Bolt likely to win Laureus again while Serena poised to take the women's crown
ABU DHABI - The world's greatest athletes of 2009 will chase the prestigious Laureus World Sports awards titles tonight (Beijing time).
The Laureus World Sports Awards, which recognize sporting achievements from Jan 1 - Dec 31, 2009, are the premier honors on the international sporting calendar.
"This has been a great year for sport and the academy is going to find it extremely difficult to decide who to vote for as the winners. We have had some thrilling world championships this year and a host of terrific individual performances," said Laureus World Sports Academy chairman Edwin Moses. "I congratulate all the nominees and now we look forward to what should be a great awards ceremony."
Last year's winner of the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year, Usain Bolt, and four-time winner Roger Federer have been nominated again, along with FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi, long-distance runner Kenenisa Bekele, Tour de France winner Alberto Contador and Italy's seven-time senior MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi.
Two-time Laureus winner Serena Williams is favored for the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year crown after winning two Grand Slam titles in 2009. Also short-listed are swimmers Federica Pellegrini and Britta Steffen, athletes Shelly-Ann Fraser and Sanya Richards and US ski racer Lindsey Vonn.
"Looking at this year's men," Moses, the two-time Olympic men's gold medalist in the 400m hurdles, said: "It is very difficult but if I had to choose, I would pick Roger because he not only won but his passion on the court attracted fans from all around the world. Every time he won a big match, he cried and you knew it was real."
Meanwhile, another tennis great, Germany's Boris Becker, also lauded the Swiss star. "In my eyes, Roger Federer is the real champion. He has won 16 Grand Slams. I know how difficult it is to win one Grand Slam but this man has managed to win one Grand Slam or more every year over the past seven years.
"Of course, Michael Schumacher, Lance Armstrong, Serena Williams and Tiger Woods are good but for me, Federer would be the one," Becker said of naming his all-time great athlete.
Several of sport's biggest names including seven-time Tour de France champion and two-time Laureus winner Lance Armstrong, golf legend Tom Watson and Belgian tennis star Kim Clijsters - have been nominated for the Comeback of the Year award. Also nominated in that category are NFL quarterback Brett Favre and athletes Jessica Ennis and Blanka Vlasic.
The Laureus World Team of the Year award could provide the most competitive battle with the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Yankees pitched against FC Barcelona, the German women's football side, the Brawn F1 team and the South African rugby squad.
The nominees for the Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year award include three Britons - F1 world champion Jenson Button, Tour de France cyclist Mark Cavendish and diver Tom Daley.