Last updated on May 9th, 2023 at 05:05 PM
Lionel Messi was named Laureus World Sportsman of the Year at an inspirational celebration of the best of sport as the prestigious 2023 Laureus World Sports Awards were staged in Paris.
The biggest show in sport was back as a live and in-person event for the first time since 2020 – and every one of the eight Award winners was there to celebrate an extraordinary sporting year.
They were joined by the sporting legends of the Laureus World Sports Academy, Laureus Award winners from previous years and some of the world’s greatest athletes at a glittering ceremony at the Pavillon Vendome.
After a year in which the greatest footballer of his generation finally added the FIFA World Cup to his resumé – winning the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player for good measure – Messi took to the stage twice: to receive the Laureus World Team of the Year Award on behalf of the Argentina men’s football team and to claim his second Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award, after sharing that prize with Lewis Hamilton in 2020.
Messi has spent his career making sporting history and continued to do so tonight, becoming the first athlete to win the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award and Laureus World Team of the Year Award in the same year.
If Messi – currently starring for Paris St Germain – can be considered one of the greatest footballers of all time, then the winner of the Sportswoman of the Year Award is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest female sprinters in history.
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce’s memorable 2022
– including the 100m gold medal at tthe World Athletics Championships – saw her pick up the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award at a celebration of the best of sport that kicked off a sensational year of sport in France, and Paris in particular.
In the Autumn, the Rugby World Cup will be the focus of the sporting world, with both semi-finals and the final taking place at the nearby Stade de France. Then, in 2024, the same stadium will host track and field competitions as the Olympics and Paralympics come to Paris.
Victory at the 2022 US Open and rise to the world No.1 spot saw him collect the Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year Award. Meanwhile, Christian Eriksen was the recipient of the Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award after recovering from cardiac arrest to return to Premier League football with Brentford and then Manchester United.
Laureus World Sportsman of the Year, Lionel Messi, said “This is a special honour, particularly as the Laureus World Sports Awards are in Paris this year, the city that has welcomed my family since we came here in 2021. I want to thank all my teammates, not only from the national team but also at PSG – I have achieved none of this alone and I am grateful to be able to share everything with them.
“I want to thank the Laureus Academy – what makes these Awards so special to us as athletes is the fact that they are voted for by these incredible champions, my heroes, and this puts my sporting achievements in true context.
“This is the first time I have been the sole winner of the Laureus Sportsman of the Year Award and after a year when we finally won another prize we had been chasing for a long time, at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, it’s an honour to be able to hold this Laureus Statuette.
“I was looking at the names of the incredible legends that won the Laureus Sportsman of the Year Award before me: Schumacher, Woods, Nadal, Federer, Bolt, Hamilton, Djokovic… it really sunk in what unbelievable company I’m in and what a unique honour this is.
“And I am even happier that the team I was a part of at the World Cup have also been recognised by the Laureus Academy tonight. The World Cup was an unforgettable adventure for us, and I can’t describe how it felt to return to Argentina and see what our victory had given to the people of my country. It was an experience I can never forget and I want to thank the Academy for honouring our achievement.
“I play in a team sport and Argentina won the World Cup because of our team. To be recognised within that team – and to be the first athlete from a team sport to win the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award – is an extraordinary honour. Individual prizes are not the reason we play – but the Laureus World Sports Awards give us a unique opportunity to celebrate what we do alongside great athletes from other sports.
“Finally, this Laureus Statuette represents more than sporting achievement, and that’s one of the reasons that I can see from the stage great champions from across the world of sport – we are here to celebrate not just the athletes in this room, but the work of Laureus on a global scale. I’d like to add my support to Laureus Sport for Good and the work they are doing to use the power of sport to change the world.”
Nominees for the Laureus World Sports Awards are decided by the world’s media, and the winners are voted on by the 71 members of the Laureus World Sports Academy – legendary figures from the past 50 years of athletic excellence, and the ultimate sporting jury.
Fraser-Pryce won a record fifth 100m gold at the World Athletic Championships in 2022, 13 years after her first. She has more world sprint titles than any other athlete and in 2022 ran sub-10.7 seconds in the 100m seven times, three more than the previous best for a female sprinter in a calendar year. Whether the benchmark is speed, consistency or longevity, nobody came close to Jamaica’s ‘Pocket Rocket’ and after her sixth nomination for the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award, this is her first win at the Laureus Awards.
Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, said:“I was thrilled to be nominated alongside such inspiring women athletes, and to win this Award, voted for by some of the greatest sportsmen and women of all time, is just amazing.
This is the sixth time I’ve been nominated in this category, so to finally hold the Laureus Statuette in my hands is one of the greatest honours of my career.
“When athletes have the spotlight, it’s important the example we set is the best it can be. We have a responsibility to influence the next generation in a positive way and that’s what the Laureus Awards are all about.”
Alcaraz enjoyed a phenomenal 2022 in which he won the US Open and became tennis’s youngest-ever men’s No.1 player – the Spaniard only turned 20 a few days before picking up his Laureus Statuette.
In the category of Laureus World Action Sportsperson of the Year, winner Eileen Gu was 18 during the Winter Olympics in Beijing, where she became the first athlete to win three medals in freestyle skiing at a single Games: gold in both the halfpipe and big air events, and silver in slopestyle at her home Olympics.
Gu also won two crystal globes in the World Cup, including one for a perfect record across the four rounds of the halfpipe competition.
Laureus Sport for Good, which supports over 300 programmes all over the world using the power of sport to help young people overcome discrimination and inequality, shared the stage with these legendary athletes – the Laureus Sport for Good Award was presented to TeamUp, a global programme developed by War Child, UNICEF the Netherlands and Save the Children that uses physical activity to relieve stress in child refugees.
In Paris to present TeamUp with the Award was Robert Lewandowski, the Barcelona and Poland striker who met with Laureus Ambassador Andriy Shevchenko in Warsaw last year to discuss the programme and the wider response to the war in Ukraine.
Robert Lewandowski, who won the Laureus Academy Exceptional Achievement Award in 2022, said: “It’s an honour for me to be here to present this special Laureus Sport for Good Award to an inspirational programme.
Sport and physical activity have a powerful role in society and the work TeamUp are doing to help children displaced by war process their emotions and build resilience is a wonderful example of that.
“The Laureus World Sports Awards celebrate the best of sport, and for me, the work being done by TeamUp is exactly that. As athletes, we are seen as heroes by many young people, all over the world, but the real heroes are those boys and girls who are fighting to overcome impossible hardship, in this case as the result of war.
The Laureus mission – to use the power of sport to change the world – is one I am proud to stand behind. And it is a special privilege to present this Laureus Award to a programme that is doing that in my home city of Warsaw.”
The Laureus World Sportsperson with a Disability Award – the Nominees for which are decided by a specialist panel from the International Paralympic Committee – was presented to Catherine Debrunner, who started 2022 as an elite force in wheelchair track sprinting and ended it as the benchmark in the marathon.
Debrunner set four world records at her home event in Nottwil, Switzerland, in May – at T53 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m. By late September she had set her sights on a debut marathon in Berlin, followed by London, seven days later – and she won them both.
At the start of 2022, Christian Eriksen was without a club and his future in the game was uncertain as he continued his recovery from cardiac arrest, which occurred on June 12, 2021, during Denmark’s match against Finland at Euro 2020.
By the end of the year, he had returned to the Premier League first with Brentford and then, after once again proving himself as an elite creative force in midfield, for Manchester United.
He ended the year playing every minute of Denmark’s World Cup campaign. His acceptance of the Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award, in front of his wife Sabrina Kvist, was one of many moments of high emotion in the Awards show.
The 2023 Laureus World Sports Awards celebrated the best athletes of 2022 and some of the greatest of all time and was also a celebration of the mission Laureus has held since 2000, when Laureus’ first patron Nelson Mandela spoke at the first iteration of this event and said: “Sport has the power to change the world.
It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.” This has become the driving force behind everything that Laureus does.
The full list of Winners is:
Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award: Lionel Messi
Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award: Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce
Laureus World Team of the Year Award: Argentina Men’s Football Team
Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year Award: Carlos Alcaraz
Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award: Christian Eriksen
Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability Award: Catherine Debrunner
Laureus World Action Sportsperson of the Year Award: Eileen Gu
Laureus Sport for Good Award: TeamUp