SAINT PETERSBURG -- Swiss tennis star Roger Federer has made history by becoming the first ever four times winner of Laureus World Sports Awards on Monday.
He was named Laureus Sportsman of the Year for the fourth straight time at the 2008 Awards ceremony after another superb year, which saw him once again win three Grand Slam titles out of four for the third season in a row.
Swiss tennis player Roger Federer holds the Laureus Sportsman of the Year award at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg February 18, 2008. Tennis world number one Roger Federer won the prestigious Laureus Sportsman of the year award for a record fourth year in a row on Monday. [Agencies]
Tennis was the biggest winner in Saint Petersburg as Belgium's Justine Henin won the Sportswoman of the Year award and Holland's Esther Vergeer, the greatest wheelchair tennis star of all-time, took away the Laureus Disability trophy for the second time.
Two of the biggest names in British sport also have their hands on Laureus as Lewis Hamilton won the Breakthrough of the Year award after his remarkable debut season in Formula One, while long distance runner Paula Radcliffe had the Comeback of the Year award.
South Africa took the World Team of the Year Award after their Rugby World Cup success in the autumn while skateboarder and snowboarder Shaun White of the United States was awarded the Action Sportsperson of the Year.
"I have to thank all the voters who didn't think three (Laureus awards) would be enough," said Federer, who won the award ahead of golfer Tiger Woods of the United States and FIFA World Player of the Year Kaka.
"Each year it feels great but I have to say the first one was the most important," he told a press conference after the ceremony, "it made the statement that Roger Federer has arrived."
At the age of 26, he is just two Grand Slam victories away from Pete Sampras' record 14 wins.
"Since we're so close now, of course it's on my mind (to break his record). I could be if I still win the last three (this year), but I think it'll be very difficult, " he said.
Federer, who has been the world No. one since February 2004, lost to Novak Djokovic in the semi-final of the Australian Open last month.
Henin beat last year's winner Russian pole-vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva to lift the Sportswoman trophy for the first time.
She overcame the breakup of her marriage and her absence from the Australian Open to stage a strong comeback last year, becoming the first player to win ten titles in a season since Martina Hingis achieved the feat ten years ago.
"It was a tough year personally with big issues, but I kept fighting and it's been the best year of my career so far," she said.
"It'll be great to win Wimbledon which I never had and the Beijing Olympics is another goal for me this year."
There was a warm reception at the ceremony for Ukraine pole vault legend Sergey Bubka who received the Lifetime Achievement honor.
Canadian Dick Pound, who retired after eight years as Chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency, won the Spirit of Sport Award.
The Laureus Sport for Good trophy went to Brendan and Sean Tuohey of the United States for their work in founding the PeacePlayers International Project.
The Laureus Awards, inaugurated in 2000, is a global sports awards honoring the greatest sportsmen and women across all sports each year.
The winners are selected by the 43 members of the Laureus World Sports Academy, consisting of the world's sports legends.