Usain Bolt, Simone Biles, Michael Phelps lead Olympian sweep of Laureus Awards
That the Olympics are the ultimate test of human endurance, skill and sporting spirit was once again eloquent when the Laureus World Sports Awards were declared in Monaco on Tuesday night.
Sprint king Usain Bolt of Jamaica won a record fourth Laureus Sportsman of the year award while US gymnast Simone Biles won the women’s version of the sports Oscars in a glittering ceremony hosted by British actor Hugh Grant.
The Laureus awards gala was returning to Monaco after a gap of 17 years. The first edition was held in the principality in 2000. Prince Albert and Princess Charlene were the chief guests on a night when a galaxy of stars lit up the wind-swept French Riviera off the Mediterranean.
The Laureus World Sports Awards not only brought together the sporting legends -- past, present and future -- on the planet earth, but feted the Olympic Refugee Team, the athletes of which conquered odds in their strife-torn nations to compete in Rio 2016.
Laureus also reserved an award for the Sportsperson of the Year with a disability. This year, it was won by Italian Beatrice Vio, the only quadruple amputee in international wheelchair fencing.
Beatrice, who won gold in the Rio Paralympics, got the loudest cheer in a packed hall at the Salle des Etoiles Sporting Monte Carlo, the venue of the awards.
The Laureus ceremony saw rare scenes of sporting greats meeting up in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Mrs. and Mr. Michael Phelps sharing a dinner table with Mrs. and Mr. Nico Rosberg is perhaps one of the rarest sights in sports.
While Phelps, the greatest Olympian swimmer of all times, won the Comeback of the Year award, Rosberg, the reigning world Formula One champion, won the Breakthrough of the Year award. Rosberg lives in Monaco and has a hat-trick of F1 race wins in Monte Carlo.
The award ceremony was just perfectly planned. Bolt, who equalled Roger Federer with his fourth Laureus trophy, was presented his silverware by former Olympic and world champion Michael Johnson. Biles got her trophy from the best-known gymnast in history, Nadia Comaneci.
Bolt, who will never be seen in an Olympics again, had a telling message for youngsters. The showman, who did his signature ‘thunderbolt’ pose during a group photo with other winners, said: “Anything is possible. Never thought I will win this (Rio) gold...work hard and keep pushing.”
It was a virtual who’s who at the awards. Sergei Bubka, Ed Moses, football legends Ruud Gullit, Cafu, Del Piero and Carlos Puyol and boxing great Marvelous Marvin Hagler...the list goes on.
In the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo, a nominee alongside Bolt, football got its share of the spotlight when Leicester City were given a special Spirit of Sport award for their stunning Premier League win last season as 5,000-1 outsiders. The award was presented to Leicester manager Claudio Rannieri by former England boss Fabio Capello.
There was lot of wine, music and cheer. With their wives in tow, the Phelps, Rosbergs and Coulthards partied into the wee hours of Wednesday. Another edition of the Laureus awards thus came to a grand finish.