Chat: Laureus' Ryan Sandes

2013-02-08 12:51

Cape Town - When daredevil Austrian Felix Baumgartner lines up against his fellow nominees in the Action category of this year’s Laureus World Sport Awards on March 11 in Rio de Janeiro, there’ll be another Red Bull sponsored athlete cheering him on from South Africa, and appreciating the support and recognition that Laureus affords athletes who fall outside of the more traditional sporting spheres.

Long-distance runner Ryan Sandes, who became the first man to win all four of the famed Desert Runs in 2010, made a cameo appearance at the 2011 awards in Abu Dhabi, and is backing Baumgartner to win this year’s Action Sport category.

“Action Sportsperson of the Year has to be Felix Baumgartner,” Sandes predicted.

“His jump last year was insane, and I think he has redefined what humans are capable of.”

Similar sentiment has been expressed with regard to Sandes’ own achievements: this, after all, is the man who ran the seven-day, 250km Gobi Race as his first ever ultra-marathon event - and proceeded to win every single stage. His exploits have given trail-running enormous publicity; Sandes has a keen appreciation for the impact Laureus continues to have in doing likewise.

“The Laureus Awards plays a massive role in show casing and recognising the more alternative sports and puts them on the global sports stage,” Sandes said from Cape Town, where the slightly built extreme runner is in training for his 2013 schedule.

“Alternative sports, like trail running, get very little recognition world wide because they are not major spectator sports, so it means the world to me to see these ‘less popular’ sports getting acknowledged.”

Sandes’ enthusiasm in part stems from his firsthand experience of the awards, his Abu Dhabi appearance clearly a cherished memory.

“Attending the awards has been one of the highlights of my career and was a huge honour. Being surrounded by so many past and current sporting legends was really inspiring, and I left the awards wanting to challenge my own sporting boundaries and be the best athlete I can be. The day before the awards I was in the hotel lobby with my Red Bull cap on and I was mistaken for Kelly Slater - I am not sure if that was a good or bad thing, as he is 10 years older than me! I got to meet a number of my sporting heroes but the ones that stand out are Sean Fitzpatrick, Steve Waugh and Slater.”

Fitzpatrick, Waugh and Slater all got a snapshot of the extraordinary capabilities of Sandes that year, as a video clip of his desert racing triumphs was screened to widespread admiration, and Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey, host for the night, conducted an interview with the young South African on stage. And while a family wedding prevents him from attending in 2013, Sandes is up to speed on the athletes who’ll be taking to the stage this year - and who feels should triumph.

“Sportsman of the year has to be Usain Bolt, with Bradley Wiggins a close second,” predicted Sandes.

“Sportswoman is quite a difficult one, but I would go with Lindsey Vonn who has dominated skiing the past few years. For the sports Team of the year I would select the European Ryder Cup Golf.

It’s been a busy time for Sandes since that appearance at the Laureus World Sport Awards, as the achievements continue to rack up.

“Winning the Leadville 100-miler in 2011 was a major highlight, and then last year running the Fish River Canyon was a really memorable experience.”

Typically humble, Sandes doesn’t point that he reduced the previous 10 hour, 54 minute record to just six hours, 57 minutes...

There’s no letting up for running sensation, though.

“2013 is going to be another busy year with races planned in Europe, USA and Australia. My main focus races will be the Western States 100-miler and Run Rabbit Run 100-miler, both in the USA. I have won an ultra trail race on six continents, so now I have Europe to tick off to make it all seven continents. My documentary, Wandering Fever will also be released later this year, so it's going to be an exciting year!”

But it’s not all about running: Sandes takes great pride in his role as a Laureus ambassador, and has a firm commitment to the work Laureus does around the world.

“It is a huge privilege to be a Laureus ambassador, and be a small part of the awesome job they are doing to uplift the lives of people in underdeveloped countries. Sport gives people hope and motivation to go out and achieve. It also knows no colour and creed, and has the amazing ability to unite people.”

So, running vast distances at breathtaking speed, releasing a much-anticipated documentary, and working to build and support communities through the platform of sport: is there anything else on the Ryan Sandes agenda?

“The Laureus Sports awards are the most prestigious sports awards in the world, like winning an Oscar as an actor. It would be a dream come true to win an award. It’s like winning an Oscar as an actor.”

Have a look at the video of Ryan Sandes in action from the Fish River Canyon.


  • - 2013-02-10 10:09

    Insane athletes and nutters but I take my Gucci hat of to your guys and gals!

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