Germany’s Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel has been named Laureus’ sportsman of the year, while football giants Bayern Munich took home the best team award at a ceremony in Malaysia.
The ceremony, held in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur Wednesday, began with a minute's silence for the 239 people believed to have died when Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 crashed in the Indian Ocean nearly three weeks ago.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who attended the event amid anger over his government's handling of the missing airplane, said Wednesday “our thoughts and prayers,” are with the victims.
"Sport reflects what is happening in the world," Razak told the audience. "But for millions of people sport is also an escape, from hardship, from poverty, from conflict. In the hardest times we look for heroic feats to inspire us. For Malaysia this is one such time.”
“At this difficult time we draw strength from individual stories or perseverance of generosity, of endurance. The nominees here tonight display those values.”
Vettel takes sportsman award
German Formula One racing driver and current world champion, Sebastian Vettel, who is in Kuala Lumpur for this week's Malaysian Grand Prix, won the sportsman of 2013 award, against nominees Usain Bolt, LeBron James, Rafael Nadal, Cristiano Ronaldo and Mo Farah.
"If I've learned anything tonight, surely it's the fact that sport can be a very, very big inspiration," an emotional Vettel said. "I've come here and seen many heroes of mine…this [award] is very inspirational, very special."
Vettel was already in Malaysia ahead of the second round of the 2014 F1 season at the weekend.
The 2013 team award was given to Germany's Bayern Munich after winning the Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup last year. The side beat New Zealand's All Black rugby side for the title.
Eighteen-year-old US swimming sensation Missy Franklin beat tennis champion Serena Williams and Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva to be named female sportsperson of the year. After accepting her award, Franklin, who won a record six gold medals at last year's swimming world championships, paid tribute to those who lost their lives in the plane crash.
"It's a horrific tragedy. My thoughts and prayers are with you along with the thoughts and prayers of billions of people around the world," Franklin said.
Spaniard Rafael Nadal was awarded the prize for comeback of the year for overcoming a knee injuring and winning the French Open and US Open.
"Everyone knew how tough last year was with my injury. I thought I would never have the chance to come back," Nadal said. The win was his third Laureus award of his career.
Afghanistan's men's cricket team won the spirit of sport award for overcoming their country's long-running conflict to qualify for the 2015 World Cup.
French para-skier Marie Bochet, born without a left forearm, was crowned best sportsperson with a disability.
A forty-six member panel of judges chose the award winners by secret ballot.
jlw/dr (AP, AFP)