Viva Espana at Laureus awards

ABU DHABI (AFP) – Spain had double reason to celebrate at the prestigious Laureus awards here on Monday as world tennis number one Rafael Nadal was voted sportsman of the year and the Spanish football team's World Cup win netted them the team of the year.

AFP - Rafael Nadal

American ski superstar Lindsey Vonn got a gentle boost ahead of this week's world alpine skiing championships by winning the sportswoman of the year title.

German golfer Martin Kaymer's fabulous year, which included his first major - the US PGA Championship, saw him win the World Breakthrough of the Year Award.

Nadal, who won three Grand Slams last year in another scintillating display of all round tennis, was present at the gala ceremony - hosted by top American actor Kevin Spacey - to accept his award as he is presently out of action with a torn thigh muscle.

"I cannot be thankful enough for receiving the most prestigious award in the world of the sport, Nadal said. "For me it is an honour to be in front of the best sportsmen and sportsmen of the world. Thank you very much."

"For me, being number one in the world is not a real goal," Nadal told a news conference after the awards ceremony. "The real goal is being competitive in every tournament I am going to play and trying to keep having chances to win titles."

"I think that sports in Spain this year is really unbelievable," Nadal said. "It will be very difficult to repeat, so we have to enjoy a lot this moment."

Vonn earned her award after a stunning year in which she secured her third straight skiing World Cup and the Olympic downhill gold medal.

The World Comeback of the Year Award went to Italy's seven-time motorcycle world champion Valentino Rossi, who returned to the track just 41 days after breaking his leg.

American surfer Kelly Slater, who has won a record ten World Surfing Championships, received the Laureus World Action Sportsperson of the Year award for the third time.

And German skier Verena Bentele was awarded Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability after winning five gold medals in the Winter Paralympic Games.

French football legend Zinedine Zidane received the Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award at the ceremony in Abu Dhabi.

"My wish is to always stay close to football," he said, adding that he hopes to become a manager one day.

The European Ryder Cup team won the Laureus Spirit of Sport Award and Beirut marathon founder May El-Khalil received the Laureus Sport for Good Award.

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