Four of the greatest sports stars of our generation have been officially announced on Tuesday (4 May) as members of the Laureus World Sports Academy. Three formidable giants of women’s sport – Lindsey Vonn, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Nicol David – join Paralympic hero Daniel Dias in the most exclusive team in sport, pledged to use the power of sport to improve the lives of young people around the world.
The news was announced two days before the Winners of the 2021 Laureus World Sports Awards are to be unveiled from Seville, Spain on 6 May, and brings the number of Laureus Academy Members to 71.
The new Academy Members add further best-in-class achievement to the Laureus movement.
Brazil’s Daniel Dias is one of the most decorated athletes in history, having won 24 Paralympic medals, including 14 gold, and 31 World Para Swimming Championships gold medals. He was the home star of the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro with four gold, three silver and two bronze medals.
His remarkable successes in the pool not surprisingly resulted in him three times receiving the Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability Award – in 2009, 2012 and 2016. He will become a fully active Academy Member after the Paralympics in Tokyo in August.
“I am delighted to become a Member of the Laureus Academy today, although it will be a few months before I can take up my role, as first I hope to complete my swimming career with a successful Paralympic Games in Tokyo," Dias said.
"I have been lucky to win three Laureus Awards in my career, and I can tell you what an honour they are for an athlete. I am really looking forward to being able to help young people in the future and do my best to change the world," the Brazilian added.
Women in sport
Lindsey Vonn was honoured by the Laureus Academy in 2019 with the Spirit of Sport Award to mark the end of her remarkable career as the greatest women’s alpine skier of all time. She won four Overall World Cups, one of only two female skiers to do so, and a record eight World Cup downhill titles in a total of 20 World Cup crystal globes, surpassing Ingemar Stenmark.
She won the Olympic downhill gold medal and super g bronze in 2010 which led to her receiving the Laureus Sportswoman of the Year Award. She has won eight World Championships medals, including two golds. Her total of 82 World Cup race victories is a women's record. She won in all five disciplines.
Jessica Ennis-Hill was the hope of the British nation and the talisman of the British athletics team in the 2012 London Olympic Games. Despite the enormous national pressure on her, she dominated the heptathlon and won the gold medal with a British record score of 6,955 pts.
She was subsequently honoured with the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award. In a stellar career, she also won three World Championships and one European title. She also won a silver medal in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 as she narrowly failed to defend her Olympic title.
Nicol David is arguably the greatest women’s player in the history of squash. She was No.1 in the world for a record-breaking 108 months until September 2015, and won the World Open a record eight times between 2005 and 2014.
She also won the British Open five times and two Commonwealth Games gold medals. A huge star in her home country of Malaysia, she became a Laureus Ambassador in 2014.
Sports jury members
Chairman Sean Fitzpatrick hailed the new Members of the Laureus Academy.
“This is an incredible group of sporting super stars. We are delighted to have four such illustrious new members of the Laureus Family, I have spoken at length with them all and they cannot wait to begin to help us achieve our Purpose to support the work of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation which uses the power of sport to improve young people’s lives and help us fulfil the visionary words of our First Patron Nelson Mandela - ‘Sport has the power to change the world’."
Laureus has now become one of the most influential and active sports-driven social enterprises operating in the field of Sports for Development. Since its inception Laureus has helped to improve the lives of more than six million children and young adults, and now supports over 250 sports-based community programmes around the world.
Academy Members are the ultimate sports jury, voting each year to decide the Winners of the Laureus World Sports Awards, and have voted to select this year’s Winners who will be revealed in two days time in Seville.
The current Laureus World Sports Academy Members are now:
Giacomo Agostini, Marcus Allen, Luciana Aymar, Franz Beckenbauer, Boris Becker, Ian Botham, Sergey Bubka, Cafu, Fabian Cancellara, Bobby Charlton, Sebastian Coe, Nadia Comaneci, Nicol David, Alessandro Del Piero, Yaping Deng, Marcel Desailly, Kapil Dev, Daniel Dias, Mick Doohan, David Douillet, Rahul Dravid, Jessica Ennis-Hill, Luis Figo, Emerson Fittipaldi, Sean Fitzpatrick (Chairman), Missy Franklin, Dawn Fraser, Tanni Grey-Thompson, Ryan Giggs, Ruud Gullit, Bryan Habana, Mika Hakkinen, Tony Hawk, Maria Höfl- Reisch, Mike Horn, Chris Hoy, Miguel Indurain, Michael Johnson, Kip Keino, Franz Klammer, Lennox Lewis, Tegla Loroupe, Dan Marino, Yao Ming, Edwin Moses, Nawal El Moutawakel, Li Na, Robby Naish, Martina Navratilova, Alexey Nemov, Jack Nicklaus, Lorena Ochoa, Brian O’Driscoll, Gary Player, Morné du Plessis, Hugo Porta, Carles Puyol, Raul, Steve Redgrave, Vivian Richards, Monica Seles, Mark Spitz, Sachin Tendulkar, Daley Thompson, Alberto Tomba, Francesco Totti, Lindsey Vonn, Steve Waugh, Katarina Witt, Li Xiaopeng, Yang Yang.