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March 14, 2010

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Champions of sport awarded

JAMAICAN sprinter Usain Bolt won his second straight Laureus Sportsman of the Year award on Wednesday and American tennis player Serena Williams won the women's prize for the second time.

"Anything is possible," Bolt said. "I just need to keep working hard and keep breaking records. That's the aim for me."

Bolt beat Roger Federer to the title for the second straight year.

Federer, a four-time Laureus winner, was also shortlisted this year after the Swiss tennis star surpassed Pete Sampras in 2009 for the most major singles titles, winning his sixth Wimbledon and taking his first French Open title to complete a career Grand Slam.

The Laureus Sports Awards recognized achievements in 2009.

Two of the winners came from Formula One.

Laureus World Team of the year went to Brawn GP Formula One Team while Jenson Button received the Laureus Breakthrough of the Year Award.

The following outstanding athletes attended the event and gave their opinions and thoughts about the prestigious award and sports.

Emerson Fittipaldi, motor racing

At 25, Emerson Fittipaldi won the Formula One Championship, becoming the youngest racer to do so.

After 149 races and two championships, he retired from the racing circuit in 1980. But, he missed the sport and he returned in 1989. However, he had to bid the racetrack goodbye after suffering a broken neck in a crash.

Q: Who is your all-time No. 1 Formula 1 driver?

A: It is always an extremely difficult choice to (answer) who is the best in the history of Formula 1. Being Brazilian, I am going to say Aryton Senna but Schumacher has been fantastic.

Fangio was one of the greatest of the 1950s. There have always been great champions like Jim Clarke and Jackie Stewart so it is difficult to compare directly. But for me, Aryton Senna.

Q: Who will be the champion in the 2010 Formula 1 World Championship?

A: There is a lot of excitement for the first GP in Bahrain. With new rules, you cannot refuel the car so that means you start very heavy.

And then you finish the event empty-tanked, so there's lots of strategy needed by the driver.

I think with Schumacher coming back he has a very good chance to win the championship.

Felipe Massa of Ferrari can win, so can Fernando Alonso, Jensen Button, McLaren, Lewis Hamilton and there is Vettel on the Red Bull team. Into Bahrain, we don't know exactly who has the best chance to win but there is a lot of excitement for the new season, I am very happy to be in Abu Dhabi for the Laureus Sports for Good Foundations and for the Bahrain race.

Q: Any comments on Schumacher's comeback, and on the new teams?

A: Michael Schumacher's comeback is great for motor racing. He is a fantastic champion, he is 41 and physically fit, he has the motivation to win and I am sure he can win the championship again.

He is coming on the Brawn team that is now Mercedes. Jensen Button won the championship last year on this team. It will be exciting to see Michael back driving again.

The new teams, we don't know yet how they will perform.

But I am sure Ferrari who lost performance last year will come back very strong this year.

Ferrari has a good chance with Fernando Alonso who is a great champion and we hope for Brazil that Felipe Massa will win the championship.

Monica Seles, tennis

As a 16-year-old, Monica Seles took tennis by storm when she won the 1990 French Open but a stabbing incident in 1993 forced her into temporary retirement for two years. She returned in 1995 and won a bronze medal in the 2000 Olympics. She retired in 2008, after playing her last game against Martina Navratilova and battling foot injuries.

Q: What's your view of Chinese women's tennis with players reaching the quarter finals and semi finals of many Grand Slams?

A: It is wonderful to see, also at this year's Australian Open, how well they have done. It is so amazing to see how quickly they have become so good and they are wonderful role models for a lot of Chinese girls who want to pick up tennis or any other sports. They just show if you dedicate yourself and work hard, great things come your way.

Q: Have you watched Li Na or Zheng Jie play?

A: I watched them at the Australian Open on TV in the semi finals, the first time I have watched them play. I was really impressed because it is not easy to be on that stage, the Grand Slam stage. They have done well beforehand and won at the Olympics, so they are probably used to it. But still to play so well and beat all the great players going to the semi finals must have given them much confidence that I think they can carry on.

Q: What advice would you give to Li Na and Zheng Jie?

A: I don't think they need any advice. The most important thing is now they have more success, and more people know about them, it is still important to keep their feet on the ground and working hard so they can not just get into the semis, but actually start winning the Grand Slams.

Q: What is the key to developing new tennis markets in Asia?

A: I think having players like them (Li Na and Zheng Jie) as role models is very important. Young kids who are tuning in and seeing them play at the Australian Open are going to be inspired and they are gonna say it is so cool, that tennis is a lot of fun, they get to play in Australia, France and the UK and get to travel.

Edwin Moses, athletics

Edwin Moses got the world excited about hurdles by winning two Olympic gold medals, three world cup titles and 122 consecutive races. During his early years, he urged the International Olympic Committee to create a trust fund to give athletes financial support without jeopardizing their Olympic eligibility. He is a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Q: What do you think of the Laureus in its second decade?

A: My vision is for us to continue to be successful with our foundation to affect more kids. We started out with six projects in four countries and we have grown to 72 projects in 38 different countries. We have made fantastic financial gains in our foundation and I am pleased to be able to say we are able to do more for kids in the world.

Q: The last 10 years have been quite successful. What is the goal for the next decade?

A: To continue to build a foundation and make it a permanent organization, and to have the assets to continue to do our work so we are able to raise more money and therefore spend more money.

Q: What are the differences between the popular US ESPY Awards and the Laureus?

A: The Laureus is the most prestigious and the real global sports award in the world. It's been said we are considered to be the Oscars of Sports because we attract the best sportsmen; we have 146 sports men and women from around the world. The sports academy is one of the 46 top icons in sports and we have a fair and balanced methodology to pick who are sportsman and sportswoman of the world and the other categories. And it is done by media around the world so I think the awards are very objective. We have a global perspective and we have the right type of sports people to win our awards.

Q: Who is your all-time favorite Chinese athlete?

A: Well, Deng Yaping of course because she won so many table tennis tournaments in her life and she was so unbeatable. And also a good friend of mine, Li Ning, because I was on the IOC Athletes Commission with him. I respect him because I watched his career unfold and I appreciate what he has done in the sport of gymnastics.


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