The First Laureus Awards ceremony started in 2000 with the incomparable Nelson Mandela announcing: “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope when once there was only despair.”
These stirring words set the tone for some much awaited and much respected awards aspired for by sportspersons the world over, especially as these awards are across sports.
The awards themselves have been instituted by the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, which is a global organisation involved in more than 150 charity projects supporting several lakh young people. To give an illustrative example of one of the projects, it involves cleaning of the slums of the poorest part of Nairobi, where 14000 youngsters play in 90 football leagues. There are several awards such as “World sportsman of the year award”, “World team of the year”, “World comeback of the year”, “World breakthrough of the year”, “World action sportsperson of the year”, “world sportsperson of the year with a disability” and “Worlds best sporting moment of the year”. .
The most looked forward Laureus award is the Laureus sportsman of the year award which is awarded to the sportsman who best demonstrates supreme athletic performance and achievement – such as consecutive or multiple world, continental, international or national and major championship titles or the establishment of world records or best performances. The awards ceremony was hosted by Hollywood star Benedict Cumberbatch and the sportsman of the year 2018 award went to Roger Federer.
Federer in his acceptance speech said that it was an honour to receive the award especially as the foundation does amazing work. He also said that he has a Foundation as well and the Laureus Foundation inspires and motivates him and maybe in future he would be known more for his philanthropic work than his tennis. Federer also spoke about his great rival, Rafa Nadal and said that Rafa has helped him become a better player.
For 2018, Federer won the award edging out great sportspersons Rafa Nadal, four time formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton, Tour de France champion Chris Froome and Real Madrid footballer Christiano Ronaldo. Federer also won the comeback of the year award as well which was his 6th Laureus Award overall, which is maximum ever for any sportsperson.
If one has a look at who votes and selects the Sportsman of the year, one sees that the world’s leading sports editors, writers and broadcasters do so. Some extremely select legends of the game are also in the panel and there is a secret ballot as well. This goes a long way in ensuring that the awards gets legitimacy and the respect it deserves. For instance the cricketers who are the voters are all legends such as Viv Richards, Ian Botham, Rahul Dravid, Steve Waugh and Sachin Tendulkar. Can there be better voters?
The winners so far are all legends and all time-greats. The maximum awards for sportsman of the year has been won 5 times by Roger Federer from 2005-2008 and 2018. The great Usain Bolt has won 4 times in 2008, 2010 2013 2017 while Novak Djokovic has won thrice in 2012, 2015 and 2016. There are two two time winners in Tiger Woods who won the first two awards in 2000 and 2001 while racing great Michael Schumacher won it in 2002 and 2004. Tennis great Rafa Nadal in 2011 and racing champion Sebastian Vettel in 2014 have won the award once each.
Congrats Roger Federer. It’s 5 and counting. Or is it 6 and counting if we include the world comeback of the year award along with the 5 world sportsman of the year awards won by him.
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