Verstappen, Thompson-Herah win Laureus awards

Elaine Thompson-Herah (Getty Images)

Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Formula One world champion Max Verstappen and triple Tokyo Olympic gold medallist Elaine Thompson-Herah won the Laureus World Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year awards on Sunday in a virtual ceremony in Seville.

The awards are organised by the Laureus Sports Foundation and the 2021 winners were selected by a 71-member panel.

Verstappen, who won the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix earlier on Sunday, follows Rafael Nadal who won the men’s award last year and his great 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 to bring this trophy back home to the Caribbean, also in Jamaica, is very special,” she said.

In a sign of how ephemeral sporting achievements can be, the Italian men’s football team, who followed winning the Euros last year with missing the World Cup this spring, were voted the ‘Team of the Year’, for a second time.

British tennis starlet Emma Raducanu, who has struggled for consistency since winning the US Open last year, received the ‘Breakthrough of the Year’ award.

NFL quarterback Tom Brady, a 44-year-old seven-time winner Super Bowl winner who retired then unretired after last season, received a ‘Lifetime Achievement’ award.

Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, who broke Gerd Mueller’s Bundesliga scoring record, was given an ‘Exceptional Achievement’ award. 

Seven-time elite motorbike champion Valentino Rossi won the ‘Sporting Icon’ award, after retiring in November at the end of a 25-year career.

“This Award was founded in the year 2000 when Nelson Mandela said ‘sport has the power to change the world’ and I totally agree with that,” said Brady.

“Pele was voted for this Award in 2000. Billie Jean King was voted last year. People I really looked up to.”

Skateboarder Sky Brown won the ‘Comeback of the Year’ award aged 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 medallist at 13 years and 28 days.

Swiss wheelchair racer Marcel Hug was named ‘World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability’ for the second time after winning Tokyo Paralympics golds in 800m, 1 500m, with a world record time, 5 000m and marathon. 

He also won the Berlin, New York and Boston marathons in 2021.

Briton Bethany Shriever took the ‘Action Sportsperson’ award after winning both Olympic and World Championship BMX golds. She financed her Olympic campaign with crowdfunding after UK Sport cut support.

The Real Madrid Foundation and a Chicago youth baseball programme Lost Boyz Inc, were also recognised with awards.

Gerald Asamoah, a former Germany international, and other black German footballers known collectively as the ‘Black Eagles’ won the ‘Athlete Advocate’ award for campaigning against racism.