Laureus Awards: Messi scoops individual, team double

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Argentine and Paris Saint-Germain footballer Lionel Messi added two prestigious awards to his already illustrious list of achievements, winning the Laureus World Sportsman and the World Team of the Year at the grand ceremony on Monday.

The 35-year-old veteran, who led Argentina to World Cup victory last year in Qatar, became the first-ever athlete to sweep both awards in the same year.

Chinese freeskier Gu Ailing, a two-time gold medal winner at the Beijing Winter Olympic Games last year, captured the Action Sportsperson of the Year award.

The World Cup-winning captain Messi, who shared the men's prize with Lewis Hamilton in 2020, defeated other nominees including 21-time tennis Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal, current Formula One world champion Max Verstappen, world record holder in pole vault Mondo Duplantis, basketball player Stephen Curry, and French football international Kylian Mbappe to secure the award for a second time.

"It's an honour, especially since the Laureus World Sports Awards are taking place this year in Paris, the city that welcomed me and my family," Messi said. "I would like to thank all my teammates, not only those of the national team but also those of PSG. I have not accomplished anything alone and I am grateful to be able to share all this with them."

Messi scored seven goals, including two in the final, and won the Golden Ball in Qatar last December when he led the South American team to their third World Cup title. The Argentine men's football team was given a team award at Laureus.

"And I'm even happier to see that the team I was part of at the World Cup was also honoured by the Laureus Academy tonight," Messi added. "For us, the World Cup was an unforgettable adventure; I cannot describe what it felt like to return to Argentina and see what our victory had brought to our people."

Jamaican sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who clinched a fifth world 100m title at Eugene last August, picked up the women's individual award, while tennis US Open champion Carlos Alcaraz was named the best breakthrough of the year.

Gu, the first athlete to win three medals in freestyle skiing at a single Olympic Games, was awarded the Action Sportsperson, a prize given to the best athlete in extreme sports of the year.

"It's a huge honor to me," said the 19-year-old, who worked on her homework for eight hours on her flight to Paris since she is also pursuing academics at Stanford University.

"I don't want to simply be celebrating this beautiful trophy here today, but also to be speaking to the value that sports have brought to my life and to help contribute that love and passion, confidence and resilience, everything that sports have taught me to more people," Gu told Xinhua.

Manchester United and Denmark midfielder Christian Eriksen won Comeback of the Year following his return to football after collapsing on the pitch due to cardiac arrest during Euro 2020.

At the start of 2022, the tough fighter was without a club, and his future in the game was uncertain. But he managed to end the year playing every minute of Denmark's World Cup campaign and earning a regular place in the Man United squad.

The Laureus Award was founded in 2000 to celebrate sporting excellence during the past year. This year's ceremony was held in person after the previous two editions were conducted online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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