Comparison with others is unfair, says modest Vettel
Kuala Lumpur: Denied on five occasions in the past, four-time Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel was modesty personified after he finally broke the jinx by clinching the 15th Laureus Sportsman of the Year award here.
"It`s a big honour. It`s one of the most special trophies I have received," Vettel told a packed audience at the Istana Budaya centre following a ceremony yesterday, filled with tributes to the ones affected by the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 mishap.
The 26-year-old German, youngest to win four F1 World Championship titles, was selected by Laureus Academy members ahead of Mo Farah, Usain Bolt, Cristiano Ronaldo, Rafael Nadal and LeBron James. Vettel had been in the past nominated for the award five times, but missed out on each occasion.
"Receiving nominations itself is a great honour, especially alongside the greatest athletes on the planet. So winning it is truly very, very special. It is truly a very special moment. To share the stage with the legendary members is memorable," Vettel said.
"When I was a young kid and started competing, I fell in love with my sport and fell in love with racing and fell in love with the fact that if you do well, at the end of the race you receive a trophy.
"It`s still one of the main things that drives me today - to hold a trophy at the end of the race and to be on the podium," he said.
Asked who would he rate as his closest competitor among the nominees, Vettel avoided singling out any individual athlete. "Cristiano Ronaldo is the best footballer on the planet, Rafael Nadal is very passionate and committed to his sport. And about Lebron James, I would say when I grew up I was looking upto Michael Jordan, and Lebron James is today`s Michael Jordan. It would be interesting to find out how close it was, but surely when I was on stage it was a memorable moment," he said.
As far as satisfaction that comes with winning the award was concerned, the champion Red Bull driver said, "I think it is one of the highest honour in sports, it is not fair to compare with anyone as all the other nominess deserve to be the best in what they do."
"If you look at the other nominees it`s basically the athletes we all know and they are the greatest on the planet."
An emotional Vettel, in the backdrop of the Malaysian air mishap, further said: "If I`ve learned anything tonight, surely it`s the fact that sport can be a very, very big inspiration. I`ve come here and seen many heroes of mine... this (award) is very inspirational, very special."
The winners were chosen by secret ballot by a 46-strong panel of sporting greats. Bobby Charlton, Steve Waugh, Johan Cruyff, Sebastian Coe, Mark Spitz and Nadia Comaneci were just some of the big names at the show.
The organisers had earlier scaled back press events and dedicated an All-Stars football match featuring legends of the game to the victims of the plane crash after it was confirmed by the Malaysian Prime Minister on Monday.