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Sports

Speed, South Africa define 2010 German 'Athletes of the Year'

Sebastian Vettel, the youngest Formula One champion in history, and Maria Riesch, who won two gold medals in Vancouver, have been named Germany's Athletes of the Year. Germany's World Cup squad took the team prize.

Sebastian Vettel driving a go-cart

Sebastian Vettel accepted his award in style

Every year since 1947, German sportswriters have cast their ballots on the Sunday before Christmas for the country's Athletes of the Year.

In 2010, the roughly 1,500 vote-casting journalists nominated two athletes who make their living at break-neck speed for the individual Athletes of the Year and a certain black and white soccer team who took third place at the World Cup in South Africa for the team award.

Pedal to the metal

For much of the year in Germany, the biggest headlines to come from the world of Formula One racing were about legendary driver Michael Schumacher's return to the sport. But the big news about Schumacher was eclipsed at the end of the racing season by Sebastian Vettel, who won the drivers championship in the last race of the season and became the youngest champion in Formula One history.

Sebastian Vettel

Vettel was welcomed back to Germany as a hero

For most of 2010, Vettel was in the running for the title and came into the final race in Abu Dhabi in third place. But trailing by 15 points to Ferrari's Fernando Alonso meant winning was a long shot. In the end though, Vettel won the race and Alonso finished far enough back that Vettel was able to take the title and give German fans a new champion to celebrate.

In Baden Baden, where the awards ceremony took place, Vettel said it was rewarding to be honored with the prize of Sportsman of the Year.

"The whole year, you're working so hard, and when you're rewarded for that at the end - I can't even describe how good it feels," he said at the ceremony.

Vettel finished ahead of table tennis player Timo Boll and Germany's golf sensation, Martin Kaymer.

Tips down the hill

Like Vettel, Germany's Sportswoman of the Year is all about speed - in the snow.

Maria Riesch was one of Germany's top-performing athletes at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. She won gold in the slalom and combined events over American Lindsey Vonn, a close friend and one of her biggest competitors.

Maria Riesch skis downhill

Two golds in Vancouver made Riesch one of Germany's top performers

The alpine skier from Garmisch-Partenkirchen in southern Germany is used to winning by small margins, so it was fitting that she barely edged out Magdalena Neuner for the Sportswoman of the Year award. Neuner won two golds and a silver in biathlon competitions in Vancouver, but was happy to see Riesch receive the honor.

"I thought it was going to be her," said Neuner, "I already won it once [in 2007], and Maria had such great performances this year, so for me it was clear and I'm not disappointed."

In the current alpine skiing season, Riesch and Vonn are nearly neck and neck in the leaders' standings. Vonn has a three point lead on Riesch, but both women are well ahead of the rest of the field. Riesch and Vonn will vie for the world title at the Alpine Skiing World Championship in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in February 2011.

World Cup squad

Germany's team from the football World Cup in South Africa was voted Team of the Year after taking third place in the competition.

But the votes for the national squad reflected their exciting style of play as much as their high finish in the tournament.

A woman blows a vuvuzela

Vuvuzela's - and Germany's third place - stand out from South Africa

In Baden Baden, coach Joachim Loew and captain Philipp Lahm were on hand to accept the prize on behalf of the team.

"It's satisfying when you can still impress people enough later in the year [to vote for you]," said Loew.

For the German national soccer team, it is the ninth Team of the Year award. The squad beat out Germany's world champion men's eight rowing team and the national ice hockey team, which took fourth as host nation at the World Championship in May.

Author: Matt Zuvela (dpa, SID)
Editor: Nancy Isenson

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