Laureus Awards: Verstappen and Thompson-Herah named Sportsman, Sportswoman of 2021

Formula One world champion Max Verstappen (left) and triple Tokyo Olympic gold medallist Elaine Thompson-Herah. PHOTOS: LAUREUSSPORT/INSTAGRAM

SEVILLE (AFP, REUTERS) - 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 (April 24) in a virtual ceremony from Seville.

Dutchman 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.

"Since I was a little kid, I dreamt of being on the top step and winning the championship," the 24-year-old Verstappen said. "The reaction back in Holland was amazing from all the newspapers and fans. It's something we'll never forget.

"It was a lot of hard work and years of preparation. I'm incredibly proud... It means a lot to be recognised for this award, one of the highest ones in the world, so I'm incredibly happy."

Thompson-Herah, who became the first woman to win back-to-back Olympic sprint doubles when she retained her 100m and 200m titles in Tokyo last year, 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.

"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... My motivation is to be even better. I told myself that I want to be the greatest female sprinter."

The awards are organised by the Laureus Sports Foundation and the 2021 winners were selected by a 71-member panel led by All Black rugby great Sean Fitzpatrick.

In a sign of how ephemeral sporting achievements can be, the Italian men's football team, who followed winning the European Championship 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.

The ceremony mopped up other big stars with a series of special awards.

National Football League great Tom Brady, who made a U-turn on his retirement plans this year, was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement award after winning a record seventh Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Polish striker Robert Lewandowski of Bayern Munich won the Exceptional Achievement award after scoring a German Bundesliga record of 41 goals last season to break Gerd Muller's 49-year-old mark.

Seven-time MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi, who called time on a career spanning more than two decades last year, won the Sporting Icon award - his third Laureus honour having scooped the Comeback of the Year (2011) and Spirit of Sport (2006) awards.

Skateboarder Sky Brown won the Comeback of the Year award aged 13.

She had fractured her skull in training in June 2020 and was unresponsive when she arrived at a hospital. She recovered and competed in Tokyo, winning bronze and becoming Britain's youngest Olympic medallist at 13 years and 28 days.

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

Other winners - Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability: Marcel Hug. Sport for Good Award: Lost Boyz Inc. Sport for Good Society Award: Real Madrid Foundation. Athlete Advocate of the Year: Gerald Asamoah and the Black Eagles.

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