MONACO – Team USA Olympic gold medalists and world champions Lindsey Vonn, Simone Biles and Chloe Kim were named as winners of the 2019 Laureus World Sports Awards Monday.
The night’s biggest and most emotional honor was presented to Vonn, who ended her skiing career on Feb. 10 with a bronze medal at the world championships in her final downhill race. She was presented with the Spirit of Sport award by the Laureus Academy, a special accolade to honor her historic success and career dedication to skiing.
Vonn, who received the award from American skateboarding legend Tony Hawk, was clearly emotional as the champion-studded room quickly rose to give her a standing ovation.
“OK, OK, I promised not to cry anymore, but you guys did it to me,” Vonn said, putting her hands to her face in shock, as star athletes such as Novak Djokovic, close friend and competitor Maria Hoefl-Riesch, Katarina Witt and Prince Albert of Monaco all feted her with an extended standing ovation. “It’s really weird to be retiring, but I am so honored to be in this room tonight. I have been inspired by so many of you over the course of my career.”
This is Vonn’s second Laureus Award, as she was named as the Sportswoman of the Year for 2010, a year in which she became the first American woman to win a downhill gold medal. Vonn was nominated this year for the Comeback of the Year, for her remarkable recovery from serious injuries to return as one of the best in skiing.
Gymnast Biles, thanks to winning the all-around, and an additional three gold, a silver and a bronze medal at the 2018 world championships, was named as the World Sportswoman of the Year. She captured the award over tennis players Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep, skier/snowboarder Ester Ledecka, triathlete Daniela Ryf, and two-time U.S. Olympic alpine skiing champion skier Mikaela Shiffrin.
This is Biles’ second Laureus award, as she took the Sportswoman award in 2017 for her four gold medals at the Olympics Games Rio 2016. She was unable to accept in person, as she was hosting the Biles International Invitational in her hometown of Houston.
“This event is to inspire the next generation of athletes,” Biles said, via video, about her gymnastics meet, “so hopefully someday, they can win one of these (Laureus Awards) too.”
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Kim, who at 17 became the youngest woman to win an Olympic snowboarding gold medal when she took the halfpipe title at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, won the Action Sportsperson of the Year award. This is Kim’s first Laureus statue, and she won it over fellow American and Olympic champion Shaun White, surfers Gabriel Medina, Stephanie Gilmore and Maya Gabiera, and snowboarder Anna Gasser.
“I am super hyped about this award,” Kim said, via video. “This is a great way to top off my year.”
This year’s Laureus winners in other categories include 2018 FIFA World Cup soccer champions France (Team of the Year); 2019 Australian Open champion and No. 1 tennis players Naomi Osaka (Breakthough) and Novak Djokovic (Sportsman); golfer Tiger Woods (Comeback); Slovak alpine skier Henrieta Farkašová and her guide Natalia Subrtova (Sportsperson with a Disability); soccer manager Arsene Wenger (Lifetime Achievement); and Chinese climber Xia Boyu (Sporting Moment).
Other Americans nominated were eight-time Paralympic medalist Oksana Masters (Disability), Olympic gold medalist LeBron James (Sportsman) and the Golden State Warriors (Team).
The Laureus awards were celebrated in a formal, black-tie dinner ceremony at the Sporting Club Monte Carlo. The annual honorees are voted upon by the Laureus World Sports Academy, which is composed of 68 global champion athletes from Olympic, professional and amateur sports.
Joanne C. Gerstner has covered two Olympic Games and writes regularly for the New York Times and other outlets about sports. She has written for TeamUSA.org since 2009 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.