Gilmore an outsider
SHE'S used to winning everything but Stephanie Gilmore may have to settle for nomination only at tonight's Laureus Sports Awards, according to surfing great Layne Beachley.
The four-time women's world surfing champion is in the running for the action sportsperson of the year prize she won last year but Beachley, a seven-time world champion, believes the calibre of nominees in 2011's pool may deny Gilmore back-to-back gongs.
Gilmore is up for the award alongside men's surfing icon Kelly Slater, American winter Olympic hero Shaun White, British BMX star Jamie Bestwick, windsurfer Victor Fernandez and New Zealand's freestyle motocross rider Levi Sherwood.
“It's a much tougher group this year for her to win,” Beachley said on the eve of the awards in Abu Dhabi.
“Last year I thought ‘she's a great chance' but this year I don't know how she will go. Just the fact that you're recognised on the world stage, I've always referred to the Laureus Awards as the Academy Awards of sport, this is the stage.
“If you're an athlete, this is where you want to be recognised, this is where you want to be put on a pedestal because these athletes are your peers.”
Win or lose tonight, Beachley said Gilmore's much publicised decision to move from long-time sponsor Rip Curl to take up a multi-million dollar deal with Quiksilver was a great moment for women's surfing.
Beachley said having a woman break into the kind of earning bracket normally reserved for surfing's top male competitors was a delight.
“I think one of the fears I had surrounding retirement was seeing the amount of work I invested into women's surfing go to waste,” she said.
“Then Steph came along and created her own rules, created her own boundaries and has taken women's surfing to a whole new level, especially by becoming the million-dollar baby.
“I'm so proud of the fact that a woman now, finally, has the capability and the industry finally believes in the value of a woman to earn that kind of money.”
Gilmore is not the only Australian up for an award at the ritzy ceremony with swimmer Matt Cowdrey nominated for the world sportsperson with a disability award after his six gold medal-winning haul in last year's world championships.
Mark Webber's Red Bull Racing Formula One team is also nominated in the world team of the year category.