ABU DHABI, March 10, 2010 – The names of the winners of the 2010 Laureus World Sports Awards were announced at a televised Awards Ceremony staged at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi which also celebrated the first ten years in the life of Laureus and was attended by global figures from the world of sport and entertainment.
The Laureus World Sports Awards are the premier honours on the international sporting calendar, with the winners being chosen by the Laureus World Sports Academy, the ultimate sports jury, made up of 46 of the greatest sportsmen and sportswomen of all time. The living legends of sport honouring the great athletes of today. Among the members of the Laureus World Sports Academy present in Abu Dhabi were Giacomo Agostini, Marcus Allen, Franz Beckenbauer, Boris Becker, Ian Botham, Sergey Bubka, Nadia Comaneci, Kapil Dev, Emerson Fittipaldi, Sean Fitzpatrick, Dawn Fraser, Cathy Freeman, Mika Hakkinen, Tony Hawk, Mike Horn, Kip Keino, Edwin Moses, Nawal El Moutawakel, Robby Naish, Alexey Nemov, Morné du Plessis, Hugo Porta, Monica Seles, Daley Thompson, Alberto Tomba and Steve Waugh.
Double Oscar-winning Hollywood star Kevin Spacey hosted the glittering Awards Ceremony. Among the guests in a packed auditorium at the Emirates Palace were Oscar-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow, British film stars Hugh Grant and Clive Owen, American actors Kyle MacLachlan from Desperate Housewives and Michelle Rodriguez who played leading roles in the Oscar-winning movie Avatar and the TV series Lost, Grammy nominated singer-songwriter Mika who earlier drew up to the red carpet in a spectacular gull-wing Mercedes-Benz, plus a host of sports celebrities.
When the Awards were announced there was a huge ovation for Jamaica’s remarkable track genius Usain Bolt, who was named Laureus World Sportsman of the Year for the second straight time, after continuing his amazing blitz on sprinting in 2009 when he won three more gold medals at the World Championships. Bolt said: “It’s great to receive this Award. It means an awful lot to me.”
And in a cross chat with Edwin Moses, Chairman of the Laureus World Sports Academy, who asked Bolt, if, after an amazing 2008 and what he had achieved in Beijing, did he ever think 2009 could get any better, he replied: “Definitely, I worked hard and stayed focused. I knew the guys would be coming in and trying to dethrone me. I knew I could do it.”
Moses wondered just how low could Bolt sprint 100 metres. Bolt insisted: “Anything is possible. I’ve already done 9.58secs. I’m just going to keep running hard and keep breaking records. That’s the main aim for me.”
Laureus Academy Member Michael Johnson, who lost his long-standing 200 metres world record to the Jamaican sprinter, said: “Usain Bolt is one of those athletes I would actually pay money to watch. I have had the opportunity to talk with him about his career and his future. He could dominate for years to come. The only thing that can limit Usain is himself. The most interesting thing will be to see where his motivation comes from over the next few years. But after speaking with him, he seems to have a great perspective and I expect that he could amass quite a collection of Laureus trophies over the next several years.”
US tennis star Serena Williams won her second Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award, seven years after her first, following Grand Slam victories in Australia and at Wimbledon. It was her third Laureus Award in total, after also winning the Laureus Comeback Award in 2007.
Serena said: “I am just so delighted to win this Award. It’s my third Laureus Award which is amazing and I would like to say thank you to all the Academy Members who voted for me and to the world’s media who nominated me. Last year had its ups and downs, so to get this support is fantastic.
“As a tennis player you look at the amazing names of the Academy Members – like John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova, Boris Becker and Monica Seles – who have won so many Grand Slams and they know what it takes to do that. There is nothing better in sport than being acknowledged by the people that you looked up to when you were a young player.”
Formula One was a big winner in Abu Dhabi as Britain’s Jenson Button won the Laureus Breakthrough of the Year Award following his first World Drivers’ Championship, and the Brawn GP Formula One Team, for whom Button drove in 2009, was named Laureus World Team of the Year.
Jenson said: “2009 was a very special year of my life. When I started the season I didn’t think I’d actually be racing in Formula One. So to clinch the title with Brawn GP in our first year was a very emotional experience for me, and the team deserve some of the credit for this trophy. I would also like to thank the Laureus Academy for putting me forward for this Award. This is perfect for wrapping up my 2009 championship and in the 2010 season, which presents a brand new challenge for me, I’ll be racing with the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team. Hopefully I can come back and get close to holding one of these Awards again.”
Belgium’s Kim Clijsters won the Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award after her remarkable return to tennis in 2009 when she won the US Open Grand Slam title in only her third tournament following a two-year absence. She said: “2009 was a very emotional year for me. At the start I lost my father, and then winning the US Open was an unbelievable emotion. It was an experience I never thought would happen so quickly and so soon. It was an amazing two weeks. I’m really happy that I decided to come back to tennis, and that I have my family who like to travel and live this adventure with me. Now that Justine Henin and myself are back, I think I’ve started a trend with ex-tennis players making a return. I think it is only good for the sport.”
Laureus World Sports Academy Member Martina Navratilova commented: “Tennis has suffered over the last few years with top class players retiring before their time was up because of injuries and stress. Kim Clijsters threw all that into reverse and staged a truly phenomenal comeback. It takes a really strong turn of mind to be able to return to the hard work and pressure of the tennis circuit, but for Kim to be able to do that and win a Grand Slam tournament within a few weeks is a heroic performance. She fully deserves to win this Award.”
There was a warm reception at the Awards Ceremony for courageous South African swimmer Natalie du Toit, who is breaking down the barriers between disabled and able-bodied sport, as she received the Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability Award.
A delighted Natalie said: “It is a great honour to be receiving this prestigious Award. It is the third time that I’ve been to the Laureus Awards and the second time that I’ve been nominated. In 2010 we will be holding the soccer World Cup, and to hold South Africa’s name high is very special for me. Being a Friend & Ambassador for Laureus makes it very special for me to see what sport can do, how sports people can go into communities and really uplift them. I’ve seen those community projects, so to Laureus ‘well done’.”
Laureus World Sports Academy Member and Paralympic legend Tanni Grey-Thompson said: “I am delighted that my fellow Academy Members voted for Natalie. What she has achieved over the last decade has been amazing. Natalie is a fantastic ambassador for her sport and as one of only two people to have competed in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games, a remarkable athlete. She has shown determination and courage throughout her career and fully deserves this Award.”
Australia’s three-times World Surfing Champion Stephanie Gilmore was named Laureus World Action Sportsperson of the Year. Stephanie said: “This is unbelievable. Not in my wildest dreams did I think I would get this Award. Winning this is up there with winning world titles and I hope I can use it to inspire young girls to do well. Over the last few days have I really learned so much about Laureus, the Academy, the positive projects and the phenomenal people who are behind it all. It has blown me away. I just go surfing, and have so much fun doing it, so achieving this Award is amazing.”
Laureus Academy Member Nawal El Moutawakel received the Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award for her work for women in sport and the International Olympic Committee. An emotional Nawal told the Laureus Academy Members: “I am so happy you have chosen me today. Nelson Mandela said some ten years ago that sport has the power to change the face of the world. It did change me, it totally changed my life. I remember, when I first started, that sport taught me excellence, it taught me determination, it taught me to be the best I can be today and to be even better tomorrow.
“The Laureus ambassadors show, through our actions and through our projects, how we can be role models for the younger generation of today. Our role is to give back. My race was the 400 metres hurdles, and they were the hurdles of life. They were a real school for me. Every hurdle was a lesson. When you fall down, you learn to stand up and come back and be the best that you have ever been. I will treasure this trophy for the rest of my life. I have won so many trophies during my career, but this is one of the best.”
The Laureus Sport for Good Award went to American basketball legend Dikembe Mutombo, for his charitable work in his native Congo. He said: “Thank you to Laureus for giving me such recognition. Thank you to all of my employees who are working in the Congo to make sure my dream and my vision stays alive.
“All I wanted to do was change the living conditions of the people in Africa. It’s been very hard for me, every day as I played basketball, to see how many millions of children continued to die on the continent of Africa. More than 1.5 million children keep dying from malaria, which costs only 35 cents to treat. And women continue to die from child delivery, and it costs only 25 dollars to deliver a baby. If we are not putting in an effort to save these women and children, our world will continue to suffer.”
The 2010 Laureus World Sports Awards were supported by Host Partner Aabar Investments PJSC. Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates, offers a fascinating combination of the old and the new; a blend of Arabian hospitality and mystique where a mixture of culture and tradition come together against a backdrop of the most modern world-class infrastructure. Abu Dhabi is developing a reputation as a leading international sporting venue. The Laureus World Sports Awards is the latest high profile sports event to be staged in Abu Dhabi. Last year Abu Dhabi was chosen to stage football’s FIFA Club World Cup, and the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix and the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship are now highlights of the sporting calendar in the city.