Former 110m world record hurdler Liu Xiang of China won the Laureus World Newcomer of the Year in 2005. - AFP
KUALA LUMPUR: Despite being a top nation in world sports, China has never produced a Laureus World Sportsman or Sportwoman of the Year.
And Chinese table tennis legend Deng Yaping believes it is not going to change any time soon because Chinese athletes excel in sports that generally do not attract a large global audience.
“As a former athlete, I would love to see a Chinese athlete win the best sportsman or best sportswoman award one day. Unfortunately, the sports that China excels in are not global enough, and are not the most commercial types,” said the 1.50m Yaping, who is the only Chinese to be a part of the 46-member Laureus Academy that decides the winners of the various awards.
“To be even nominated for the Laureus awards, the athlete has to garner enough media attention. And there are so many factors and ideas in the end and sometimes it’s just not so easy,” said the 41-year-old Yaping who is widely known as the greatest player in table tennis history with six world titles and four Olympic golds from 1989-1997.
Yaping, who retired in 1997 at the age of 24, believes her compatriots still have a long way to go in world sports despite churning out a long list of world and Olympic champions.
Shuttler Lin Dan is a five-time world champion and winner of two Olympic golds, and tennis player Li Na has two Grand Slam titles, but they have yet to be even nominated.
To date, only two Chinese athletes have won the Laureus awards – albeit the minor ones. Basketball star Yao Ming was named the World Newcomer of the Year in 2003. Two years later, hurdler Liu Xiang was the winner of the same award.
“But I do hope our time to win the top award will come one day,” said Yaping, a PhD holder from the University of Cambridge.
For this year, Mo Farah (athletics), Usain Bolt (athletics), LeBron James (basketball), Sebastian Vettel (motor racing), Rafael Nadal (tennis) and Cristiano Ronaldo (football) are the nominees for the Sportsman of the Year award.
Nadine Angerer (football), Missy Franklin (swimming), Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (athletics), Yelena Isinbayeva (athletics), Tina Maze (skiing) and Serena Williams (tennis) will fight it out for the Sportswoman of the Year accolade.
The awards ceremony will be held at 7pm on Wednesday at the Istana Budaya.