

Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award: Max Verstappen

Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award: Elaine Thompson-Herah

Laureus World Team of the Year Award: Italy Men’s Football Team

Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year Award: Emma Raducanu

Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award: Sky Brown

Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability Award: Marcel Hug

Laureus World Action Sportsperson of the Year Award: Bethany Shriever

Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award: Tom Brady

Laureus Academy Exceptional Achievement Award: Robert Lewandowski

Laureus Sporting Icon Award: Valentino Rossi

Laureus Sport for Good Award: Lost Boyz Inc.

Laureus Sport for Good Society Award: Real Madrid Foundation

Laureus Athlete Advocate of the Year Award: Gerald Asamoah and the Black Eagles

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