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City news, 19.02.2008 09:01

City Hosts World’s Premiere Sports Awards

Swiss tennis star Roger Federer and Belgian tennis player Justine Henin were named the world’s best sportspeople of the year at the ninth Laureus World Sports Awards Ceremony 2008 — the Oscars of the sporting world — in St. Petersburg on Monday.

“I’m thankful the jury didn’t think three times was enough for me,” Federer, who made history by becoming the first ever winner of four Laureus awards, said at the ceremony.

Henin said she was happy to receive the title.

“It was the best season in my career, the year I will never forget,” said Henin, who won two Grand Slam tournaments in 2007 at the French and U.S. Opens and finished the year by lifting the WTA Tour Championship in Madrid.

The South African Rugby team won the Laureus World Team of the Year title.

Briton Lewis Hamilton, who made the most successful debut of the year in Formula One, received the Breakthrough of the Year award.

“I think I deserve the title no more than all the other nominees,” Hamilton said with modesty.

Paula Radcliffe, the British long distance runner, received the World Comeback of the Year title.

Holland’s Esther Vergeer, a disabled tennis player, received the Laureus Disabled Sportsperson of the Year award. Shaun White, American snowboarder and skateboarder, received the title of World Action Sportsperson of the Year.

Meanwhile, three other people connected to sports received special prizes from Laureus.

Ukraine’s pole vaulting legend Sergei Bubka, who was the first man to jump over six meters and a competitor who broke world records 35 times, won the Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award.

“It’s really a great surprise for me. Thanks a lot for this award. It is probably too early for me, because my life is sport. I consider this award today as a stimulus to work harder and to promote sport,” Bubka said.

Canadian Dick Pound, who retired after eight years as Chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency, received the Laureus Spirit of Sport Award. The Laureus Sport for Good Award went to Americans Brendan and Sean Tuohey for their work in founding the PeacePlayers International project.

The glamorous ceremony, broadcast live to over 180 countries, played host to dozens of the world’s best sportsmen and women nominated for awards and to legendary retired athletes who doubled as jury at the Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theater.

The ceremony began with the Mariinsky Opera and Ballet Theater Orchestra playing the Russian national anthem.

President Vladimir Putin attended the ceremony.

“I’d like to express my gratitude to the founders of Laureus for the promotion of sports, and uniting people around sports,” Putin said.

“Success in politics, in life and in one’s profession consists of a whole set of factors, but it is clear that only real heroes manage to attain the shining summits of victory. The example of those people attracts millions of people around the whole world to sport,” he said.

Governor Valentina Matviyenko said the city was “proud to host such a prestigious sports awards ceremony.” Matviyenko said the city deserved the honor as 114 Olympic champions grew up here, and 81 Olympic champions are now living in St. Petersburg.

The nominees for the Best Sportsman of the Year included U.S. athlete Tyson Gay, Brazilian soccer player Kaka, U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps, Finnish car racer Kimi Raikkonen and U.S. golf player Tiger Woods.

Female candidates for Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year, as well as Henin, included Russian athlete Yelena Isinbayeva, Swedish athlete Carolina Kluft, Australian swimmer Libby Lenton, Brazilian soccer player Marta, and Mexican golf player Lorena Ochoa.

The nominees for the Laureus World Team of the Year included Italian soccer club AC Milan, the Australian national cricket team, the Italian car racing team Ferrari, the German national women’s soccer team, the Iraqi national soccer team and the South African national Rugby team.

Among the famous guests were Russian supermodel Natalya Vodyanova, Hollywood celebrities Cuba Gooding Jr., Kim Cattrall, Dennis Hopper and Kyle MacLachlan.

The philosophy behind Laureus, which works to promote charity sports projects, was first announced by its patron Nelson Mandela at the inaugural Laureus Award in 2000.

“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. Sport can awaken hope where there was previously only despair,” Mandela said at the inaugural ceremony.

News source:

(c) 2000