Lionel Messi | AFP
London: The nominations for the Laureus World Sports Awards 2023 have been announced and this year, the world's pre-eminent sporting awards ceremony will celebrate not only athletes who thrilled sports fans over the previous 12 months but several who will end their careers with a claim to be the greatest in the history of their sport.
Six nominees have been selected across seven nominated Laureus categories, with six inspirational programmes also shortlisted for the Laureus Sport for Good Award. The more than 1,400 members of the Laureus Global Media Nominations Panel decided on all but one category - the shortlist for the Laureus World Sportsperson with a Disability Award was chosen by a specialist panel from the International Paralympic Committee. But what makes these Awards unique is the final stage of the judging process: a vote by the 71 members of the Laureus World Sports Academy - Olympic champions, world-record breakers, athletes who redefined their sports and who now make up the ultimate jury on sporting greatness.
The Award winners in these categories and recipients of the Awards presented at the discretion of the Laureus World Sports Academy will be announced at the Laureus World Sports Awards in the Spring.
The nominees for the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award spent 2022 climbing to the very pinnacle of their sport. Lionel Messi collected the one prize that had eluded him by leading Argentina to the World Cup. Kylian Mbappe's hat trick in the final earned him the Golden Boot as the World Cup's leading goalscorer. Rafael Nadal ended 2022 alone at the top of the all-time list of men's Grand Slam champions with 22 titles after victory in Australia and France. Max Verstappen joins Messi and Nadal as past winners of this Award on the 2023 shortlist after defending his Formula One world title. Mondo Duplantis broke the pole vault world record on three occasions and won world titles indoors and out. Steph Curry led the Golden State Warriors to a fourth NBA championship in eight years.
Formula One world champion and current Laureus World Sportsman of the Year, Max Verstappen said: "It's an honour to be nominated for the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award. Winning last year was an incredible moment for me: it is such a prestigious accolade, and it means even more when you're up against the world's best athletes. To be shortlisted again is an achievement in itself, so thank you to my team Oracle Red Bull Racing for the support throughout our Championship winning year, and thank you to the world's media for nominating me."
The race for the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award is led by two athletes who lit up the World Championships in Eugene, Oregon: Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce became a five-time champion over 100m, while Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone added the world title to her Olympic crown with a world record in the 400m hurdles. At the World Aquatics Championships in Budapest, Katie Ledecky won four golds, taking her total to 22, a record for a female swimmer. Alexia Putellas, led FC Barcelona to a perfect season in the Spanish league and claimed a second Ballon d'Or. Mikaela Shiffrin regained her overall title at the Alpine Ski World Cup, while Iga Swiatek emerged from 2022 as the undisputed No.1 in women's tennis, winning in Paris and New York.
Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce said: "I would like to thank the world's sports media for this special nomination. This is my sixth nomination for the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year and it is a great honour. I continue to be inspired by the wider Laureus movement and initiatives in celebrating the power of sports to change the world, which further makes the nomination special. Thank you Laureus and the world's sports media for nominating me once again."
Two meteoric tennis talents have been nominated for the Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year Award. Carlos Alcaraz gave a preview of the next era in the men's game, winning the US Open to end the year as the sport's youngest-ever No.1-ranked player. In the women's game, Elena Rybakina won her first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon. Scottie Scheffler won The Masters and tied for second at the US Open on his way to becoming golf's No.1. Also nominated are the Morocco Men's Football Team who captivated the world on their adventure to the semi-finals of the World Cup; Nathan Chen, the figure skater who added Olympic gold to a world title; and Tobi Amusan, who broke the 100m hurdles world record on the way to claiming Nigeria's first-ever gold medal at the World Athletics Championships.
The nominees for the Laureus World Team of the Year Award include both serial winners and ground-breakers. The Argentina Men's Football Team won a third World Cup, but the first in a generation led by Lionel Messi. No team has won the Champions League more than Real Madrid, who claimed their 14th title to go with another La Liga championship. The Golden State Warriors' fourth NBA championship in eight years ensured their legacy will last forever. The Oracle Red Bull Racing ended the eight-year reign of Mercedes with a Max Verstappen-led victory in the Constructors' Championship. The France Men's Rugby Team had not won the Six Nations Championship since the Grand Slam of 2010 - and they repeated that feat to reclaim the crown in style. And there were no more dramatic champions than the England Women's Football Team, who on home soil fulfilled their promise to become champions of Europe.
The Laureus Sport for Good Award recognises an individual or organisation who, in the opinion of the members of the Laureus World Sports Academy, has made a significant contribution to transforming the lives of children and young people through sport. This year, the inspirational shortlist includes a movement-based psychosocial support intervention developed by War Child, Save the Children and UNICEF the Netherlands that uses physical activity to relieve stress in children affected by war or conflict (TeamUp); one that uses boxing to challenge stereotypes and empowers young women in Kenya (Boxgirls); a football project aimed at educating and elevating the homeless population in Delhi (Slum Soccer); a programme whose mission is to make sport inclusive for people with disabilities in South Africa (Made For More) and a project in Germany that uses action sports to help orphaned and migrant children integrate into new communities (High Five).
Diede de Groot, who completed back-to-back calendar Grand Slams to set a new standard in wheelchair tennis, is nominated for the Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability Award. She is joined in an inspirational category by Catherine Debrunner, who broke world records in T53 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m on her home track in Switzerland, then moved up to marathon, winning on her debut in Berlin, and in London. After a break of over two years from competitive swimming, New Zealand's Cameron Leslie - who also competes in wheelchair rugby as a Wheel Black - won S4 100m freestyle gold at the World Para Swimming Championships. At the Winter Paralympics in China, Declan Farmer led the USA to a third consecutive gold medal in Ice Hockey and was the tournament's top scorer; Jesper Saltvik Pedersen won four golds on the slopes; and the multi-sport phenomenon Oksana Masters added another chapter to her legend with double gold in the para biathlon.
Three surfers are nominated for the Laureus World Action Sportsperson of the Year Award. Filipe Toledo of Brazil was the world champion for the first time. For Stephanie Gilmore, a previous winner of this Award, it was world championship No.8, while big-wave specialist Justine Dupont continued to thrill in that most daring of disciplines. At the Beijing Winter Olympics, freestyle skier Eileen Gu won two gold medals - in big air and halfpipe, while snowboarder Chloe Kim defended the halfpipe gold she had won as a teenager in 2018. Skateboarder Rayassa Leal was still only 14 as she won Street gold at both the Summer X Games and the World Championships.
What we love about sport is not always measured in medals and there are some inspirational stories within the nominations for Laureus World Comeback of the Year. Tiger Woods' return at Augusta, 14 months after a car crash that crushed one of his feet, was as moving as any of his Major wins. Klay Thompson missed two entire seasons through injuries before returning to win his fourth NBA championship with the Golden State Warriors. At the World Athletics Championships, there was no upset greater than Jake Wightman's defeat of Jakob Ingebrigtsen in the 1500m final. Norway's 21-year-old track superstar responded with gold in the 5,000m a few days later. Francesco Bagnaia won his first MotoGP title from a seemingly impossible position - he trailed by 91 points in mid-season. Annemiek van Vleuten started the Tour de France Femmes fighting illness and slumping to the back of the field, before fighting through the ranks to win it all. Christian Eriksen collapsed on the field after suffering cardiac arrest during a Euro 2020 match for Denmark. In February 2022, he returned to the field in the Premier League. (ANI)