For immediate publication
(By way of e-mail, of which I am an accredited media member with the Laureus organisation)
PAULA RADCLIFFE RECEIVES LAUREUS AWARD AND HOPES FOR GOLDEN SUMMER IN BEIJING
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO, March 3, 2008 – A delighted Paula Radcliffe interrupted her pre-Olympic altitude training in New Mexico to receive the 2008 Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award.
Britain’s legendary long distance runner, who had been unable to receive the Laureus Award earlier, said:
“I’m really thrilled to receive this Laureus Award and would like to say a big thank you to the members of the Laureus World Sports Academy. I’ve been nominated four times before, and that in itself has always been a special achievement and recognition for me. To finally win it this time really means a great deal – and I thank Laureus for that.
“Hopefully, with a little bit of luck – and a lot of hard work – I’ll be back next year, having achieved what I dream of in Beijing.
“I would also like to say a big thank you to the sport network that I have, mostly my husband Gary but also my family and friends who have made my achievements possible. I think to win a Laureus is an amazing recognition.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t able to make the ceremony in St Petersburg, and this has been the earliest opportunity I have had to receive the Award. I know there has been some comment on that, but my training schedule here in New Mexico has made things difficult, and this has been the first opportunity.”
Radcliffe, 34, made her comeback to racing in the autumn of 2007 after two years absence to give birth to her first child and to recover from a stress fracture of the lower back. She made her return at the Great North Run half-marathon in Newcastle, UK, in September where she finished second, then five weeks later she won the New York Marathon.
She said: “I think my achievement in New York was probably the key element in me being nominated. I had my daughter Isla in January 2007 then had a few hiccups returning to training, picked-up an injury, had to sit out the World Championships which was very frustrating, then came back to run in the Great North Run which was a stepping stone to New York.
“I wasn’t surprised to win in New York; I wouldn’t have gone to New York if I didn’t feel, from the training indications that I was in shape to win the race. I certainly knew I had a lot of pent-up emotion and determination from the difficulties I’d been through, and also a lot of happiness from the birth of my daughter which contributed to a positive performance.
“I think I surprised a few people who thought that after having a baby I couldn’t come back like that, but I myself never doubted it but neither did the people around me. The most important thing is that I did win and I am now able to build upon that for Beijing.”
The challenge for a gold medal at the Olympics in Beijing is now the paramount focus of Radcliffe’s year.
She said: “I think for any athlete the Olympics is the pinnacle – it’s that little bit more special. Winning a gold at the Olympics is that much better than winning a gold at the World Championships, which I have. I think for me also, having been to three Olympics, where I feel I’ve never been able to achieve my maximum potential, there is an added fire and momentum and, yes, added pressure to perform in Beijing. I also feel that having been through what I have been through in previous Olympics, I’ve already experienced the worst that can happen and I’ve come through and survived, so for me the pressure is less.
“I actually feel that that experience will make me stronger in Beijing. I think you can go into it with a little bit too much pressure on your shoulders. I think my previous experiences will help me treat it like another marathon. What I need to do is go there 100% healthy, 100% fit and then just give it the best shot on the day.
“It will be warm in Bejing, it will be humid – which I think will be a bigger factor, but in the past I have always raced well in hot and humid conditions. Obviously, times will be slower but it will be tougher for everybody, but in some ways that will be better for me because a tougher race means the tougher racers will come to the top.
“There will be strong opposition from the Chinese in their own country, from the Japanese who have a great record at Olympic games, from the Kenyan girls and Ethiopian girls. You can’t go in looking at one single person, but at a group of people from where the danger might come, but also be prepared for someone who comes in really good shape who you might not be expecting and be ready to handle that too,” said Radcliffe.
Laureus World Sports Academy Chairman Edwin Moses, a two-time Olympic champion at 400 metres hurdles, said:
"Paula is renowned as a great fighter. She is a runner I admire enormously for her determination and her commitment. When someone is out of running for two years when they are in their 30s you do wonder if they are going to be able to come back as fit and as strong, but Paula certainly showed she was when she won in New York. I wish her all the best for the Beijing Olympics."
The other nominees for the Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award were British 400 metres runner Christine Ohuruogu, Australian 400 metres hurdler Jana Rawlinson, US golfer Steve Stricker, England rugby player Jonny Wilkinson and the Gt.Britain Rugby League Team.
The Laureus World Sports Awards is the only global sports awards honouring the greatest sportsmen and women across all sports each year. The winners are selected by the ultimate sports jury - the 45 members of the Laureus World Sports Academy, a collection of the world's greatest sportsmen and women. The living legends of sport honouring the great athletes of today.
The 2008 Awards were presented in seven categories.
The winners were:
- Laureus World Sportsman of the Year: Roger Federer
- Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year: Justine Henin
- Laureus World Team of the Year: South African Rugby Team
- Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year: Lewis Hamilton
- Laureus World Comeback of the Year: Paula Radcliffe
- Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability: Esther Vergeer
- Laureus World Action Sportsperson of the Year: Shaun White
The Patron of Laureus is Nelson Mandela.
At the inaugural Laureus World Sports Awards in 2000, President Mandela said: "Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. Sport can awaken hope where there was previously only despair." This has become the philosophy of Laureus; the driving force behind its work.
Laureus is a universal movement that celebrates the power of sport to bring people together as a force for good. Laureus is composed of three core elements - the Laureus World Sports Awards, the Laureus World Sports Academy and the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation - which collectively celebrate sporting excellence and harness the power of sport to promote social change.
The Laureus World Sports Awards is the premier global sports awards honouring the greatest sportsmen and women across all sports each year. The winners are selected by the ultimate sports jury - the 45 members of the Laureus World Sports Academy, the living legends of sport honouring the great athletes of today. The Awards are presented at an annual Awards Ceremony, attended by global figures from sport and entertainment, which is broadcast to 180 countries each year.
There is a two-part voting process to find the winners of the Laureus World Sports Awards. Firstly, a Selection Panel of the world's leading sports editors, writers and broadcasters votes to create a shortlist of six nominations in five categories – Laureus World Sportsman of the Year, Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year, Laureus World Team of the Year, Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year and Laureus World Comeback of the Year. The nominations for two additional categories - the Laureus World Action Sportsperson of the Year and the Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability are produced by Specialist Panels. The members of the Laureus World Sports Academy then vote by secret ballot to select the Award winners in all seven categories.
The members of the Laureus World Sports Academy are: Giacomo Agostini, Marcus Allen, Severiano Ballesteros, Franz Beckenbauer, Boris Becker, Ian Botham, Sergey Bubka, Bobby Charlton, Sebastian Coe, Nadia Comaneci, Yaping Deng, Marcel Desailly, Kapil Dev, David Douillet, Emerson Fittipaldi, Sean Fitzpatrick, Dawn Fraser, Tanni Grey-Thompson, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Mika Hakkinen, Tony Hawk, Mike Horn, Miguel Indurain, Michael Johnson, Kip Keino, Franz Klammer, Dan Marino, John McEnroe, Edwin Moses (Chairman), Nawal El Moutawakel, Robby Naish, Ilie Nastase, Martina Navratilova, Alexei Nemov, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Morné du Plessis, Hugo Porta, Vivian Richards, Monica Seles, Mark Spitz, Daley Thompson, Alberto Tomba, Steve Waugh and Katarina Witt.
The Laureus Academy members volunteer their services as global ambassadors for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, which was set up to promote the use of sport as a tool for social change. The Foundation addresses social challenges through a worldwide programme of sports related community development initiatives. Its work focuses on helping young people overcome poverty, homelessness, war, violence, drugs abuse, discrimination and AIDS. Since its inception over 150,000 underprivileged young people have been helped in over 50 projects around the world.
Laureus is supported by its Founding Patrons Richemont and Daimler represented by their brands IWC Schaffhausen and Mercedes-Benz
For more than a century, IWC Schaffhausen has been producing precision products of complex functionality and outstanding user-friendliness for watch connoisseurs who expect more from their watch than just having an accurate timekeeper. Since its foundation in 1868, the International Watch Company has built up a reputation as a long-established Swiss watchmaking firm with a passion for inventions, innovative solutions and technical refinements. Today the brand is more successful than at any time in its history. IWC uses this strength in a programme of corporate social responsibility initiatives at home and abroad. In 2005, IWC entered into a long-term commitment to become a Founding Partner of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation.
Mercedes-Benz, the world's oldest automaker, can look back on a unique tradition. The premium brand stands for modern, innovative automobiles, for quality, safety, comfort and design. Mercedes-Benz enjoys an excellent reputation, particularly in the area of safety technology. Many pioneering technical innovations that are standard automotive features today were first seen in a Mercedes-Benz car. The car with the star also has an excellent reputation with regard to quality, value for money and customer satisfaction. Mercedes-Benz is a Founding Partner of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. Since the beginning of the Foundations' operations in 2000, Mercedes-Benz has shared and supported the goals and values of this worldwide charity programme where sports play the core role in the fight against social issues - Laureus has become a vital element of the corporate social responsibility programme of Mercedes-Benz