BEIJING - Although China topped the gold medal tally at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and won a national record five gold at the just-concluded Vancouver Games, no Chinese athletes appear among the 42 nominees in seven categories for the 2010 Laureus World Sports Awards, which will be announced in Abu Dhabi next Wednesday.
Deng Yaping, the only Chinese on the 46-member Laureus World Sports Academy, put the country's lack of nominees down to a failure to excel in "influential" sports.
"Frequent nominees and winners always come from a certain few sports such as tennis, Formula One, golf, soccer and track and field. Undoubtedly, we (China) have proven our strength in competitive sports through Olympic success but we are still like walk-ons in the most influential sports," Deng, a former four-time Olympic table tennis gold medalist, said at the 2010 nominees press briefing in Beijing on Tuesday.
"The performances of Li Na and Zheng Jie (both of whom advanced to the semifinals) were stunning at the Australian Open. However, there is no way they could compete against (Serena) Williams for the Laureus," she said.
Then Houston Rocket's rookie center Yao Ming became the first Chinese to win a Laureus award when he claimed the Breakthrough Athelete of the Year title in 2003. His compatriot, Liu Xiang, an Olympic and world champion hurdler, repeated that success in 2005.
Last year, China's 2008 Olympic team won the World Team of the Year crown.
However, Chinese athletes have never been nominated for the most significant awards - World Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year.
Established in 1999 and recognized as the premier honors on the international sporting calendar, the nominees for the Laureus Awards are initially selected by a panel of more than 700 of the world's leading sports editors, writers and broadcasters and then the members of the academy vote for the winners in all seven categories by secret ballot.
Founded by its patrons Richemont and Daimler and supported by global partners Mercedes-Benz, IWC Schaffhausen and Vodafone, Laureus also has a Sport for Good Foundation which supports more than 70 community sports projects around the world, including inviting more than 40 Chinese sports icons to share their stories with thousands of peasant workers' children in China.
"It just offeres a great opportunity for retired athletes like me to continue to inspire people, especially those who are in difficulty," said Deng.