The world sports organization, Laureus, recently announced the nominees for their Laureus World Action Sportsperson of the Year.
Stephanie Gilmore – Surfing (Australia)
Became the first surfer, male or female, to win the Association of Surfing Professionals world title in their rookie season, in 2007, and this year repeated the achievement. Her luminous 2008 was highlighted by big wins all over the globe: Peru, Hawaii, Brazil, and Australia. And she barely lost ground when she finished third at the Rip Curl Pro Mademoiselle at Hossegor, France. Only 20, Gilmore has the potential to dominate women’s surfing for the foreseeable future.
Julien Absalon – Mountain Biking (France)
In Beijing, he became the first man to defend the Olympic cross-country mountain bike title. He rode the Laoshan course flawlessly to win his second gold following Athens in 2004. The four-time world champion pulled away from his rivals on the second of eight laps to win the 36km race in 1hr 55.59 mins. The super strong Frenchman dominated in harsh course conditions and high temperatures and had lapped 20 of the 50 starters by the finish.
Aaron Hadlow – Kiteboarding (United Kingdom)
Britain’s Aaron Hadlow continued to amaze the kiteboard world with his fifth straight PKRA (Professional Kiteboard Riders Association) world championship in freestyle. He was 20 the day before he won his fifth title in October. Smoothly executing aerials and tricks, Hadlow appears more gifted than his rivals. Aaron has stayed at the top of his game from the very start of his career and has dominated the sport since 2004. Having only kiteboarded for 11 years, Hadlow remains the youngest world champion in PKRA history.
Tanner Hall – Freeskiing (United States)
Is now the most successful Winter X Games athlete ever with seven gold medals. Hall is renowned for soaring higher than anyone above the lip of the Superpipe. He came to the 2008 Winter X Games ready to set records for gold medals won. His second run was a flawless display of innovation; opening with a right-side 900 and following with six technical hits averaging at least ten feet out on all. The Montana native is such a fiend for powder skiing that he shuns some contests to ski steep and deep for mind-blowing ski films.
Kelly Slater – Surfing (United States)
At 36, legendary surfing master Kelly Slater notched his most dominant year yet. Claiming his unprecedented ninth world title in 2008, Slater took first in six of the 10 contests he entered. His 8,832 points this year absolutely dwarfed the 6,780 of his nearest competitor. Slater did not even plan to compete in 2008, giving his rivals a sense of confidence that his later change-of-mind quickly dashed.
Shaun White – Snowboarding/Skateboarding (United States)
Shaun White marched through the 2008 season taking podiums across the world, claiming snowboarding’s highest honours with victories at Winter X Games Superpipe, as well as bronze in the Slopestyle. Executing a near-flawless second run, he also captured his third consecutive halfpipe title at the 2008 US Open Snowboarding Championships to go along with his third US Open slopestyle competition He has been a notable competitor in professional snowboarding since he was 13, but is also known for his skateboarding. He’s the only athlete to win Golds at both the winter and summer editions of X Games. White was recently recognised by GQ Magazine as one of their Men of the Year. He was born with a congenital heart defect for which he needed two open-heart operations as a baby.