McLaren Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, an Englishman, has won the Laureus World Sports Award as Breakthrough Sportsman of the Year, a recognition of sporting achievement by a relative newcomer.
Also nominated in the Breakthrough category were Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic, who reached the semifinals of the French Open and Wimbledon, and the final of the US Open; Australian MotoGP champion Casey Stoner; Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador, winner of the Tour de France; and South African Paralympic runner Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee world record holder at 100, 200 and 400 meters.
Hamilton and fellow Formula One driver, Finland's Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari's reigning world champion, were nominated for Laureus prizes. Raikkonen was nominated as Sportsman of the Year along with Swiss tennis player Roger Federer, Brazilian footballer Kaka, American swimmer Michael Phelps, American golfer Tiger Woods and American sprinter Tyson Gay.
Federer won for a fourth consecutive year, the most dominant display of any sportsman in the nine-year history of the awards. Formula One driver Michael Schumacher of Germany won the top prize twice, in 2002 and 2004. Woods (2000 and 2001) is the only other multiple winner. Justine Henin took the Sportswoman of the Year award; no woman has won the designation more than once in nine years.
The annual awards recognize the top accomplishments in sport for the past year. Prizes were awarded this year in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Hamilton, 23, joined McLaren's F1 team after a decade of support by the company. He thereafter shattered rookie expectations by reaching 12 podiums, winning four races, taking six pole positions and leading the World Drivers Championship race. He finished tied for second in that competition with then teammate double world champion Fernando Alonso. They placed a point behind winner Raikkonen.
The Laureus World Sports Awards were established in 1999 by founders DaimlerChrysler and Richemont and first given in 2000. Winners are determined by a two-part voting process. Sports editors, writers and broadcasters from 80 countries vote to place six nominees into categories including sportsman and sportswoman of the year, team of the year, breakthrough of the year, comeback of the year, sportsperson with a disability, action sportsperson and lifetime achievement. Also awarded are Sport for Good and Spirit of Sport awards. Members of the Laureus World Sports Academy vote by secret ballot to determine winners. The sports academy is made up of people regarded as living legends of sport.