Two-times downhill World Champion Rachel Atherton has been shortlisted for a prestigious Laureus World Sport Award, in the Action Sportsperson of the Year category.
The current World Champion and World Cup Champion is up against a number of big stars in the world of action sports including: Bob Burnquist, Brazilian skateborder and holder of 29 X Games medals; multiple surfing World Tour Champion (and shark evader) Mick Fanning of Australia; and Chloe Kim, the American snowboarder who took gold at the Winter Olympic Youth Games in 2016. Completing the shortlist of six are Brazilian surfer Adriano de Souza and Ironman triathlete Jan Frodeno.
Atherton, who was awarded the Sunday Times Sportswomen of the Year award in 2005 and was shortlisted again in 2015, has dominated the UCI DH World Cup for a number of years, taking the overall World Cup championship title in 2008, 2012, 2013 and 2015. In 2008 she ‘did the double’, taking both the World Cup title and the World Champion title at the same time, a feat she repeated in 2015.
“I am honoured to be considered for these awards, especially alongside such extraordinary athletes,” Atherton said on her nomination. “Past winners of this Action Sportsperson category are my heroes: Jamie Bestwick who won in 2014 is my all-time hero – I did my art project on him at school! It’s kind of surreal! I’m stoked that downhill is getting some of the recognition that such a rad sport deserves.”
Atherton has also been strong in supporting and developing the next generation of female downhillers. In 2015, she sponsored a new Junior Women’s category at the British Downhill Series, the UK’s national DH race series, which covers Junior, Youth and Juvenile riders. In addition to this, she offered led track walks to participants and the services of her mechanic pre-race at several rounds to advice on set-up for the track conditions.
What are the Laureus Awards?
The Laureus World Sport Awards celebrates ‘the outstanding achievements of sportsmen and sportswomen around the world’, with the first award ceremony taking place in Monaco in 2000.
The most nominated athlete is Serena Williams, having been nominated a grand total of 10 times including her 2016 nomination, and winning three times. Surfing legend Kelly Slater shares the record for the number of Laureus Awards received with tennis champion Roger Federer, taking four awards each.
For 2016, the awards will take place in Berlin on the 18th April, and will be broadcast live to 120 territories worldwide, with a further magazine-style show available to 100 countries.
The awards also act as a showcase for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, a charitable trust that helps young people overcome social issues such as poverty, war, juvenile violence, drug abuse and discrimination, through sport. The Foundation provides grants to support projects, and a training network with experts from different fields.
There are seven categories for 2016: Sportswoman of the Year, Sportsman of the Year, Team of the Year, Comeback of the Year, Breakthrough of the Year, Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability, and Action Sportsperson of the Year. It is this final category that Rachel Atherton is shortlisted for.
This prize is awarded to “the sportsman or sportswoman who best demonstrates supreme athletic performance and achievement in action sports in the qualifying year, such as winning world or national championships or the establishment of world records. Special recognition will go to those who push the limits of action sport even further than before by devising and executing new tricks and moves in competition.”
This award, along with the Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability award, are both selected by a specialist panel. The organisers can also award other prizes at their discretion, such as Lifetime Achievement, Spirit of Sport, and Exceptional Achievement.