Wednesday, March 01, 2006

2006 Laureus World Sports Awards

Kelly Slater nominated for The Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 1 March, 2006 : - - LONDON, March 1, 2006 – Voting by the world’s media to select the nominees for the 2006 Laureus World Sports Awards has now opened and is promising to be the most competitive ever after a vintage year for sport. The 2006 Laureus World Sports Awards, which recognise sporting achievement during the period 1 February 2005 to 28 February 2006, are recognised as the premier honours on the international sporting calendar.

There is a two-part voting process to find the winners. Firstly, a Selection Panel of the world’s leading sports editors, writers and broadcasters from over 80 countries votes to create a shortlist of six nominations in five categories – Laureus World Sportsman of the Year, Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year, Laureus World Team of the Year, Laureus World Newcomer of the Year and Laureus World Comeback of the Year.

The members of the Laureus World Sports Academy then vote by secret ballot to select the Award winners. The Laureus Academy is the ultimate sports jury, made up of 42 of the greatest sportsmen and sportswomen of all time who have made an outstanding contribution to world sport.

The eventual winners, as voted by the Laureus World Sports Academy, will be unveiled during a televised Awards Ceremony staged in Barcelona, Spain, on the evening of May 22, 2006.

No fewer than three former winners are in contention again for the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award. American cyclist Lance Armstrong won a record seventh Tour de France in 2005, Swiss tennis ace Roger Federer won his third Wimbledon crown, plus the US Open, and the Australian Open, and Tiger Woods won the US Masters and the Open Championship to re-establish himself as the world’s No.1 men’s golfer.

They face a strong challenge from, among others, Spain’s new Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso, 10,000 metres World Athletics Champion Kenenisa Bekele, England cricket’s Ashes hero Andrew Flintoff, American sprinter Justin Gatlin, who won 100 metres and 200 metres gold in the World Athletics Championships, Barcelona’s Brazilian football star Ronaldinho, named FIFA World Player of the Year for the second straight time, Italian Valentino Rossi, who won his fifth World MotoGP World Championship, and Australian cricketer Shane Warne, who became the first man to take 600 Test wickets.

The world’s leading women’s golfer, Sweden’s Annika Sorenstam, who won ten times on the LPGA Tour in 2005, including two major championships, will be a strong contender to win her second Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award.

Opposing her will be five women who made the headlines in the World Athletics Championships: Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba, the first woman to win 5,000 metres and 10,000 metres gold; Russia’s Yelena Isinbayeva, who won pole vault gold and also in 2005 became the first woman to break the five metres mark; Sweden’s Carolina Kluft, who became the first woman to defend the heptathlon title; Britain’s Paula Radcliffe, who won the women’s marathon gold; and American Lauryn Williams, who won the 100 metres gold at the age of 21.

The four tennis Grand Slam titles in the qualifying year were shared out among Kim Clijsters (US Open), Justine Henin-Hardenne (French Open), Venus Williams, who won her third Wimbledon title, and Amelie Mauresmo (Australian Open). Clijsters, 22, was probably the most impressive of the four, winning the US Open in September after missing twelve months with a career-threatening wrist injury. She is also a contender for the Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award.

The Winter Olympics produced potential nominees in Croatia’s Janica Kostelic, who won a gold and a silver to make a career total of six medals to become the most decorated woman in Olympic Alpine skiing history, Austria’s Michaela Dorfmeister, who won downhill and super-G gold medals, and Germany’s biathlon ace Kati Wilhelm who won her third career Olympic gold medal.

Germany’s brilliant football striker Birgit Prinz, who was named FIFA Women's World Player of the Year for the third consecutive year, is also likely to be a strong contender.

Tennis provides one of the strongest contenders for the Laureus World Newcomer of the Year Award in Spain’s Rafael Nadal, who won the French Open at the age of 19. Among those who will be up against him will be Britain’s Harry Aikines-Aryeetey, 17, the first athlete to win 100m and 200m at the World Youth Games, American Paula Creamer, two-time winner on the LPGA Tour at the age of 19, American Tianna Madison, 19, who won the long jump gold medal in the World Athletics Championships, Barcelona’s Leo Messi, 18, star of Argentina’s victory in the FIFA World Youth Championships, Britain’s tennis prodigy Andrew Murray, who won his first ATP title, Danica Patrick, who finished fourth in the Indianapolis 500, the best ever finish by a woman, Kevin Pietersen, voted Emerging Cricketer of the Year for his performance in the England v Australia cricket series, and Pittsburgh Steelers Ben Roethlisberger, who became the youngest ever quarterback in a winning Super Bowl team.

The Laureus World Team of the Year Award will be one of the most competitive categories. American sport has pitched up three strong contenders, the San Antonio Spurs, who won the NBA basketball crown for the third time in seven years, Pittsburgh Steelers, who won the Super Bowl for a record-equalling fifth time, and Chicago White Sox, who won Baseball’s World Series for the first time since 1917.

Football offers World Club Champions Sao Paulo, who became the first Brazilian club to win the Copa Libertadores three times, English club Liverpool, coached by Spain’s Rafael Benitez, who were European Champions for the fifth time, and Egypt, who won the African Nations Cup for a record fifth time.

Also in contention are the Croatia Davis Cup Team, who won the trophy for the first time in their history, the England Men’s Cricket Team, who beat rivals Australia for the first time since 1987, the New Zealand Rugby Union Team, who won the Tri-Nations Championship and had an emphatic win over the British Lions and the Renault Formula One Team, who broke the Ferrari monopoly to win the Constructors World Championship.

The Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award includes sportsmen and sportswomen who have fought back from illness, injury or a chronic lapse of form to succeed. Among the possible nominees are Sweden’s Kasja Bergqvist, who came back from serious achilles tendon injury to win the World Championship high jump gold, Tedy Bruschi, New England Patriots linebacker, who returned to the team eight months after suffering a stroke, Belgium’s Kim Clijsters, who could be nominated in two categories, France’s Antoine Deneriaz, who won the Winter Olympics downhill gold despite a horrific training accident last year, Martina Hingis, who won the Australian Open Grand Slam mixed doubles title after an absence of three years, New Zealand rugby player Jonah Lomu, who made a comeback with Cardiff after a rare kidney disease, Scottish golfer Colin Montgomerie, who won the European Order of Merit for the first time since 1999, and surfer Kelly Slater, who won a record seventh world title after a gap of seven years.

The Selection Panel voting process for these five Awards is monitored by independent auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.

There are also two categories - the Laureus World Alternative Sportsperson of the Year and the Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability – for which the nominations come from Specialist Panels

Two other honours are selected by the Founding Patrons and the Academy. These are the Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award and the Laureus Sport for Good Award, presented to people who have made an outstanding contribution to society through sport. The Academy can, if it wishes, also bestow additional Awards, such as the Laureus Spirit of Sport Award, awarded for the first time in 2005.

The winners of the Laureus World Sports Awards will be revealed during a televised Awards Ceremony to be staged in Barcelona on the evening of May 22, 2006. Last year's Awards Ceremony, in the presence of His Majesty King Juan Carlos of Spain, was attended by members of the Laureus Academy and Hollywood stars Jackie Chan, Morgan Freeman, Teri Hatcher and Marcia Gay Harden. Among the award winners present were Roger Federer, Kelly Holmes and Greece football coach Otto Rehhagel.

Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, is a city with an enormous sporting tradition which has staged the most important sports events. The immensely successful 1992 Olympic Games gave a new impulse to sport in the city. Sport is a part of everyday life in Barcelona and during the past few years the number of high-level international championships staged in the city has multiplied. Therefore it is no surprise that Barcelona was chosen to host the Laureus World Sports Awards in 2006.

Barcelona is a Mediterranean and metropolitan city with the most modern facilities. Its unique architecture, artistic ambience and many tourist attractions have made Barcelona one of the most visited cities in the world. A business and leisure city, it is the ideal place to organise such an important moment of the sporting year - the Laureus Awards Ceremony.

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