(Editor’s Note. The Laureus World Sport Awards were first awarded for the 1999 sports year. Each year a male and female winner are selected. This year’s winners will be honored at a ceremony in Abu Dhabi on Feb. 7, 2012 that will be broadcast around the world. The proceeds from this event will go to support the work of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, which supports almost 80 projects around the world and which has enriched the lives of over 2 million young people through the use of sport).
December 4 – Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic (pictured) and Argentinian football phenomenon Lionel Messi are favourites for the 2012 Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award.
Meanwhile, a strong British challenge is expected for the women’s prize, with swimmer Rebecca Adlington and triathletes Chrissie Wellington and Helen Jenkins among the main contenders.
The glittering awards are to be held in London on February 6, just over five months before the start of the 2012 Olympic Games.
Djokovic heads into the event as the dominant player in men’s tennis, having this year won three of the four Grand Slam tournaments and taken over from Rafael Nadal, the reigning Laureus World Sportsman of the Year, as world number one.
Footballer Messi is bidding to become the first team player to win the individual Laureus Sportsman Award after scoring 53 goals in all competitions for Barcelona in the 2010/2011 season as he spearheaded his team to Champions League and La Liga glory.
Sebastian Vettel of Germany is another strong contender after he secured his second straight Formula One World Championship in his Red Bull car.
Tour de France sprint hero Mark Cavendish, golfer Luke Donald, cricketers Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott, world triathlon champion Alistair Brownlee and track star Mo Farah are Britain’s strongest contenders.
They are, though, unlikely to trouble Djokovic, Messi and Vettel.
But in the women’s event, Britain has some major contenders, even though none of the country’s top female sports stars made it onto the 10-strong shortlist for the 2011 BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
Adlington will be one of the favourites after winning the 800 metres freestyle gold medal and 400m freestyle silver in the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai, while Wellington and Jenkins dominated triathlon in 2011.
Wellington won her fourth Ironman Triathlon World Championship in five years, despite racing in Hawaii with a torn muscle after a bike crash two weeks earlier, while Jenkins won her second World Triathlon Championship after finishing runner-up in the season-ending Grand Final in Beijing.
There is stiff international competition for the prize, however, not least from Homare Sawa (pictured), who captained Japan to its first FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Sawa was also awarded the Golden Boot as the tournament’s leading scorer, with five goals, and the Golden Ball for being its top player.
Taiwan’s Yani Tseng is another with strong claims, after the 22-year-old enjoyed one of the most amazing years in the history of women’s golf.
The World Athletics Championships in Daegu in August produced several more strong contenders including 100m hurdler Sally Pearson of Australia and Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot, who established herself as one of the great distance runners with wins over both 5,000m and 10,000m.