Rio de Janeiro - South African golfing great Ernie Els has been nominated for the 2013 Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award, following a ballot by the world’s media.
Having failed to qualify for the US Masters for the first time since 1993, Els, 42, bounced back in the most dramatic way with his fourth Major Championship victory at the Open Championship at Lytham.
In one of the most surprising turn-rounds in golf, he started the final day six shots behind Australia’s Adam Scott and ended winning by one - ten years after he had won his last Major Championship. Els birdied the 18th hole to finish on seven-under-par, scoring 68 to Scott’s 75.
Els, the 2002 Open champion and the 1994 and 1997 US Open champion, had dropped to 65th in the world rankings earlier in the year. He said: "A lot of people never thought I would win but I started believing this year, getting a lot of help from my family and the professionals around me."
Also nominated with Els for the Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award are the European Ryder Cup Team, after their last day fightback against the United States in the so-called ‘Miracle of Medinah’, Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba, who won the Olympic 10 000m following 16 months of injury, Australia’s Anna Meares, who won an Olympic cycling gold medal four years after breaking her neck, Felix Sanchez, 34, winner of the 400m hurdles gold medal again, eight years after he won in Athens, and the Germany Men’s Olympic Eights Team, who won an Olympic gold medal for the first time since 1988.
Laureus World Sports Academy Member and golf legend Gary Player, one of only five men to win golf’s Grand Slam of four Major Championships, lauded Els and Europe's achievements.
“In my own sport of golf it was an exceptional year for comebacks with Ernie Els showing that he is still a force to be reckoned with when he won the Open Championship and then that unbelievable final day at the Ryder Cup. I confess I did not think Europe could do it, but the determination that the team showed was sensational. Seve Ballesteros, who did so much to revive the Ryder Cup, would have been so proud of them," said Player.
The Laureus World Sports Awards, which recognise sporting achievement during the calendar year 2012, are the premier honours on the international sporting calendar. The winners, as voted by the Laureus World Sports Academy, the ultimate sports jury, made up of 46 of the greatest sportsmen and sportswomen of all time, will be unveiled at a globally televised Awards Ceremony staged in Rio de Janeiro on March 11.
Proceeds from the Laureus World Sports Awards directly benefit and underpin the work of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, which supports more than 100 community sports projects around the world.
Since its inception, Laureus has raised over €55m for projects which have improved the lives of more than one-and-a-half million young people.
When the winners are revealed in Rio in March, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt could be celebrating his third Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award, after he repeated his success in Beijing by winning gold medals in all three sprint events in London - 100m, 200m and 4 x 100m relay.
Up against him will be legendary swimmer Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time with a career total of 22 medals, and two Britons - Mo Farah, winner of the 5 000m and 10 000m double, and Bradley Wiggins, winner of the Tour de France and the Olympic Time Trial.
Also nominated in the Sportsman’s category are FC Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, who scored a remarkable 86 goals in 2012 and is nominated for the fourth time, and Germany’s Sebastian Vettel, who won his third straight Formula One World Championship.
With the exception of Lindsey Vonn, who won her fourth overall skiing World Cup in five years, the Nominations for the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award are all dominated by the Olympics.
Three Americans are short listed: Allyson Felix, who won gold medals in the 200m, 4 x 100m and 4 x 400m relays; swimming sensation Missy Franklin, who at the age of 17, won four gold medals and a bronze; and Serena Williams, who enjoyed one of her greatest years, winning Wimbledon, the US Open and Olympic gold medals in the singles and doubles, with her sister Venus.
Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the fastest woman on Earth after successfully defending her 100m Olympic title, and Britain’s Jessica Ennis, who won the heptathlon gold in front of an ecstatic home crowd, complete the six Nominees.
In the Laureus World Team of the Year category, the Spain football team, winners in 2011, are nominated again following their European Championship victory, along with the China Olympic Table Tennis Team, the European Ryder Cup Team, shortlisted for this award as well as comeback, Red Bull, who won the Formula One World Constructors Championship for a third straight year and two basketball teams: Miami Heat, who won their second NBA title; and the US Men’s Olympic Team, who won their 14th Olympic gold medal in London.
British tennis player Andy Murray’s first ever Grand Slam victory, at the US Open, plus an Olympic gold and silver medal in the singles and mixed doubles in London, made him a popular Nominee for the Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year Award.
Also nominated are France’s swim star Yannick Agnel, 20, who won two golds and a silver medal in his first Olympics, US gymnast Gabby Douglas, 400m gold medal winner Kirani James, who won Grenada’s first ever Olympic medal, and China’s Ye Shiwen, 16, who won both 200m and 400mindividual medley gold in the pool. Brazil’s football sensation Neymar is the only non-Olympian to break into the category.
Two Brazilian Paralympic stars are nominated for the Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability Award. Daniel Dias, winner in 2009, is on the shortlist again after winning six gold medals in London, along with Alan Fonteles Oliveira, who beat South African favourite Oscar Pistorius to the gold medal in the T44 200m.
Patrick Anderson is also nominated after coming out of retirement to inspire Canada to the wheelchair basketball gold medal, as is sprinter Johanna Benson who won Namibia’s first ever gold medal, British wheelchair racer David Weir won four gold medals to become the hero of the home fans in London while former Formula One driver Alex Zanardi, who lost both legs in a racing crash, won two hand cycling gold medals and a silver at his first Paralympic Games.
Due to the close contest in the men’s 2012 World Surfing Championship possibly affecting Nominations for the Laureus World Action Sportsperson of the Year Award, the media voting deadline in this category has been extended until after the final event of the season, later this month in Hawaii. The names of the Nominees will be announced in due course.
The Nominations were announced in Rio de Janeiro by Laureus World Sports Academy Chairman Edwin Moses and fellow Academy Member Emerson Fittipaldi, the legendary Brazilian Formula One driver.
Moses, a double Olympic champion in 400 metres hurdles, said: “I always feel in an Olympic year that you are likely to see a strong group of potential nominees and this year is certainly a great example of that.
"The Laureus Sportsman of the Year Award particularly is going to be one of the closest contests ever when you look at the wonderful collection of names we have, with the likes of Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps and newcomers like Mo Farah and Bradley Wiggins. But the list goes on, in every category. This is really the crème de la crème of sport.”
The full list of Nominees for the 2013 Laureus World Sports Awards is:
Laureus World Sportsman of the Year
Usain Bolt (Jamaica) Athletics - won 100m, 200m and 4 x 100m Olympic gold medals in London
Mo Farah (United Kingdom) Athletics - won 5 000m and 10 000m double in Olympic Games
Lionel Messi (Argentina) Football - Barcelona star who scored 86 goals in the calendar year
Michael Phelps (United States) Swimming - became most decorated Olympian with 22 career medals
Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Motor Racing - won third straight Formula One World Championship
Bradley Wiggins (United Kingdom) Cycling - won Tour de France and Olympic Time Trial gold
Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year
Jessica Ennis (United Kingdom) Athletics - won Olympic heptathlon gold medal in London
Allyson Felix (United States) Athletic - won 200m, 4 x 100m and 4 x 400m Olympic gold medals
Missy Franklin (United States) Swimming - at 17, won four gold medals and a bronze at Olympics
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (Jamaica) Athletics - successfully defended her 100m Olympic title
Lindsey Vonn (United States) Skiing - won fourth overall skiing World Cup in five years
Serena Williams (United States) Tennis - won Wimbledon, the US Open and two Olympic gold medals
Laureus World Team of the Year
China Olympic Table Tennis Team - won all the medals they could in London - four gold and two silver.
European Ryder Cup Team (Golf) - beat American team after amazing final day fightback at Medinah
Miami Heat (United States) Basketball - beat Oklahoma Thunder to win their second NBA title
Red Bull Formula One Team (Austria) Motor Racing - won third straight Constructors Championship
Spain Men’s Football Team - won European Championship to add to World Cup 2010 and Euro 2008
United States Men’s Basketball Team - won their 14th Olympic basketball gold medal in London
Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year
Yannick Agnel (France) Swimming - at 20, in his first Olympics, won two gold and a silver medal
Gabby Douglas (United States) Gymnastics - first woman to win Olympic individual and team all-around gold
Kirani James (Grenada) Athletics - at 19, won 400m in London for Grenada’s first ever Olympic medal
Andy Murray (United Kingdom) Tennis - won first Grand Slam at US Open, plus Olympic gold and silver Neymar (Brazil) Football - often compared to the great Pelé, he scored his 100th goal at age 20
Ye Shiwen (China) Swimming -at 16, she won both Olympic 200m and 400m individual medley gold
Laureus World Comeback of the Year
Tirunesh Dibaba (Ethiopia) Athletics - won Olympic 10 000m after coming back from 16 months injury
Ernie Els (South Africa) Golf - won The Open ten years after his previous Major Championship
European Ryder Cup Team (Golf) - on last day turned match against US around for historic 14½-13½ win
Anna Meares (Australia) Cycling - four years after breaking her neck in cycle crash, she won Olympic gold
Felix Sanchez (Dominican Republic) Athletics - at 34, won 400m hurdles gold again, eight years after Athens
Germany Men’s Olympic Eights Team (Rowing) - won Olympic gold medal for first time since 1988
Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability
Patrick Anderson (Canada) Wheelchair Basketball - came out of retirement to inspire Canada to gold medal
Johanna Benson (Namibia) Athletics - in T37 200m sprint, she won Namibia’s first ever gold medal
Daniel de Faria Dias (Brazil) Swimming - won six Paralympic gold medals in London all in world records
Alan Fonteles Oliveira (Brazil) Athletics - beat favourite Oscar Pistorius to win Paralympic T44 200m gold
David Weir (United Kingdom) Wheelchair Racing - won four gold medals as ‘home’ hero of Paralympics
Alex Zanardi (Italy) Hand Cycling - won two gold medals and a silver at his first Paralympic Games