Vettel and Franklin winners at emotional Laureus awards

Ceremony in Malaysia tinged with tragedy over the MH370 plane disaster

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 March, 2014, 12:36am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 March, 2014, 12:36am


Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel and swimming star Missy Franklin were named Laureus sportsman and woman of the year on Wednesday night in a ceremony in Kuala Lumpur that was tinged with tragedy over the MH370 plane disaster.

Germany’s soccer treble-winners Bayern Munich beat out rugby’s All Blacks for team of last year and tennis ace Rafael Nadal won comeback of the year.

The ceremony, packed with some of the greats of world sport, was preceded by a moment’s silence for the 239 people killed when flight MH370 crashed in the Indian Ocean in still unexplained circumstances.

Vettel, F1’s youngest four-time world champion and in Kuala Lumpur for this week’s Malaysian Grand Prix, won his award ahead of Usain Bolt, LeBron James, Nadal, Cristiano Ronaldo and Mo Farah.

If I’ve learned anything tonight, surely it’s the fact that sport can be a very, very big inspiration
Sebastian Vettel

“If I’ve learned anything tonight, surely it’s the fact that sport can be a very, very big inspiration,” an emotional Vettel said. “I’ve come here and seen many heroes of mine ... this [award] is very inspirational, very special.”

Franklin, 18, beat tennis great Serena Williams and Russian pole vault queen Yelena Isinbayeva, among others, to the women’s award and afterwards she offered her condolences for the plane crash.

“It’s a horrific tragedy. My thoughts and prayers are with you along with the thoughts and prayers of billions of people around the world,” said Franklin, who won a record six golds at last year’s world championships.

Spain’s Nadal won comeback of the year for his amazing recovery from a career-threatening knee injury when he won the French Open and US Open and returned to world number one.

“Everyone knew how tough last year was with my injury. I thought I would never have the chance to come back,” said Nadal, who picked up the third Laureus award of his career.

Afghanistan’s cricket team were honoured with a spirit of sport award for their feat in rising from refugee camps and long-running conflict to qualify for the next year World Cup.

Spanish MotoGP rider Marc Marquez won breakthrough of the year for becoming his sport’s youngest ever world champion at the age of 20 years and 266 days.

Skier Marie Bochet of France, who was born without a left forearm, was named best sportsperson with a disability and British BMX rider Jamie Bestwick won the action sports award.

The winners were chosen by secret ballot by a 46-strong panel of sporting greats. Bobby Charlton, Steve Waugh, Johan Cruyff, Sebastian Coe, Mark Spitz and Nadia Comaneci were just some of the big names at the show.