Laureus crowns remarkable Djokovic and Biles as Athletes of the Year

Maria Pia Beltran, AIPS Media
MONACO, February 19, 2019 – The Laureus World Sport Awards are approaching twenty years of celebrating sports values by honouring sports legends, and the event took another important step towards that milestone on Monday, February 18, in Monaco for the 2019 edition.

CNN International sports presenter Amanda Davies was the co-host of US Actor James Marsden for the glamorous night that crowned Novak Djokovic as the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year for the fourth time and Simone Biles as the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year for the second time in the stunning Salle des Etoiles, part of The Sporting Club Monte Carlo.

For the third year in a row, Monaco hosted the glittering kermesse which was born in 2000 as HRH Prince Albert II of Monaco mentioned in his welcome speech. “There is a long history between the Awards and Montecarlo, we are very proud to have you here celebrating the values in which all we believe.”

FRANCE MEN’S FOOTBALL Remembering a famous quote from Michael Jordan, Laureus Ambassador Luis Figo said: “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” That is why the opening award of the ceremony was delivered by the charismatic former Portuguese footballer to France Men’s Football Team, winners of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

STANDING OVATION The discretional ‘Spirit of Sport Award’ was then given by US Skater Tony Hawks to his compatriot Lindsey Vonn, who just retired from an exceptionally long and successful career in Alpine Skiing. The standing ovation for the American skier engulfed the packed Salle des Etoiles. Vonn said: “It’s weird to be here after ending my career just a week ago, but I am really honoured. I have been inspired by many of you and I really want to thank you for your respect, I am really going to miss it.”

EXTRAORDINARY ACHIEVEMENT IOC Vice President and AIPS Sport Media Awards Juror Nawal El Moutawakkel together with Kenyan former long-distance runner Tegla Lourupe had the honour of presenting the Extraordinary Achievement award to the Men’s Marathon record man Eliud Kipchoge, who went straight to the point in his gratitude speech: “I dedicate this to all who love the sport and I just want to say that a sporting world is a peaceful and enjoyable world.”

TEAM WORK ALWAYS PAYS OFF For the Laureus World Sports Award for Sportsperson of the Year with a disability, Slovak Henrieta Farkasova together with her guide were chosen as an example of how team work can be achieved even in an individual event. The skiers pointed out that winning such a recognition for a country where the sport is normally just a hobby and where they both work and usually train just for passion is something extremely appreciated.

SPORTING MOMENT OF THE YEAR Different from the other awards, the ‘Sporting Moment of the Year’ is the only Laureus recognition given on a global public vote. The amazing Chinese climber Xia Boyu won it after reaching the pick of Mount Everest with his prosthetic legs despite failing to achieve his mission in several previous attempts. “I have lost my legs because of the cold I have suffered during my first attempt 43 years ago,” he said. I have experienced a lot of accidents like storms, earthquakes and I had also faced cancer but finally last year Mount Everest accepted me and I could accomplish my dream.”

SPORT FOR GOOD New Laureus Academy member Missy Franklin, alongside golfer Lorena Ochoa and field hockey legend Luciana Aymar, announced India’s Yuwa School as the best project of human development through sport on an international basis. “In a place where child marriage is the norm these people are really doing something to give confidence to the girls making them able to decide for their own futures,” the former US swimmer pointed out.

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT Arsène Wenger was recognized for his outstanding career as a football coach and Monaco FC’s Cesc Fabregas and former Italian footballer Alessandro Del Piero gave him the award. “Life is about give and take, and our job is mainly to give. What I can really tell you is that sports is tremendous: after such a long career my passion for sport and for the human being is intact,” Wenger, who was the manager of Arsenal from 1996 to 2018, said.

BILES AND DJOKOVIC Gymnastics star Simone Biles, who also won the AIPS Best Female Athlete of the Year, was not present but her recorded speech expressed her pride in being recognised. Serbian tennis ace Novak Djokovic, however, was welcomed on stage with a standing ovation. “I didn’t expect this at all,” Nole said. “So many athletes have warmed my heart with their stories proving that fighting spirit and resilience is always present among us. Nelson Mandela was totally right by saying here, 19 years ago, that ‘Sport can change the world’. I would like to reflect on my journey and thank my wife who was presenting me in a different light in the video we have seen here. Jelena your support has been tremendously important and yes, I did think about leaving tennis because I didn’t find myself in a good balance after the surgery. The main lesson I have learnt this past year is that the goal is nothing without the journey. In those moments where you are facing adversities, all the answers are inside and now I know where I can always find strength, having my family on my side was my answer.

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