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February 12, 2015

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Li in line for top Laureus award

LI Na became the first Chinese athlete to be nominated for the 2015 Laureus World Sports Awards when the two-time grand slam winner was named among nominees for the sportswoman of the year, it was announced in Shanghai yesterday.

The Wuhan-native achieved a career-best ranking of world No. 2 after winning the 2014 Australian Open but was then forced to retire due to knee injuries. The 32-year-old is now five months’ pregnant as she works on establishing a tennis academy for children.

Li will come up against rival and world No. 1 Serena Williams; world and Olympic shot put champion Valerie Adams of New Zealand; Norwegian skier Marit Bjorgen who won three golds at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games; Slovenian skier Tina Maze and Ethiopian runner Genzebe Dibaba who broke three world records in two weeks last year.

For the Sportsman of the Year award, candidates are: winner of the Ballon d’Or and World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal; Britain’s two-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton; Serbia’s top-ranked tennis star Novak Djokovic; world No. 1 golfer Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland; French pole vault world record holder Renaud Lavillenie and Spanish motorcyclist and MotoGP champion Marc Marquez.

Nominated for the team of the year are: European Ryder Cup team (golf); German men’s football team; Mercedes F1 team (Germany); Real Madrid football team (Spain); San Antonio Spurs basketball team (United States) and the Swiss Davis Cup tennis team.

“Li Na boasts a professional career that lots of people can only dream about,” said former short-track speedskater Yang Yang, who attended yesterday’s nomination ceremony and will be voting for the final results.

“Li has a charming character which attracts the media and public. She should be regarded as a symbol of the era in China’s sports history.”

Yang, China’s first Winter Olympic medalist, now operates an ice arena in Pudong New Area. She admitted she was not familiar with all the nominated athletes for the 2015 awards, and will study their achievements and videos before making a decision.

Asked whether Laureus would consider nominating coaches in the future, Edwin Moses, chairman of the Laureus World Sports Academy, told Shanghai Daily: “There was discussion among academy members about nominating coaches for awards but we felt we should honor athletes first.”

Moses said lifetime achievement awards may or may not be given in a year. “Some years we don’t think it is time to give out an award and sometimes we feel like we have identified a person. So it is something that happens but it may not happen every year. We have already given out two or three.”

The awards ceremony, at Shanghai Grand Theatre, is scheduled for April 15. Though Li’s is the first nomination for player of the year, China has had three Laureus winners before — basketball icon Yao Ming and 110-meter hurdler Liu Xiang won the Newcomer of the Year award in 2003 and 2005. China’s 2008 Olympic team won the World Team of the Year award in 2009.


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