Kuala Lumpur: Three of the most exciting young sports stars of their generation, who have proved world-beaters despite their age, were on Wednesday night honoured at the 2014 Laureus World Sports Awards here.
Germany’s Sebastian Vettel, the youngest four-time Formula One world champion in history at 26, was named Laureus World Sportsman of the Year; US swimmer Missy Franklin, who at 18 became the youngest ever winner of the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award; while Spain’s Marc Marquez received the Laureus Breakthrough of the Year Award after winning the World MotoGP Championship aged just 20 years and 266 days.
There was double delight for both Germany and Spain when the awards, which were held at the Istana Budaya concert venue and which are considered to be the sporting equivalent of the Oscars, were announced.
Bayern Munich joined Vettel as winners, taking the Laureus World Team of the Year Award, while tennis maestro Rafael Nadal received the Laureus Comeback Award to celebrate, with Marquez, a wonderful night for Spanish sport.
The Laureus World Sports Academy presented two additional discretionary accolades. The Laureus Spirit of Sport Award was won by the Afghanistan cricket team, who qualified for the 2015 World Cup for the first time in their history and the Laureus Sport for Good Award was presented to Magic Bus, the sports-based community project in India.
Vettel’s success was particularly satisfying for the German superstar, who had been nominated five times for a Laureus Award, before finally winning. His fourth straight World Championship in 2013 saw him join Formula One legends Juan Manuel Fangio, Michael Schumacher and Alain Prost, who all won at least four times, but he did it more quickly than them — at just 26 years and 116 days.
Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Franklin was the sensation of the World Championships in Barcelona, becoming the first woman swimmer in history to win six gold medals at a single World Championships — three individual and three relay — at the age of just 18. She continues to refuse prize money and endorsements so that she can maintain her amateur status in college.
Bayern Munich were presented with the Laureus World Team of the Year Award after becoming the first football club to complete the treble of Uefa Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup. Six of their players were nominated for the Fifa Player of the Year Award: Philipp Lahm, Thomas Mueller, Manuel Neuer, Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben and Bastian Schweinsteiger.
France’s Marie Bochet, aged 19, won the Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability Award after becoming the first athlete to complete a Grand Slam of all five events at one Alpine Skiing World Championships.
Britain’s BMX star Jamie Bestwick, now based in the United States, won the Laureus World Action Sportsperson of the Year Award after becoming the only athlete in X Games history to win eight straight gold medals, two more than legends such as Tony Hawk and Shaun White.
The winners are chosen by the Laureus World Sports Academy made up of 46 of the greatest living sportsmen and sportswomen. A host of Laureus World Sports Academy members were in attendance, including Sir Bobby Charlton, Michael Johnson, Ilie Nastase and ‘Marvelous’ Martin Hagler.
The awards ceremony was hosted by British actor Benedict Cumberbatch. Oscar and Grammy winner Jamie Foxx performed to the star-studded audience. German actor Daniel Bruhl, who played former Formula One driver Niki Lauda in the film Rush, was present along with Chinese supermodel and actress Du Juan.