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Woods and Jones sweep Sporting Oscars

Woods and Jones sweep Sporting Oscars
Paul Radford (Reuters)

25 May 2000 - Tiger Woods and Marion Jones won the Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year awards for the U.S. as showbiz glamour, political oratory and athletic achievement came together at the inaugural Sporting Oscars.

The millionaires' tax haven of Monaco, home of many leading world sports personalities, brought in Hollywood stars and the world's premier statesman in Nelson Mandela in a noble attempt to match the movie industry's own Oscars ceremony.

If the Laureus Sports Award night did not quite have the gushing and glitz of Las Vegas, it probably brought together the greatest array of sporting greats ever collected in one place, suggesting it may have a future as an annual event.

As a golfer, Woods may not have been the most obvious choice for first recipient of Sportsman of the Year but his 11 victories in 15 tournaments last year swung the award his way over the two other nominees, tennis maestro Andre Agassi and the world's fastest man Maurice Greene.

Woods was not present to receive his award but, in true Oscars fashion, he was seen receiving it on film from Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.

"It's quite an honour," he said. "I'm pretty humble. It's a hell of an honour to have my peers chose me to receive this award."

The winners were chosen by the World Sports Academy, a panel of former sporting greats, from a shortlist selected by more than 200 sports journalists from around the globe.

Jones, the world's dominant sprinter, was on hand to go up on stage to collect her Cartier statuette, beating fellow-nominees middle-distance runner Gabriela Szabo of Romania and American tennis champion Lindsay Davenport.

Team of the Year went to Manchester United for last season's treble when they won the European Cup and English league and cup double. Manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who received the award with players Ryan Giggs and Ronny Johnsen, said he believed the feat would never be repeated.

PELE HONOURED

Mandela appeared on stage to huge acclaim to present a special lifetime achievement award for Pele and took the opportunity to make an impassioned speech on the power of sport to promote peace.

"Sport has the power to change the world," he said. "It has the power to inspire, the power to unite people that little else has...It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers."

He described Pele, who was in Rome to play in a charity match for peace, as "an enduring model for all athletes and for all of us".

Comeback of the year went to American rider Lance Armstrong, who won a personal battle with cancer before exacting victory in sport's greatest endurance event, the Tour de France cycle race.

Newcomer of the year was Spanish golfer Sergio Garcia, who won two European tour events in his first full pro season at the age of 19 and who ran Woods close for the U.S. PGA title.

Sylvester Stallone, Jeff Bridges and Ashley Judd were among a host of Hollywood's finest presenting the awards, and musical interludes were provided by the likes of Bon Jovi and All Saints.

But for true sports fans, the most memorable, as well as nostalgic, part of the evening was seeing the massed ranks of the World Sports Academy on stage together. Sporting giants such as Ed Moses, Katarina Witt, Sebastian Coe, Dawn Fraser, Boris Becker, Greg LeMond and Dan Marino, to name but a few, gave much prestige to the occasion.