TINA MAZE HEADS STRONG WINTER OLYMPIC CHALLENGE FOR LAUREUS SPORTSWOMAN AWARD

  • Sochi stars Bjørgen, Domracheva, Fenninger and Zhou also in contention
  • Gymnast Simone Biles leads teenage challenge after another golden year
  • Athlete of the Year Valerie Adams extends unbeaten streak to 56 wins

  • World’s media to vote for SIX Nominees for Laureus Sportswoman of Year  Laureus World Sports Awards to be held in Shanghai from April 13 – 15

LONDON, January 14, 2015 – Big name stars from a wide range of sports are in fierce competition for the 2015 Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award, which is promising to be one of the closest contests ever.

Among the likely contenders: the Winter Olympics in Sochi produced an array of brilliant gold medal winners including Marit Bjørgen, Darya Domracheva and Tina Maze; China’s No.1 tennis player Li Na closed her amazing career with a second Grand Slam victory in the Australian Open; New Zealand shot putter Valerie Adams extended her winning streak to 56; while American gymnast Simone Biles, 17, had another spectacular year, dominating the World Championships.

The Laureus World Sports Awards is recognised as the premier honours event in the international sporting calendar. The SIX Nominees for the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award, as voted by the Laureus Global Media Selection Panel, will be announced on February 11, with the eventual winner being revealed at the Laureus Awards Ceremony in Shanghai on April 15.

Slovenian ski sensation Tina Maze will be many people’s favourite to be nominated for a second straight year after winning two Olympic gold medals in Sochi, taking the blue riband Downhill (shared with Dominique Gisin) and the Giant Slalom. In a fine all-round performance, she was also fourth in Super Combined, fifth in Super G and eighth in Slalom.

Versatile Austrian Anna Fenninger won the Super G Olympic gold by more than half a second, then three days later followed that with a silver medal in the Giant Slalom. After Sochi, she returned to the World Cup where she also secured the Overall and Giant Slalom titles.

At 33, Norway’s cross-country skier Marit Bjørgen became the most decorated female Winter Olympian in history by winning three gold medals in the 15km Skiathlon, Team Sprint and 30km Freestyle events. Her career successes now total six Olympic gold medals, three silvers and a bronze.

Darya Domracheva from Belarus became the first woman to win three biathlon titles at the same Winter Olympics, in 10km Pursuit, 12.5km mass start and 15km individual, while short track Chinese speed skater Zhou Yang took the gold medal by defending her 1,500 metres title.

In tennis, China’s Li Na won her second Grand Slam, the Australian Open, in January and a month later achieved a career-best ranking of world No.2. However, seven months later she was forced to retire, at the age of 32, because of knee injuries. Over the course of her career, Li Na also won the 2011 French Open and reached the final of the Australian Open in 2011 and 2013. She was the first Chinese player to win a Grand Slam which resulted in a significant increase in tennis in China.

After a disappointing start to the year in the first three Grand Slam events – going out in the fourth round in Australia, third round at Wimbledon and second round in the French Open – American Serena Williams found her form to beat Caroline Wozniacki in the final of the US Open to secure her 18th career Grand Slam victory. The Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova won her second Wimbledon title, beating Eugenie Bouchard in straight sets, and climbing to No.4 in the world rankings.

At just 17, and in only her second year of senior competition, American Simone Biles showed that she is a gymnastic great in the making by winning four golds and one silver medal at the World Championships in Nanning. Most impressively she won the All-Around gold medal for the second straight year, as well as the Floor Exercises. Her other gold medals came in Beam and the Team Championship, with silver in Vault.

For the fourth straight year, world and Olympic shot put champion Valerie Adams ended the season undefeated, having won all her 14 competitions, bringing her unbeaten streak to 56. The New Zealander totally justified being named IAAF Women’s Athlete of the Year after she won all seven Diamond League events and gold medals in the World Indoor Championships and the Commonwealth Games.

Also in track and field, Dutch heptathlete Dafne Schippers gambled on dropping her favourite discipline at the European Championships in Zurich in favour of the sprints and amazed the athletics world when she won the 100 metres and 200 metres double, while Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba became only the third athlete to break three world records in two weeks - in Karlsruhe, she broke the 1,500 metres indoor record, five days later it was the 3,000 metres in Stockholm and then the two mile record in Birmingham.

Among the highlights in other sports, Spanish swimmer Mireia Belmonte completed an outstanding year with four gold medals in the World Short Course Championships in Doha, including world records in the 200 metres butterfly and 400 metres individual medley. One week later during the Spanish Championships she broke the 1,500 metres freestyle short course world record. Earlier in the year at the European Championships in Berlin she had won two gold, two silver and two bronze medals.

At just 22, Australia’s cricket captain Meg Lanning led her team to their third straight World Twenty/20 Championship victory, beating England in the final. She was the star of the show with a match-winning 44 runs from 30 balls. Earlier in the tournament she had scored 126 runs from 65 balls against Ireland, the highest individual score in a women's international. She was named ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year.

Malaysia’s Nicol David once again totally dominated her sport of squash, winning her fifth British Open, her third straight US Open and her ninth Hong Kong Open. Ireland’s Katie Taylor won her fifth consecutive gold medal at the AIBA Women's World Championships in South Korea in the lightweight final, drawing level with Indian boxer Mary Kom.

Magali Harvey was voted Women’s Rugby Player of the Year after Canada reached the World Cup final for the first time. She was the first Canadian to receive the award. And British cyclist Lizzie Armitstead (UK) won the gold medal in the road race at the Commonwealth Games, as well as securing the nine-stage UCI Women's Road World Cup title with a race to spare.

Laureus World Sports Academy Member and skiing great Franz Klammer, who was the Olympic Downhill champion in 1976, said: “The Winter Olympics produced some amazing performances in Sochi and I am not surprised to see that so many gold medal winners are being considered as possible Nominees. Lindsey Vonn won this Award in 2010 and as a skier myself I would be delighted if we could have another skier as the winner in 2015. I wouldn’t like to pick out one name as they all achieved so much. That is the measure of great sport; delivering an outstanding performance when you have to in the biggest competitions.”

The Laureus World Sports Awards recognise sporting achievement during the calendar year 2014. The six Nominees for the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award are voted for by the Laureus Global Media Selection Panel, comprising leading sports editors, sports writers, broadcasters and online journalists from around the world. The eventual winner will then be chosen from that list in a secret ballot by the ultimate sports jury, the 47 members of the Laureus World Sports Academy - the living legends of sport honouring the greatest athletes of today.

Among the sporting greats who have previously been named as winners of Laureus Awards over the last 15 years have been Usain Bolt, Sebastian Coe, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Alex Ferguson, Lewis Hamilton, Kelly Holmes, Yao Ming, Rafael Nadal, Pelé, Steve Redgrave, Ronaldo, Michael Schumacher, Kelly Slater, Shaun White, Serena Williams, Liu Xiang and Zinedine Zidane.

Guests who have attended previous Awards Ceremony in the past have included His Majesty King Juan Carlos of Spain, HSH Prince Albert of Monaco, David and Victoria Beckham, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sean Connery, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, Morgan Freeman, Teri Hatcher, Eva Longoria, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kevin Spacey.

Proceeds from the Laureus World Sports Awards directly benefit and underpin the work of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, which supports more than 150 sports-based community projects in 34 countries around the world that have helped to improve the lives of millions of young people.

Members of the Laureus World Sports Academy and Laureus Ambassadors volunteer their time to act as global ambassadors for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, whose mission is to use sport as the means to combat some of the world’s toughest social challenges facing young people today such as juvenile crime, gangs, HIV/AIDS, discrimination, social exclusion, landmines awareness, education and health problems such as obesity. Since its inception Laureus has raised over €60 million to support projects around the world.

The globally televised Awards Ceremony, attended by many legends of sport past and present, will celebrate the achievements of the greatest sportsmen and sportswomen of the year. The Laureus World Sports Awards will be supported by Chinese textile and wool company HengYuanXiang Group (HYX), the Host Partner of the 2015 Laureus World Sports Awards, and will receive the strong support of the Shanghai Municipal Government.

Shanghai, one of China’s most iconic travel destinations and one of the most spectacular cities on Earth, is a perfect location for the 2015 Laureus World Sports Awards. A popular tourist destination renowned for its historical landmarks, such as The Bund, City God Temple and Yu Garden, as well as the dramatic Lujiazui skyline, it is a showcase for the booming economy of China. Shanghai mixes old world charm with a modern and vibrant city, perfectly blending the past and present. Shanghai annually hosts some of the biggest sports events in the world, including the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix and the IAAF Shanghai Diamond League meeting.

Enjoying a long-standing reputation in China, HYX is a leading force in the textile and garment industry. In recent years HYX has evolved into a modern enterprise developing its own unique ‘brand and culture’, through brands like ‘HYX’, ‘Fazeya’ and ‘Nanonan’. For many years, HYX has actively focused on sport and been a partner in sports events like football, basketball, gymnastics and marathon. In December 2005, HYX became the first non-sports textile and costume sponsor in the history of the Olympics and three years later became the first partner of the Chinese Olympic Committee, customizing the Olympic kit for Chinese athletes.

The ‘Eternal Love’ programme, co-founded by HYX and the China Children and Teenagers’ Foundation, has won the China Charity Award twice, being honoured as the No.1 activity for caring for orphaned and disabled children in China. Also, the ‘HYX Literature Star High School Students’ Writing Contest’ has become the most influential event of its kind, attracting the largest number of contestants. In 1997 and 2007 HYX supported the ‘10,000 Teenagers’ Recreational and Sports Activities’ event in Tiananmen Square, in Beijing, China, in the hope of promoting the health of teenagers. For a long time, HYX has been an active partner in sports events like football, basketball, gymnastics and marathon.

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Laureus is a universal movement that celebrates the power of sport to bring people together as a force for good. Laureus is composed of three core elements - the Laureus World Sports Academy, Laureus Sport for Good and the Laureus World Sports Awards - which collectively celebrate sporting excellence and use sport as the means to promote social change. The first Patron of Laureus was Nelson Mandela. At the inaugural Laureus World Sports Awards in 2000, he 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. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair.” This has become the philosophy of Laureus; the driving force behind its work. The members of the Laureus World Sports Academy are: Giacomo Agostini, Marcus Allen, Franz Beckenbauer, Boris Becker, Ian Botham, Sergey Bubka, Cafu, Bobby Charlton, Sebastian Coe, Nadia Comaneci, Yaping Deng, Marcel Desailly, Kapil Dev, Mick Doohan, David Douillet, Rahul Dravid, Luis Figo, Emerson Fittipaldi, Sean Fitzpatrick (Chairman), Dawn Fraser, Cathy Freeman, Tanni Grey-Thompson, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Mika Häkkinen, Tony Hawk, Maria Höfl-Riesch, Mike Horn, Miguel Indurain, Michael Johnson, Kip Keino, Franz Klammer, Tegla Loroupe, Dan Marino, Yao Ming, Edwin Moses, Nawal El Moutawakel, Li Na, Robby Naish, Ilie Nastase, Martina Navratilova, Alexey Nemov, Jack Nicklaus, Brian O’Driscoll, Alessandro Del Piero, Gary Player, Morné du Plessis, Hugo Porta, Carles Puyol, Raúl, Steve Redgrave, Vivian Richards, Monica Seles, Mark Spitz, Sachin Tendulkar, Daley Thompson, Alberto Tomba, Steve Waugh, Katarina Witt, Li Xiaopeng and Yang Yang. The Laureus Academy Members volunteer their services as global ambassadors for Laureus Sport for Good, which was set up to promote the use of sport as a tool for social change. Laureus Sport for Good addresses social challenges through a worldwide programme of sports related community development initiatives. Since its inception, Laureus has raised over €100 million for projects which have helped to improve the lives of millions of young people. The mission of Laureus Sport for Good is to use sport as a means to combat some of the toughest social challenges facing young people today such as violence and crime, discrimination, unemployment, lack of education and health threats including HIV/AIDS and obesity. The Laureus World Sports Awards is the premier global sports awards honouring the greatest sportsmen and women across all sports each year. The winners are selected by the ultimate sports jury – 60 members of the Laureus World Sports Academy, the living legends of sport honouring the great athletes of today. The Awards are presented at an annual Awards Ceremony, attended by global figures from sport and entertainment, which is broadcast to 160 countries and territories. The Awards continue to support Laureus Sport for Good by showcasing the incredible work it does with athletes and partners to transform the lives of individuals and promoting to a global audience the power of sport as a development tool to combat challenging social issues. Laureus was founded by its Patrons Richemont and Daimler and is supported by its Global Partners Mercedes-Benz and IWC Schaffhausen. Mercedes-BenzMercedes-Benz is the inventor of the automobile – and has been passionately shaping its future since 1886. As pioneers in automotive engineering, it is both our inspiration and responsibility to continue the tradition of the brand with trailblazing technologies and high-quality products. Like no other trademark in the automotive world, Mercedes-Benz appeals to both the hearts and minds of its customers. We give our very best for customers who expect the very best. Since the founding fathers Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz, our corporate history has been one of innovation and pioneering achievements. Many technical innovations that are nowadays standard in automobiles first entered the market in a Mercedes-Benz. This is the basis for our claim to leadership in automotive engineering. The brand stands for Modern Luxury, and enjoys an outstanding reputation for quality, safety, comfort, design and comprehensive, sustainable mobility. IWC SchaffhausenWith a clear focus on technology and development, the Swiss watch manufacturer IWC Schaffhausen has been producing timepieces of lasting value since 1868. The company has gained an international reputation based on a passion for innovative solutions and technical ingenuity. One of the world’s leading brands in the luxury watch segment, IWC crafts masterpieces of haute horlogerie at their finest, combining supreme precision with exclusive design. As an ecologically and socially responsible company, IWC is committed to sustainable production, supports institutions around the globe in their work with children and young people and maintains partnerships with organisations dedicated to climate and environmental protection.

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