Olympic skiing champion Lindsey Vonn and tennis player Rafael Nadal won this year’s individual Laureus Sports Awards, with Spain’s World Cup winners taking the team prize.
Vonn, winner of the women’s downhill at the Vancouver Games and a third consecutive overall World Cup title, took the sportswoman’s award. High jumper Blanka Vlasic and tennis players Serena Williams, Kim Clijsters and Caroline Wozniacki were among the other nominees.
The No. 1-ranked Nadal – winner of three Grand Slam tennis titles in 2010 – was named sportsman of the year, beating nominees including Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao and Barcelona footballers Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi.
Sports stars and celebrities attending the Laureus World Sports Awards found Yas Island ‘a destination unlike any other’ as this jewel in Abu Dhabi’s crown lit up for the Laureus Welcome Party.
Flashbulbs popped when Golden Globe-winning actor and narrator Morgan Freeman made his grand entrance. The American took the opportunity to shake hands with tennis legend Boris Becker before saying: “It is so very nice to be here. I think the Laureus World Sports Awards are one of the most important and prestigious award ceremonies in the world. I think it is the only awards event that includes the world.”
Other winners included French soccer great Zinedine Zidane who won the lifetime achievement award and American surfer Kelly Slater who was the action sportsperson of the year. Italy’s seven-time motorcycling world champion Valentino Rossi took the comeback of the year award after he returned to MotoGP just 41 days after breaking his leg.
The winners are chosen by 46 sports stars who make up the Laureus sports academy.
Vonn is currently preparing for the Alpine skiing world championships in Germany, where she is seeking to defend her super-G title.
Proceeds from the awards ceremony underpin the work of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation which supports 83 community sports projects around the world.
Sportsman of the Year: Rafael Nadal (Spain, tennis)
Sportswoman of the Year: Lindsey Vonn (USA, skiing)
Team of the Year: Spain World Cup Team. Nominees included All Blacks (New Zealand, rugby), European Ryder Cup Team (golf), Inter Milan (Italy, football), Los Angeles Lakers (US, basketball), Red Bull Formula One Team (Austria).
Breakthrough of the Year: Martin Kaymer (Germany, golf). Nominees included Christophe Lemaitre (France, athletics), Matteo Manassero (Italy, golf), Thomas Muller (Germany, football), Louis Oosthuizen (S.Africa, golf), Teddy Tamgho (France, athletics).
Comeback of the Year: Valentino Rossi (Italy, motorcycling). Nominees included Paula Creamer (US, golf), Tyson Gay (US, athletics), Justine Henin (Belgium, tennis), Carolina Kluft (Sweden, athletics), and Merlene Ottey (Slovenia, athletics)
Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability: Verena Bentele (Germany, skiing/biathlon). Nominees included Matt Cowdrey (Australia, swimming), Daniel Dias (Brazil, swimming), Jakub Krako (Slovakia, skiing), Esther Vergeer (Netherlands, wheelchair tennis), Lauren Woolstencroft (Canada, skiing).
Action Sportsperson of the Year: Kelly Slater (USA, surfing). Nominees included Jamie Bestwick (UK, BMX), Victor Fernandez (Spain, windsurfing), Stephanie Gilmore (Australia, surfing), Levi Sherwood (N.Zealand, freestyle moto-cross), and Shaun White (US, snowboarding).
Lifetime Achievement Award: Zinedine Zidane (France, football)
Spirit of Sport Award: European Ryder Cup team (golf)
Sport for Good Award: May El-Khalil (Beirut marathon founder)