Roger Federer, Usain Bolt and FC Barcelona are among the nominations for next month's Laureus World Sports Awards.
Federer gets the backing of Moses
ABU DHABI // Roger Federer, Usain Bolt and FC Barcelona are among the nominations for next month's Laureus World Sports Awards, the annual prize giving ceremony to be held in the UAE capital for the first time on March 10. Widely recognised as sport's equivalent to the Oscars, the purpose of the 10-year-old awards is to recognise international athletes' achievements during the previous calendar year.
While the shortlist is selected by more than 700 international sports journalists, the final winners are decided by a jury consisting of 46 Laureus World Sports Academy members, including Seve Ballesteros, Bobby Charlton, Kapil Dev and Boris Becker. The shortlist for World Sportsman of the Year is made up of Federer, the men's tennis world No 1, Lionel Messi, FC Barcelona's Argentine playmaker , Alberto Contador, Tour de France winner, seven-time MotoGP title-winner Valentino Rossi, long-distance runner Kenenisa Bekele and Bolt, the three-time Olympic-winning sprinter who won the award last year.
Edwin Moses, the double Olympic-winning athlete and chairman of the Laureus World Sports Academy, conceded at yesterday's shortlist announcement that he is struggling to see past Federer, who won the elusive French Open before surpassing Pete Sampras record of 14 major wins with victory at Wimbledon a month later. The Swiss tennis player has been voted Laureus Sportsman of the Year on four previous occasions, more than anybody else in history.
"Nobody thought he would have the year he had last year - winning Wimbledon and coming back from injury having been beaten quite a few times by this time last year," said Moses, a double Olympic gold champion in track and field. "He is such an incredible athlete and we have seen his whole career unfold in front of our eyes. "He is back again so, I think, absolutely, he has to be the best." Nominations for the Sportswoman of the Year award include last year's Australian Open winner Serena Williams and Lindsey Vonn, the American skier who last year won the World Cup, two gold medals at the world championships and will compete this month at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Kim Clijsters, winner of the US Open, is a notable absentee from the list, however she is shortlisted for the Comeback of the Year following her remarkable return to the WTA Tour following a two-year period away from the game.Last year's award was won by boxer Vitali Klitschko. The Team of the Year nominations are, unsurprisingly, led Barcelona. The Catalan club achieved success in all six of the competitions they entered last year, including the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi.
They could not have accomplished more in a 12 month period, yet Moses said the European champions are far from guaranteed a further award to commemorate their achievements. "It depends on the Academy and other performances as well," he said. "How do you compare a Valentino Rossi, who has won for the seventh consecutive year, against a Federer or a Bolt? You have to have balance. At the Academy, it's not who gets the most publicity, because if that were the case, tennis and soccer would have an advantage over everybody because you see them so much.
"Barcelona has a good chance, because they did something very impressive, but I'm sure the Academy will be able to put it all in perspective." Barcelona face competition from, among others, North American heavyweights the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Lakers. email@example.com