© Brian Freed

RIO DE JANEIRO, Dec. 13, 2012 – Five of the United States’ top female athletes, including 2012 Olympic all-around champion Gabby Douglas, have been nominated for 2013 Laureus World Sports Awards. Douglas, Allyson Felix, Missy Franklin, Lindsey Vonn and Serena Williams have all been shortlisted following a vote by the world’s media. Douglas was nominated in the Breakthrough of the Year category.

The Laureus World Sports Awards, which recognize sporting achievement during the calendar year 2012, are the premier honors on the international sporting calendar. The winners, as voted by the Laureus World Sports Academy, the ultimate sports jury made up of 46 of the greatest sportsmen and sportswomen of all time, will be unveiled at a globally televised awards ceremony held in Rio de Janeiro on March 11.

Proceeds from the Laureus World Sports Awards directly benefit and support the work of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, which supports more than 100 community sports projects around the world. Since its inception, Laureus has raised more than €55 million for projects that have improved the lives of more than 1.5 million youth.

Legendary swimmer Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time with a career total of 22 medals, has also been nominated for the 2013 Laureus World Sports Awards, along with the Miami Heat and the U.S. Men’s Olympic basketball team.

Michael Phelps, who won four gold and two silver medals in the 2012 Olympics in London and became the first man ever to defend an Olympic title successfully – in the 100-meter butterfly and 200-meter medley – at three Olympiads, is nominated for the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award with three other impressive Olympians: Usain Bolt, who repeated his success in Beijing by winning gold medals in all three sprint events in London, Mo Farah, winner of the 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter, and Bradley Wiggins, winner of the Tour de France and the Olympic time trial. Also nominated in the Sportsman category are FC Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, who scored a remarkable 86 goals in 2012, and Germany’s Sebastian Vettel, who won his third straight Formula One World Championship.

America’s female Olympians dominate the nominations for the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award this year. Sprinter Allyson Felix, who captured Olympic gold in the 200-meter, 4×100-meter relay and 4×400-meter relay, swimming sensation Missy Franklin, who at age 17 won four gold medals and a bronze, and Serena Williams, who won Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and Olympic gold medals in singles and doubles, are all shortlisted, along with Lindsey Vonn, who won her fourth overall skiing World Cup in five years. Jamaican sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who successfully defended her Olympic title in the 100-meter, and Britain’s Jessica Ennis, who won the heptathlon gold medal, round out the list of nominees.

Two American basketball teams, the 2012 Miami Heat, which won its second NBA title in franchise history, and the U.S. Men’s Olympic team, which won its 14th gold medal in London, are nominated for the Laureus World Team of the Year. They will be up against the Spanish soccer team, the winner in 2011, which is nominated again following its European Championship victory, along with the European Ryder Cup team, which beat the U.S. after an amazing final day comeback at Medinah, the dominant China Olympic table tennis team, and Red Bull, which won the Formula One World Constructors Championship for a third straight year.

Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas has been nominated for the Laureus Breakthrough of the Year Award, along with British tennis player Andy Murray, French swimmer Yannick Agnel, 400-meter Olympic gold medal winner Kirani James of Grenada, China’s Ye Shiwen, who won both the 200- and 400-meter individual medley gold in the Olympic pool, and Brazil’s soccer sensation Neymar.

The nominations were announced in Rio de Janeiro by Laureus World Sports Academy Chairman Edwin Moses and fellow Academy member Emerson Fittipaldi, the legendary Brazilian Formula One driver.

Moses, a double Olympic champion in the 400-meter hurdles, said “I always feel in an Olympic year that you are likely to see a strong group of potential nominees, and this year is certainly a great example of that. The Laureus Sportsman of the Year Award particularly is going to be one of the closest contests ever when you look at the wonderful collection of names we have, with the likes of Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps and newcomers like Mo Farah and Bradley Wiggins. But the list goes on, in every category. This is really the crA Ame de la crA Ame of sport. Allyson Felix did herself a great favor this year, when she won her first individual Olympic medal. She had been shut out for the last two Olympics, so in her third Olympics to finally win a gold medal in the 200 meter was a great performance.”

Added Laureus Academy member and swimming legend Mark Spitz, “Michael Phelps is now recognized as the most accomplished Olympic athlete if you look at the medals he has won and the records he has achieved. He has a good chance of winning. And Missy Franklin is a favorite of mine. Her athletic achievements are incredible. She’s young, and she’s got a lot of potential for the future and she has such a positive attitude about how she takes her sport.”

The full list of nominees for the 2013 Laureus World Sports Awards is below:

Laureus World Sportsman of the Year

    Usain Bolt (Jamaica), Track and Field – Won Olympic gold medals in the 100-meter, 200-meter and 4×100-meter relay
    Mo Farah (United Kingdom), Track and Field – Won Olympic gold medals in the 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter
    Lionel Messi (Argentina), Soccer – FC Barcelona star scored 86 goals in the calendar year
    Michael Phelps (U.S.), Swimming – Became the most decorated Olympian, with 22 career medals
    Sebastian Vettel (Germany), Motor Racing – Won his third straight Formula One World Championship
    Bradley Wiggins (United Kingdom), Cycling – Won the Tour de France and gold in the Olympic time trial

Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year

    Jessica Ennis (United Kingdom), Track and Field – Won the Olympic gold medal in the heptathlon
    Allyson Felix (U.S.), Track and Field – Won Olympic gold medals in the 200-meter, 4×100-meter relay and the 4×400-meter relay
    Missy Franklin (U.S.), Swimming – At 17, won four Olympic gold medals and a bronze
    Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (Jamaica) Track an Field – Successfully defended her 100-meter Olympic title
    Lindsey Vonn (U.S.), Skiing – Won her fourth overall skiing World Cup in five years
    Serena Williams (U.S.) Tennis – Won Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and two Olympic gold medals

Laureus World Team of the Year

    China Olympic table tennis team – Won four gold medals and two silver medals
    European Ryder Cup team (Golf) – Beat the American team after an amazing final day comeback at Medinah
    Miami Heat (U.S.) Basketball – Beat the Oklahoma City Thunder to win its second NBA title in franchise history
    Red Bull Formula One Team (Austria), Motor Racing – Won its third straight Constructors Championship
    Spain men’s soccer team – Won the European Championship to add to its 2010 World Cup and Euro 2008 title
    U.S. men’s basketball team – Won its 14th gold medal in London

Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year

    Yannick Agnel (France), Swimming – At 20, in his first Olympics, won two gold and a silver medal
    Gabby Douglas (U.S.), Gymnastics – First female to win Olympic individual and team all-around gold medals
    Kirani James (Grenada), Track and Field – At 19, won the 400-meter for Grenada’s first-ever Olympic medal
    Andy Murray (United Kingdom), Tennis – Won his first Grand Slam at the U.S. Open, plus Olympic gold and silver medals
    Neymar (Brazil), Soccer – Often compared to the great PelA A(C), he scored his 100th goal at age 20
    Ye Shiwen (China), Swimming – At 16, won both Olympic 200-meter and 400-meter individual medley gold

Laureus World Comeback of the Year

    Tirunesh Dibaba (Ethiopia), Track and Field – Won Olympic 10,000-meter after coming back from 16-month injury
    Ernie Els (South Africa), Golf – Won The Open 10 years after his previous Major Championship
    European Ryder Cup team, Golf – On the last day turned its match against the U.S. around for a historic 14A A1/2-13A A1/2 win
    Anna Meares (Australia), Cycling – Four years after breaking her neck in a cycle crash, won Olympic gold
    Felix Sanchez (Dominican Republic), Track and Field – At 34, won gold in the 400-meter hurdles again, eight years after Athens
    Germany men’s Olympic eights team, Rowing – Won the Olympic gold medal for the first time since 1988

Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year With a Disability

    Patrick Anderson (Canada), Wheelchair Basketball – Came out of retirement to inspire Canada to win the gold medal
    Johanna Benson (Namibia), Track and Field – In the T37 200-meter sprint, she won Namibia’s first-ever gold medal
    Daniel de Faria Dias (Brazil), Swimming – Won six Paralympic gold medals in London, all in world record times
    Alan Fonteles Oliveira (Brazil) Track and Field – Beat favorite Oscar Pistorius to win the Paralympic T44 200-meter gold
    David Weir (United Kingdom), Wheelchair Racing – Won four gold medals as ‘home’ hero of the Paralympics
    Alex Zanardi (Italy), Hand Cycling – Won two gold medals and a silver at his first Paralympic Games

*Due to the close contest in the men’s 2012 World Surfing Championship possibly affecting Nominations for the Laureus World Action Sportsperson of the Year Award, the media voting deadline in this category has been extended until after the final event of the season, later this month in Hawaii. The names of the nominees will be announced in due course.

For more detailed biographies of nominees, go to www.laureus.com.

The 2013 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 at the celebrated Theatro Municipal, a spectacular venue in the heart of Rio de Janeiro that also hosted events for Rio +20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in June 2012.

The Laureus World Sports Awards will enhance the calendar of major global events that Rio de Janeiro is hosting in the coming years, such as the 2013 World Judo Championship, the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Rio is the birthplace of sport and culture in Brazil, a state of vibrant energy and natural beauty that has become a showcase of the country to the world.

Among the winners who have received awards at previous awards ceremonies have been Jenson Button, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Alex Ferguson, Lewis Hamilton, Justine Henin, Kelly Holmes, Rafael Nadal, Oscar Pistorius, Steve Redgrave, Ronaldo, Michael Schumacher, Kelly Slater, Serena Williams and Zinedine Zidane. Guests attending the awards ceremony have included His Majesty King Juan Carlos of Spain, HSH Prince Albert of Monaco, David and Victoria Beckham, Sean Connery, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, Morgan Freeman, Teri Hatcher, Eva Longoria, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kevin Spacey.