The Laureus World Sports Awards recognize the top sporting achievements from the 2011 calendar year, and the winners are voted on by the Laureus World Sports Academy.
A collection of the world’s greatest sports stars has been nominated for the 2012 Laureus World Sports Awards, and that list includes six para-sport athletes.
The shortlist for the Laureus Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability includes: Daniel Dias, Terezinha Guilhermina, Oscar Pistorius, Esther Vergeer, David Weir and Irek Zaripov.
The Laureus World Sports Awards recognize the top sporting achievements from the 2011 calendar year, and the winners are voted on by the Laureus World Sports Academy, which is made up of 47 of the greatest sportsmen and sportswomen of all time.
Pistorius has also been nominated for the Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year Award after becoming the first amputee to win a track medal in the able-bodied World Athletics Championships in Daegu, Korea. Also on the shortlist are Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake, British athlete Mo Farah, Northern Ireland golfer Rory McIlroy, who won the US Open at 22, Petra Kvitova, who won her first Grand Slam at Wimbledon at just 21 and French Open champion Li Na, China’s first-ever tennis Grand Slam winner.
Here is further information on the nominees for the Laureus Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability:
Daniel Dias (Brazil) Swimming
Dias will compete at his second Paralympic Games in London in 2012 with high expectations. The 23-year-old Brazilian swimmer won a total of nine medals, four of which were gold, at Beijing 2008, which helped him to win the 2009 Laureus Disability Award. His last big event on the road to London this year was the 2011 Parapan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, where he was the leading star of the Games, swimming to first place in all of his events to come away with 11 gold medals and setting Games records in seven of his races.
Dias was born with malformed upper and lower limbs and took up swimming at the age of 16 after watching fellow Brazilian Clodoaldo Silva at the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games. He learned all four strokes in just two months.
Terezinha Guilhermina (Brazil) Athletics
Although a big name in Brazil following her gold medal in the 200m T11 event in at the Beijing Games, it was not until 2011 that the world took notice of the visually impaired runner. At the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) World Athletics Championships in New Zealand, she won four gold medals and set a host of records. She lowered her own 100m world record, set in 2007, from 12.27 to 12.13 and in the 200m ran 24.98 to break the world record that had stood for 10 years. She also took gold in the 400m and as part of the 4x100m relay team.
Six months later, she clocked a time of 12.04 to lower her 100m record further. Her 2011 campaign ended with three more gold medals at the Parapan American Games in Guadalajara.
She is now the world-record holder in the 100, 200 and 400-metre sprints and is a strong contender for gold medals at London 2012.
Oscar Pistorius (South Africa) Athletics
Known as the ‘Blade Runner’, in August 2011, Pistorius became the first amputee to win an able-bodied World Championship track medal, as a member of the South African silver medal winning 4 x 400m relay team, in Daegu, Korea.
In para-sport in 2011, Pistorius suffered his first defeat in seven years when the USA’s Jerome Singleton took the gold medal in a thrilling 100 metres at the IPC Athletics World Championships in New Zealand, but he did win three gold medals in the 200, 400 and 4x100-metre relay. At the BT Paralympic World Cup in May, Pistorius smashed his own 400-metre Paralympic world record, recording a time of 47.28.
Pistorius, 25, was born with a congenital absence of the fibula and his legs were amputated below the knee when he was 11 months old. Now he runs with the aid of carbon fibre blades.
Esther Vergeer (the Netherlands) Wheelchair Tennis
As arguably the greatest Wheelchair Tennis player of all time, this is the sixth time Vergeer has been nominated for the Laureus Disability Award. She was a winner of the Award in 2002 and 2008 and was also nominated in 2006, 2007 and 2011. One of the greatest Paralympians in history, Vergeer has not lost a singles wheelchair tennis match in almost nine years. Her last defeat was in January 2003. In her career, she has won 39 Grand Slam titles, three Paralympic singles golds and two Paralympic doubles golds.
Vergeer, now 29, was paralyzed from the waist down in 1990 after undergoing surgery for a spinal defect and brain haemorrhage. She found she had an aptitude for wheelchair tennis and basketball, eventually choosing to concentrate on tennis from the time she was 17. By October 2000, she became the world’s best player and has been at the top of the standings ever since.
David Weir (Great Britain) Athletics
At the 2011 IPC Athletics World Championships in New Zealand many expected world record holder Marcel Hug from Switzerland to be the dominant force, but Weir proved himself a tactical genius and knew exactly where he needed to be at the right time to win gold in the 800, 1,500 and 5,000-metre T54 wheelchair events, leaving Hug with silver medals in each category.
As his face has appeared on advertising billboards, newspapers and local buses, Weir will be one of the most recognizable athletes taking part in next summer’s Paralympic Games in London and one of Britain’s best hopes for a gold medal. Since his first Paralympic Games in Athens in 2004, he has won six medals, including two gold, six world titles and five London Marathons.
Irek Zaripov (Russia) Nordic Skiing
Russia’s Irek Zaripov won six medals at the 2011 IPC Nordic Skiing World Championships in Khanty Mansiysk, Russia. He won gold in the 10km Cross-Country and the 7.5km and 12.5km Biathlon. He also picked up silver medals in the men’s 3km Biathlon Pursuit and 15km Cross-Country, as well as a bronze in the 0.9km Cross-Country Sprint.
The 28-year-old only started skiing competitively in 2005, when he parents persuaded him to take up sport. He had lost both legs when he was involved in a motorcycle accident when he was just 17. At the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, Zaripov wowed the crowds with four gold medals and a silver. Zaripov is now training to compete at home in the Sochi 2014 Winter Paralympic Games.
The 2012 Laureus World Sports Awards Ceremony, which will be attended by the greatest names in sport, past and present, and broadcast to a worldwide TV audience, will be staged in the heart of London at Central Hall, Westminster on the evening of February 6 2012.
“This has been a great year for sport and the Academy are going to find it extremely difficult to decide who to vote for as winners,” Laureus World Sports Academy Chairman Edwin Moses said.
“We have had several massive performances in 2011 both by individuals and teams and that has been reflected in the Nominations. I congratulate all the Nominees and now we look forward to what should be a great Awards Ceremony in February in London.”
Proceeds from the Laureus World Sports Awards directly benefit and underpin the work of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, which supports 89 community sports projects around the world. Since its inception, Laureus has raised 40 million EUR for projects which have improved the lives of more than one-and-a-half million young people.