Olympics - Neeraj Chopra
Neeraj Chopra is only the third Indian sportsperson to be nominated for a Laureus Award. Image Credit: AFP

London: Neeraj Chopra, India’s first ever winner of an Olympic athletics gold medal has been shortlisted as one of the six nominees for the 2022 Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year Award.

He is only the third Indian athlete to be nominated for a Laureus Award after wrestler Vinesh Phogat in 2019 and cricket maestro Sachin Tendulkar, who won the Laureus Sporting Moment Award 2000-2020, which marked the emotional moment during the 2011 ICC World Cup, when his team carried him on their shoulders in a lap of honour after India’s win.

Raducanu overwhelming favourite

Also nominated with Chopra for the Breakthrough Award are Britain’s Emma Raducanu, who became a global tennis sensation when she won the US Open at the age of 18, Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, who won the men’s title at Flushing Meadows, FC Barcelona’s football prodigy Pedri, aged 19, voted best young player at the Ballon d'Or, Yulimar Rojas, who broke the 26-year-old triple jump world record, and swimmer Ariarne Titmus, aged 20, who twice beat champion Katie Ledecky at 200 and 400m in Tokyo.

The battle for the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award will be one of the most competitive ever. Tom Brady, NFL’s greatest quarterback, is nominated along with Bayern Munich’s prolific goalscorer Robert Lewandowski, new Formula One world champion Max Verstappen, tennis world No.1 Novak Djokovic, and two of the greatest Olympians: swimmer Caeleb Dressel, who won five gold medals in Tokyo, and Eliud Kipchoge, who won back-to-back marathon gold medals.

A clutch of historic Olympic performances dominate the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year category: Elaine Thompson-Herah matched fellow Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt with gold medals in the 100, 200 and 4x100 metres relay; Allyson Felix passed Carl Lewis as the most decorated track and field US Olympian; Australian swimmer Emma McKeon’s four gold and three bronze tied the record for the most medals ever won by a woman in a single Olympic Games and American swimmer Katie Ledecky won two more gold and two silver medals.

In the team category, the brilliant Italy football team are among the frontrunners for the Laureus World Team of the Year Award after their victory in Euro 2020. There are two other football nominees: the Argentina men’s football team, including Lionel Messi, who won the Copa America and FC Barcelona women’s football team, who won their first Champions League.

They are joined by the China Olympic diving team, who won gold medals in seven of the eight events, the Milwaukee Bucks, inspired by Giannis Antetokounmpo, who ended their 50-year wait for a second NBA championship and the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team which won a record eighth consecutive Constructors’ World Championship.