Four-time Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel won another global sports award yesterday — and then revealed he relies on a childhood superstition.
Vettel saw off strong competition from Portugal and Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, Jamaican sprint superstar Usain Bolt, world 5,000-metres and 10,000-metres champion Mo Farah, tennis titan Rafael Nadal and basketball great LeBron James to lift the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year 2013 Award.
But despite his untrammelled success in recent years, the 26-year-old German admitted that he relies on lucky charms to boost his confidence in races. “The coins are from my grandma and I put them in my shoes when I am driving. I have one in the right and one in the left. I also step into the car from the left; I don’t know why I do that, though.
“I’m not as bad as our mechanics,” he added at a star-studded ceremony attended by a host of sporting legends, including Sir Bobby Charlton, Johan Cruyff, Mark Spitz, Nadia Comaneci and Michael Johnson. “They don’t change their underwear for the whole weekend.”
On receiving his award from former F1 world champion Emerson Fittipaldi, one of 46 Laureus Academy members to select him for the accolade, he said: “It’s a big honour. It’s one of the most special trophies I have received. If I learnt anything tonight, it is that sport can be a huge inspiration.”
American swimming sensation Missy Franklin, 18, won the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award for becoming the first female to win six gold medals at a single world championships in Barcelona in August.
The four-time Olympic champion was the picture of effervescence on being handed the award by fellow swimming great Mark Spitz, hailing it as “a dream true”.
Franklin, who won the award ahead of five others, including tennis ace Serena Williams and sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser, also paid an emotional tribute to the relatives of the 239 people killed in flight MH370’s crash in the Indian Ocean.
Such sentiments had earlier been expressed by Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak, who opened the sporting equivalent of the Oscars after a moment’s silence.
“Sport reflects what is happening in the world. 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.”
Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal completed a hat-trick of Laureus awards after he took the Comeback of the Year prize after returning from a seven-month absence due to injury to win the 2013 French and US Opens and five ATP Masters titles.
“How tough the year before with my injury? I never thought I would have the chance to come back as I did so for that reason this Laureus means more,” he said in a recorded message.