F1 champ Max Verstappen, sprinter Elaine Thompson-Herah get top Laureus awards

Reigning Formula 1 champion Max Verstappen was on Monday announced Laureus World Sportsman of the Year, while Jamaican sprinter and winner of three gold medals at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, Elaine Thompson-Herah was named the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year.

Among other notable names to get the prestigious award during a digital ceremony hosted from Seville, are 2021 US Open women’s singles tennis champion Emma Raducanu, who received the Laureus ‘World Breakthrough of the Year Award’, while the Italian men’s football team, which won the Euro 2020 title, is the Laureus ‘World Team of the Year’.

The Laureus World Sports Academy also made special presentations to three giants of sport — Tom Brady, seven-time winner of the Super Bowl (Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award), footballer Robert Lewandowski (Laureus Academy Exceptional Achievement Award for breaking Gerd Muller’s long-standing goalscoring record in the Bundesliga), and motorcycle racer Valentino Rossi (Laureus Sporting Icon Award, after retiring in November at the end of a 25-year career).

Verstappen, who secured his maiden World Championship at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in December 2021, said, “I was very happy, of course, but it was a lot of hard work and years of preparation. I’m incredibly proud. Since I was a little kid I dreamt of being on the top step and winning the championship. I said to my dad (Former F1 driver Jos Verstappen) ‘We did it, this is what we worked for all these years and now we are here, the two of us, all the memories, all the years of travelling all over Europe, going for that one goal and we achieved it’.

“I’m the first Dutch driver to win the World Championship, so the reaction back in Holland was amazing from all the newspapers and fans, it’s something we’ll never forget. It means a lot to be recognised for this award, one of the highest ones in the world, so I’m incredibly happy.”

Elaine Thompson-Herah, who defended her 100 and 200m Olympic titles in Tokyo, and also won a third gold in the 4x100m relay, has been described as the female Usain Bolt. “I know Usain has won Laureus Awards before, so to bring this trophy back home to the Caribbean, also in Jamaica, is very special.

“I have watched that (100m) race about a thousand times now. I would say I am very, very proud, but I cannot dwell on the past. Even though it’s very special, it’s memories. I cannot just sit and say ‘OK, I’m a double Olympic champion, I’m a five-time Olympic gold medallist. I have to continue working because my motivation is to be even better. I told myself that I want to be the greatest female sprinter, so I am just going to focus on what the future holds for me.”

Emma Raducanu, who became the first qualifier in tennis history to win a Grand Slam, coming through three rounds of qualifying and seven main draw matches at the US Open without dropping a set in only her second Grand Slam event, said, “It’s been a great year for me. Thank you to all the Laureus Academy Members for voting for me.”

One of football’s greatest strikers, Robert Lewandowski scored his 41st goal in the Bundesliga for Bayern Munich in the last minute of the last day of the 2020/21 season to surpass Gerd Muller’s record of 40 goals in a season, which dated back to 1971/72. To honour the achievement and celebrate Lewandowski’s social conscience, he was presented with the Laureus Academy Exceptional Achievement Award, an honour only previously given five times.

The Poland captain has now scored more than 500 senior career goals for club and country. “It really means a lot to be recognised and appreciated by such wonderful people, athletes, legends from all over the world of sport. It has a very special meaning to me as an athlete and a man,” said Lewandowski.

Full list of winners:

Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award: Max Verstappen.

Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award: Elaine Thompson-Herah.

Laureus World Team of the Year Award: Italy Men’s Football Team.

Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year Award: Emma Raducanu.

Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award: Sky Brown.

Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability Award: Marcel Hug.

Laureus World Action Sportsperson of the Year Award: Bethany Shriever.

Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award: Tom Brady.

Laureus Academy Exceptional Achievement Award: Robert Lewandowski.

Laureus Sporting Icon Award: Valentino Rossi.

Laureus Sport for Good Award: Lost Boyz Inc.

Laureus Sport for Good Society Award: Real Madrid Foundation.

Laureus Athlete Advocate of the Year Award: Gerald Asamoah and the Black Eagles.

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