Laureus Awards 2022: Australian champions Emma McKeon, Ash Barty and Ariarne Titmus snubbed

Aussies were clearly the stand out performers in women’s sport in 2021, but nothing is ever as it seems in the unpredictable world of international sport judging, wites JULIAN LINDEN.

Australia’s world-beating champion athletes have been sensationally snubbed at the annual Laureus Awards with Emma McKeon, Ash Barty and Ariarne Titmus all missing out on gongs.

The judges of the self-proclaimed Oscars of world sport have been slammed in the past for getting it so badly wrong but they’ve outdone themselves this time after choosing a list of winners that wouldn’t be out of place in Hollywood.

McKeon was the red-hot favourite to win the female athlete of the year award after collecting a stunning seven medals, including four golds, at last year’s Tokyo Olympics, but was astonishingly overlooked.

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Aussie stars Ariarne Titmus, Ash Barty and Emma McKeon have all been snubbed at the annual Laureus Awards
Aussie stars Ariarne Titmus, Ash Barty and Emma McKeon have all been snubbed at the annual Laureus Awards

Surprisingly, the award went to Jamaican sprinter Elaine Thompson-Herah - who won three gold medals in Tokyo - a fine achievement, but considerably less than McKeon’s historic haul.

The champion Wollongong swimmer’s performance in Japan has rightly been acclaimed as one of the greatest sporting achievements ever after she matched the record for the most medals won by a woman in any sport at a single Olympics.

The only other female to achieve the feat was Soviet gymnast Maria Gorokhovskaya, way back in 1952, so McKeon was regarded as a near certainty to join Cathy Freeman (2001) as the only Australian women to win the prestigious accolade.

Her biggest threat seemed to be another Aussie, Barty, who won Wimbledon last year then the Australian Open in January, after she also made the shortlist of six finalists.

While Elaine Thompson-Herah is a deserving winner, her Tokyo medal haul was considerably less than McKeon’s. Picture: Getty Images.
While Elaine Thompson-Herah is a deserving winner, her Tokyo medal haul was considerably less than McKeon’s. Picture: Getty Images.

The Laureus judges have always looked favourably on tennis players - awarding the top female prize to Jennifer Capriati (2002), Serena Williams (2003, 2010, 2016, 2018), Justine Henin (2008) and Naomi Osaka (2021) - but not this time.

But that was just the start of the clangers from the judges.

Although the undisputed world No. 1 who currently holds two of the four grand slam titles missed out, another female tennis player did get an award with British teenager Emma Raducanu winning the breakthrough of the year prize for her win in the U.S. Open.

Incredibly, the judges rated her above Titmus, who won two gold medals in Tokyo by beating the American swimming superstar Katie Ledecky in both the 200m and 400m freestyle finals.

But there’s even more damning proof the Laureus awards have lost the plot with wheelchair tennis legend and Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott not even making the shortlist in the disability category despite completing the coveted golden slam.

FULL LIST OF WINNERS

World Sportsman of the Year Award: Max Verstappen

World Sportswoman of the Year Award: Elaine Thompson-Herah

World Team of the Year Award: Italy Men‘s Football Team

World Breakthrough of the Year Award: Emma Raducanu

World Comeback of the Year Award: Sky Brown

World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability Award: Marcel Hug

World Action Sportsperson of the Year Award: Bethany Shriever

Lifetime Achievement Award: Tom Brady

Academy Exceptional Achievement Award: Robert Lewandowski

Sporting Icon Award: Valentino Rossi

Sport for Good Award: Lost Boyz Inc.

Sport for Good Society Award: Real Madrid Foundation

Athlete Advocate of the Year Award: Gerald Asamoah and the Black Eagles