(Reuters) – Formula One champion Max Verstappen was named the 2022 Laureus Sportsman of the Year while Olympic sprint champion Elaine Thompson-Herah bagged the top women’s honour at the digital awards ceremony in Seville on Sunday.
Verstappen became the first Dutch driver to win the world championship when he clinched his maiden crown by beating seven-times winner Lewis Hamilton on the final lap of the last race of the 2021 season in Abu Dhabi in December.
“Since I was a little kid, I dreamt of being on the top step and winning the championship,” the 24-year-old Verstappen said.
“The reaction back in Holland was amazing from all the newspapers and fans. It’s something we’ll never forget.
“It was a lot of hard work and years of preparation. I’m incredibly proud… It means a lot to be recognised for this award, one of the highest ones in the world, so I’m incredibly happy.”
Jamaica’s Thompson-Herah became the first woman to win back-to-back Olympic sprint doubles when she retained her 100m and 200m titles in Tokyo last year and capped a memorable Games with gold in the 4x100m relay.
“I know Usain (Bolt) has won Laureus Awards before, so to bring this trophy back home to the Caribbean, also in Jamaica, is very special,” Thompson-Herah said.
“I have watched that (100m) race about a thousand times now. I would say I am very, very proud, but I cannot dwell on the past… My motivation is to be even better. I told myself that I want to be the greatest female sprinter.”
Italy’s soccer team were named Team of the Year for the second time after winning the 2020 European Championship, having previously received the honour after winning the World Cup in 2006.
British teenager Emma Raducanu took the Breakthrough of the Year prize after her fairytale New York triumph in September when she claimed the U.S. Open title as a qualifier.
NFL great Tom Brady, who made a U-turn on his retirement plans this year, was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement award after winning a record seventh Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Polish striker Robert Lewandowski of Bayern Munich won the Exceptional Achievement award after scoring a German Bundesliga record of 41 goals last season to break Gerd Muller’s 49-year-old mark.
Seven-times MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi, who called time on a career spanning more than two decades last year, won the Sporting Icon award — his third Laureus honour having scooped the Comeback of the Year (2011) and Spirit of Sport (2006) awards.
List of winners
Sportsman of the Year: Max Verstappen
Sportswoman of the Year: Elaine Thompson-Herah
Team of the Year: Italy men’s soccer team
Breakthrough of the Year: Emma Raducanu
Comeback of the Year: Sky Brown
Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability: Marcel Hug
Action Sportsperson of the Year: Bethany Shriever
Lifetime Achievement Award: Tom Brady
Exceptional Achievement Award: Robert Lewandowski
Sporting Icon Award: Valentino Rossi
Sport for Good Award: Lost Boyz Inc.
Sport for Good Society Award: Real Madrid Foundation
Athlete Advocate of the Year : Gerald Asamoah and the Black Eagles
(Reporting by Hritika Sharma in Bengaluru; editing by Clare Fallon)