World tennis greats Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams made a clean sweep for tennis at the Laureus Awards ceremony, winning the Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year awards. Both top athletes picked up the top prize for the third time, with Williams having previously won it in 2003 and 2010 while Djokovic was also victorious in 2012 and 2015.
Djokovic was up against some stiff competition by Argentinean soccer star Lionel Messi and Jamaican athlete Usain Bolt and British Formula 1 driver and world champion Lewis Hamilton.
Former Formula 1 driver Niki Lauda was meanwhile awarded a Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award. The Austrian legend has been retired from racing for 30 years but remains close to the paddock, currently representing the Mercedes team.
The most emotional moment of the evening came when Dutch soccer legend Johan Cruyff, who died of cancer in March 2016, received a posthumous "Spirit of Sport" award. His son Jordi accepted the award in his place, thanking the academy in tears.
"I had intended to stand on this stage alongside my father, but now I have to accept the prize alone," said Jordi Cruyff, who is also a professional football player like his father. The academy had announced ahead of Johan Cruyff's death that he would be honored with the award this year.
An eventful evening
Other highlights of the evening included Brazilian Paralympic swimmer Daniel Dias receiving the award for "World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability."
New Zealand's national rugby team, the All Blacks, known the world over for performing the Haka ahead of games, was honored as the "Laureus World Team of the Year" for their World Cup victory last year. The team's Dan Carter won Comeback of the Year. Meanwhile American golfer Jordan Spieth won the Breakthrough of the Year award after capturing his first two majors at the 2015 US Masters and US Open.
German Triathlete Jan Frodeno meanwhile received the award for "Action Sportsperson of the Year." He was the only German sports personality to win an award this year. Germany's World Cup-winning football team had been recognized at the Laureus Sports Awards in Shanghai last year.
The Laureus Awards are the only sports awards ceremony in the world to honor sporting achievements measured over the length of an entire year. Originating in Monaco, the award has been held each year (except for 2009 on account of the global financial crisis) since 2000.
ss/se (dpa, SID, Reuters)