Stephanie Gilmore has won the prestigious Laureus World Action Sportsperson of the year award, elevating her to among the world’s elite athletes. The victory put Gilmore alongside the likes of superstar sprinter Usain Bolt, tennis ace Serena Williams and comeback star Kim Clijsters, who were also recognised by the Laureus World Sports academy.
In a star-studded red carpet ceremony for the “Oscars of Sport” at the seven-star Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi, Gilmore beat a field of five, including fellow Australian surfer Mick Fanning, to be crowned the World Action Sportsperson of the year.
The win capped off a remarkable 2009 for Gilmore as she secured her third world championship win. Gilmore kicked off the current season in fine style last weekend when she took out the first round of the 2010 ASP Women’s World series on her home beach of Snapper Rocks, on the Gold Coast.
The previous Australian winner of a category was women’s surfing pioneer Layne Beachley in 2006. Gilmore received her award from Hugh Grant and Steve Waugh. “This is unbelievable, not in my wildest dreams I thought I would be up here,” she said. “I just go surfing and have so much fun. I had so much fun last year.”
Gilmore said she was keen to see surfing develop as a professional sport and attract more new participants. Beachley, 7 x world champion, earlier said it was a positive move that surfing was losing the derogatory tag of being “a sport for bums. It proves that as a surfer we are right up there. It’s about sharing the sport, that healthy lifestyle and inspiring people and inspiring young kids.
2010 Laureus World Sports Awards:
Jamaica’s remarkable track genius Usain Bolt has been named Laureus World Sportsman of the Year for the second straight time, after continuing his amazing blitz on sprinting in 2009 when he won three more gold medals at the World Championships.
US tennis star Serena Williams has won her second Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award, seven years after her first, following Grand Slam victories in Australia and at Wimbledon. It was her third Laureus Award in total, after also winning the Laureus Comeback Award in 2007.
Formula One was a big winner in Abu Dhabi as Britain’s Jenson Button won the Laureus Breakthrough of the Year Award following his first World Drivers’ Championship, and the Brawn GP Formula One Team, for whom Button drove in 2009, was named Laureus World Team of the Year.
Belgium’s Kim Clijsters won the Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award after her remarkable return to tennis in 2009 when she won the US Open Grand Slam title in only her third tournament following a two-year absence.
There was a warm reception at the Awards Ceremony for courageous South African swimmer Natalie du Toit, who is breaking down the barriers between disabled and able-bodied sport, as she received the Laureus Disability Award.