I have had a long time affection for the Laureus Foundations and the incredible work they have done around the world. I have also been a long-time admirer of the Laureus Sports Awards, much like a lifestyle blogger would love the Oscars. It came as a supreme honour to be asked to forward my nominations as part of the nomination committee. I was allowed to submit six names in five different categories for the awards that will be hosted in Shanghai on April 15, 2015. Here below are my first choices as well as runners-up for each category.
World Sportsman of the Year – Chad le Clos (South Africa)
South Africa have a superstar and he is undoubtedly one of the finest sportsman we have produced in recent years. 2014 saw Chad emerge with more medals, more credibility and the title of International Swimmer of the Year. Chad won the clean sweep at the World short-course championship winning gold in 50, 100 and 200 for Butterfly as well as gold in the 200m freestyle leading South Africa to 4th in the Medals table. He also won 7 medals at the Commonwealth Games including gold in the 100 & 200 Butterfly. On top of this he dominated the FINA World Cup series winning it for the third time in four years by winning 24 gold medals in the year. Another dominant year from South Africa’s finest and he is still only 22.
My Runner Up selection: Marc Marquez (Spain)
World Sportswoman of the Year – Valerie Adams (New Zealand)
My Runner Up selection: Meg Lanning (Australia)
World Team of the Year – Germany Football Team
In a Football World Cup year the team that has won the World Cup has also won the Laureus Team of the Year. Brazil (03), Italy (07) and Spain (11) were all worthy winners but probably not as deserving as current World Champions. Germany were brilliant throughout and apart from two African scares never looked like getting beaten. Their two standout performances were far and away the 4-0 opening thumping of Portugal where they laid down a marker of what they could do, before turning in the most outrageous game of football in a World Cup Semi-Final when they dismantled the hosts 7-1, a score that was ultimately flattering to the hosts. Oktoberfest was extra fun in 2014!
My Runner Up selection: Mercedes GP
World Breakthrough of the Year – Stanislas Wawrinka (Switzerland)
From Wimbledon in 2004, where Roger Federer won his 3rd Grand Slam title, to the US Open in 2013, won by Roger Nadal, the big four of Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray had won 36 of the 38 Grand Slams contended. Only Marat Safin in (Australia ’05) and Del Potro (US ’09) had joined at the top table. In Melbourne in 2014 the same was expected. But then Stan the man, playing in his 36th Grand Slam marched to the final after knocking triple defending champion Djokovic out in the quarters and would meet world number 1 Nadal in the final. It was a final he would win to lift his first Grand Slam, become the first man to defeat Nadal and Djokovic in the final and the first man since 2002 to beat the top two ranked players in the same grand slam. He would also crown the year by playing a part in the Switzerland Davis Cup win, their first ever. The very epitome of a breakthrough year.
My Runner Up selection: Daniel Ricciardo (Australia)
World Comeback of the Year – Schalk Burger (South Africa)
When you are faced with career threatening injuries and life threatening illness, it’s often a good time to call it a day. Schalk faced a scary five days of intensive care as a cyst on the back, led to him developing bacterial meningitis. Instead of giving up Schalk fought back and once again became a key cog in the Springbok machine. His introduction in the New Zealand test at Ellis Park made a massive impact and South Africans were quickly reminded of their favourite son. He topped of his year with a man of the match performance at Twickenham as the Springboks emerged victorious against the Roses. Welcome back Schalk!
My Runner Up selection: Diego Milito (Argentina)