Laureus awards focus on all the world’s sporting heroes

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The Laureus World Sports Awards are a chance to honor those athletes whose achievements we have all read about and witnessed over the past 12 months but they are also a chance for the lesser known heroes of world sport to grab a rare place in the spotlight.

And South Africa's Natalie Du Toit is among those heroes.

At the 2010 awards ( - to be held at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, March 10 - Du Toit will be among those vying for the Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability award.

"I am honoured to have been nominated for this year's disability award,'' said the swimmer - the first amputee in history to compete in both the Olympics and the Paralympics.

She said it had been a big year for South African sport already and that she hoped it would get even bigger.

"Sport in Africa gives an opportunity for the underprivileged to rise above their means and I am pleased that FIFA has [also] recognised South Africa on behalf of Africa to host the 2010 Soccer World Cup and we hope that both the Springboks and myself will be able to fly our flag high in Abu Dhabi."

The Springboks, of course, are South Africa's all-conquering rugby union team - one of the more recognizable nominees at the awards, where they will be in the running for the Team of the Year award.

The winners of all the awards, as voted by the Laureus World Sports Academy's jury made up of "46 of the greatest sportsmen and sportswomen of all time," will be unveiled during an internationally televised awards ceremony on March 10.

Others in the running for major titles include last year's winner of the World Sportsman of the Year Award, Usain Bolt, and four-time winner Roger Federer.

Laureus World Sports Awards nominees:

Sportsman of the Year: Kenenisa Bekele (Ethiopia, athletics), Usain Bolt (Jamaica, athletics), Alberto Contador (Spain, cycling), Roger Federer (Switzerland, tennis), Lionel Messi (Argentina, football), Valentino Rossi (Italy, motorcycling).

Sportswoman of the Year: Shelly-Ann Fraser (Jamaica, athletics), Federica Pellegrini (Italy, swimming), Sanya Richards (US, athletics), Britta Steffen (Germany, swimming), Lindsey Vonn (US, skiing), Serena Williams (US, tennis).

Team of the Year: FC Barcelona (Spain, football), Brawn GP Formula One Team (UK), Germany Women's Football Team, Los Angeles Lakers (US, basketball), New York Yankees (US, baseball), South Africa Rugby Team.

Breakthrough of the Year: Jenson Button (UK, motor racing), Mark Cavendish (UK, cycling), Tom Daley (UK, diving), Juan Martin del Potro (Argentina, tennis), Ji Yai Shin (South Korea, golf), VFL Wolfsburg (Germany, football).

Comeback of the Year: Lance Armstrong (US, cycling), Kim Clijsters (Belgium, tennis), Jessica Ennis (UK, athletics), Brett Favre (US, American football), Blanka Vlasic (Croatia, athletics), Tom Watson (US, golf).

Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability: Justin Eveson (Australia, wheelchair basketball), Kurt Fearnley (Australia, wheelchair racing), Gizen Girismen (Turkey, para-archery), Shingo Kunieda (Japan, wheelchair tennis), Michael Teuber (Germany, cycling), Natalie du Toit (South Africa, swimming).

Action Sportsperson of the Year: Antoine Albeau (France, windsurfing), Chris Cole (US, skateboarding), Mick Fanning (Australia, surfing), Stephanie Gilmore (Australia, surfing), Greg Long (US, surfing), Danny MacAskill (UK, trials bikes).