Wiggins gets Smit Laureus nod
Cape Town - When former Springbok captain John Smit attends the Laureus World Sport Awards
in Rio de Janeiro on Monday night, there’ll be a certain nostalgia to proceedings, as the South African star remembers his own Laureus moment - winning the Laureus Team of the Year Award
in 2008, after leading his team to victory in the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France.
“It was the perfect way to celebrate our journey's success after lifting the cup,” Smit reflected ahead of the awards.
“It confirmed again on a worldwide stage, up against fierce competition from different sports, that we were champions. It was very satisfying.”
It was also, as Smit asserted, a ringing endorsement for the whole team, and acknowledgement of a particularly special kind.
“It was a vindication of years of sacrifice and hard work by the most elite and prestigious of organisations, Laureus.”
While neither Smit nor the Springboks are in contention in 2013, the celebrated hooker, who has flown out from his new home in London to attend the awards, has been keeping a keen eye on the nominees, and has made a few predictions for this year’s winners.
“I'm hoping the European Ryder Cup team wins,” Smit said of the Laureus Team of the Year
award, a category in which the golfers face stiff opposition from the Miami Heat, Spain’s footballers, and the Red Bull Formula One team, among others.
“As for Sportsman of the Year
, I’m slightly biased due to my new love of cycling and the fact that cycling needs something positive at the moment, so Bradley Wiggins would be my pick.”
Wiggins will need to see off Lionel Messi, Mo Farah, Michael Phelps, Sebastian Vettel and Usain Bolt, making the Sportsman of the Year category a fiercely contested one; so too is the Sportswoman of the Year Award
, but again Smit has made his choice.
“I've always loved tennis, and Serena Williams has been good for so long,” Smit enthused.
“And she has had another great year.”
Smit also admires one of the action stars in contention in Rio de Janeiro, even if that admiration is tinged with disbelief.
“This guy is insane!” Smit exclaimed of Felix Baumgartner, whose extraordinary freefall from space last year has him nominated for the Laureus Action Sportsperson Award
“I just love watching the crazy things he does, and find myself YouTubing his stunts all the time. I'm sure part of all of us wishes we had the daring of this man to do things most imagine impossible.”
But while he might not be throwing himself out of a spaceship with a parachute on his back any time soon, the man capped 111 times for South Africa does have something in common with Baumgartner: a commitment to supporting the Laureus Sport For Good Foundation.
“Sport is intertwined into my DNA,” Smit explained.
“So to see what Laureus does to spread sport around the world to those less fortunate, resonates loudly with me as a South African, where sport has such a powerful impact on people's lives.”