Laureus World Sports Awards — who will win?

Usain Bolt
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It’s unlikely Usain Bolt and LeBron James will go head to head in athletic competition any time soon (or ever), but they’re up for the same honor at the Laureus World Sports Awards on Wednesday.

The annual Laureus Awards honor athletes from 2013 “who best demonstrate supreme athletic performance and achievement — such as consecutive or multiple world, continental, international or national and major championship titles or the establishment of world records or best performances.”

Here’s a look at each award that will be announced in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday beginning at 9 a.m. ET:

Sportsman of the Year Nominees
Usain Bolt — Won 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay at 2013 World Championships; IAAF Male Athlete of the Year
Mo Farah — Won 5000m, 10,000m at 2013 World Championships, broke European 1500m record
LeBron James — Won NBA Championship with Miami Heat; NBA MVP, NBA Finals MVP
Rafael Nadal — Won French Open, U.S. Open; ATP year-end No. 1
Cristiano Ronaldo — Scored 69 goals for Real Madrid/Portugal in 2013; FIFA Player of the Year
Sebastian Vettel — Won 13 Grand Prix races, including nine straight; Formula One world champion

Bolt has won this award three of the past five years — after his Olympic triumphs in 2008 and 2012 and his 2009 World Championships record-breaking performances. Bolt was magnificent in 2013, but not unbeatable and didn’t break any of his records.

That would seem to open the door for another nominee to take the crown this year. A major U.S. team sport player has never won the award, which has been given out yearly since 2000. Could James be the first?

Nadal earned Sportsman of the Year honors after winning three Grand Slams in 2010. He missed the Australian Open due to injury and lost in the first round of Wimbledon, which could hurt his chances.

Ronaldo beat out Lionel Messi for FIFA’s top honor in 2013, but Real Madrid didn’t win La Liga and bowed out in the Champions League semifinals. It was also a non-World Cup or European Championships year, and no soccer player has ever won the award.

The German Vettel looks to join countryman Michael Schumacher as the only drivers to take the award. Vettel’s 2013 was one of the greatest years, if not the greatest, in F1 history. He matched Schumacher’s records for most wins in one season and broke (or tied, depending on what statistics you believe) the record for consecutive wins.

Sportswoman of the Year nominees
Nadine Angerer — Goalie and captain for Germany’s European Championships winning team; FIFA Player of the Year
Missy Franklin — First woman to win six gold medals at a single World Swimming Championships
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce — Won 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay at World Championships; IAAF Female Athlete of the Year
Yelena Isinbayeva — Won pole vault at World Track and Field Championships
Tina Maze — Alpine skiing World Cup overall champion with the most points (2,414) by a man or woman in a single season
Serena Williams — Won French Open, U.S. Open; WTA year-end No. 1

Angerer, like James and Ronaldo, will try to become the first team sport athlete to win. She excelled in a non-Olympic, non-Women’s World Cup year.

Franklin did something unprecedented at the biggest swim meet of 2013, but it was fellow American Katie Ledecky who was named FINA Athlete of the Year. No female swimmer has won the Laureus Sportswoman of the Year.

Fraser-Pryce’s worlds sweep, arguably more impressive than Bolt’s, was a first for a woman. She’s looking to become the third straight track and field athlete to win Sportswoman of the Year, following Vivian Cheruiyot and Jessica Ennis.

It’s tough for an athlete like Isinbayeva to state her case on a list like this. The Russian can only win one title at any meet she enters as a pole vaulter. She won the biggest competition in 2013 in Moscow and already took home this award after her 2008 Olympic season.

Maze had arguably the greatest World Cup season in skiing history and added a World Championship in the super-G. Lindsey Vonn and Janica Kostelic previously won this award

Williams earned Sportswoman of the Year after winning the last three majors of 2002 as part of her Serena Slam and again after winning two majors in 2009. In 2002, she went 56-5 with eight titles. In 2009, she went 50-12 with three titles. In 2013, she went 78-4 with 11 titles after going 58-4 in 2012.

Here are nominees for the other four awards:

Team of the Year
New Zealand Rugby Union — Went undefeated in 2013
Bayern Munich — First club to complete the Champions League, Bundesliga, German Cup treble
Brazil Men’s Soccer — Confederations Cup champions
Bob and Mike Bryan — Won Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon doubles titles
Miami Heat — NBA champions with franchise-record 66 regular-season wins
Red Bull F1 —  Formula One Constructors’ World Championship winner, led by drivers Vettel and Mark Webber

Comeback of the Year
Yelena Isinbayeva — Won pole vault world title after taking bronze at 2012 Olympics
Rafael Nadal — Reclaimed the No. 1 ranking after missing seven months with a knee injury
Oracle Team USA — Rallied from 8-1 down to win the America’s Cup 9-8
Tony Parker — Returned from eye injury to help the Spurs to the 2013 NBA Finals, France to a European title
Ronaldinho — Helped Atletico Mineiro to the Copa Libertadores title at age 33
Tiger Woods — Regained world No. 1 ranking; PGA Tour Player of the Year

Breakthrough of the Year
Afghanistan Cricket Team — Reached first Cricket World Cup
Marc Marquez — Youngest MotoGP world champion
Raphael Holzdeppe — Pole vault world champion at 23
Nairo Quintana — Young Riders and King of the Mountains winner at 2013 Tour de France; second overall
Justin Rose — Won first major championship at U.S. Open
Adam Scott — Won first major championship at the Masters

Action Sportsperson of the Year
Jamie Bestwick — BMX Vert champion at Barcelona X Games
Bob Burnquist — Skateboarding Big Air champion at Munich X Games
Mick Fanning — Beat Kelly Slater for surfing world title
John John Florence — Received a perfect 10 for an Alley Oop at the Oakley Pro surfing event in Bali
Maya Gabeira — Lost consciousness and nearly drowned attempting to surf the biggest wave ever by a woman
Shaun White — 2013 Winter X Games halfpipe champion

Sportsperson of the Year with a disability
Marie Bochet — Swept the standing downhill, super-G, giant slalom, slalom, super combined at World Alpine Skiing Championships
Marcel Hug — Wheelchair racer won five golds, one silver at IPC World Track and Field Championships
Tatyana McFadden — First athlete to win six gold medals at a single IPC World Track and Field Championships and to complete a major marathon Grand Slam in one year
Sophie Pascoe — Five gold medals in five events with four world records at the IPC World Swimming Championships
Sarah Louise Rung — Four gold medals at IPC World Swimming Championships
Olga Sviderska — Seven gold medals at IPC World Swimming Championships

IOC opposes bid to trademark Olympic four-ring glitch logo

Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
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Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

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A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
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There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

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