SEVILLE, Spain, April 24 – Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen and three-time Tokyo Olympic gold medalist Elaine Thompson-Herah won the Laureus World Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year awards on Sunday at a virtual ceremony in Seville.
Dutchman Verstappen, who won the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix earlier on Sunday, follows Rafael Nadal who won the men’s prize last year and arch-rival Lewis Hamilton, who shared the men’s prize with Lionel Messi in 2020 .
Thompson-Herah is not the first Jamaican sprinter to win an award.
“I know Usain (Bolt) has won Laureus Awards before, so bringing this trophy home to the Caribbean, also to Jamaica, is very special,” she said.
The awards are organized by the Laureus Sports Foundation and the 2021 winners were selected by a 71-member panel led by All Black rugby great Sean Fitzpatrick.
In a sign of the fleeting nature of sporting achievements, the Italian men’s football team, which won the Euros last year and missed out on the World Cup this spring, have been voted ‘Team of the Year’ for the second time.
British tennis star Emma Raducanu, who has struggled for consistency since winning the US Open last year, received the ‘breakthrough of the year’ award.
The ceremony mopped up other big stars with a series of special awards.
Seven-time Super Bowl-winning NFL quarterback Tom Brady, 44, who retired and then did not retire after last season, received a “Lifetime Achievement” award.
Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, who broke Gerd Mueller’s goalscoring record in the Bundesliga, received the ‘Outstanding Achievement’ award.
Seven-time elite motorcycling champion Valentino Rossi has won the ‘Sporting Icon’ award, after retiring in November after a 25-year career.
“This award was created in 2000 when Nelson Mandela said ‘sport has the power to change the world’ and I wholeheartedly agree with that,” Brady said.
“Pelé was elected for this award in 2000. Billie Jean King was elected last year. People I really admired.
Skateboarder Sky Brown won ‘Comeback of the Year’ at the age of 13.
She fractured her skull in training in June 2020 and was unresponsive when she arrived at hospital. She recovered and competed in Tokyo winning bronze and becoming Britain’s youngest Olympic medalist at 13 years and 28 days.
Swiss wheelchair racer Marcel Hug has been named ‘World Sportsman of the Year with a Disability’ for the second time after winning gold medals at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo in the 800m, 1,500m, with a record of the world, 5000 m and marathon.
He also won the Berlin, New York and Boston marathons in 2021.
Britain’s Bethany Shriever has won the ‘Action Sportsperson’ award after winning gold medals at the Olympics and BMX World Championships. She funded her Olympic campaign with crowdfunding after UK Sport cut her support.
The Real Madrid Foundation and a Chicago youth baseball program, Lost Boyz Inc, were also awarded.
Gerald Asamoah, a former Germany international, and other black German footballers known collectively as the ‘Black Eagles’ have won the ‘Athlete Advocate’ award for their campaign against racism.