South Africa Rugby Team Wins Laureus Sports Award For Victory That Moved Le Clos To Tears

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA - APRIL 15: Chad le Clos swims the qualifying time swim in the 100m time trail medley relay during the finals session on day 6 of the SA National Aquatic Championships and Olympic Trials on April 15 , 2016 at the Kings Park Aquatic Center pool in Durban, South Africa. Photo Credit / Anesh Debiky/Swim SA
Photo Courtesy: Anesh Debiky/Swimming South Africa

The South Africa rugby team were named World Sports Team of the Year at the Laureus World Sports Awards in Berlin on Monday following their triumph at the World Cup in Japan, a victory which brought Chad le Clos to tears.

South Africa beat England 32-12 in Yokohama in November 2019 to win the World Cup for a record-equalling third time led by Siya Kolisi, the first black man to captain the Springboks.

It led to an outpouring of celebration and emotion in South Africa with 2012 Olympic 200m fly champion Le Clos among the millions moved by an iconic victory.

Speaking weeks later ahead of the International Swimming League (ISL) leg in London, Le Clos told Swimming World:


Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

“I started crying. It was amazing.

“One of the biggest moments ever in South African history – I think because of all the politics that has happened in recent years, it’s a tough place to be. It’s not been going on the right track.

“So winning the World Cup has lifted everyone’s spirits. It’s significant because Siya Kolisi is the first black captain.

“He came from the townships, he had the dream of playing for the Springboks, played for the Springboks and captained the Springboks to winning the World Cup. It’s a dream for him and for us.

“I know him very well, we are very good friends. I was emotionally invested in the Rugby World Cup so for me it was even more personal than it was in 2007 and 1995. Obviously 95 I wasn’t around but 07 I was just watching the boys running around.

“I know most of the players quite well: I had dinner with their prop Steve Kitshoff a week before they left. I am getting his jersey from the final: well, he says.”

The seven-time world medallist was watching the final along with his Energy Standard training mates including Englishmen Ben Proud and coach James Gibson in Gloria, Turkey.

“It was an amazing moment: I was watching with all the English guys and I said to them before ‘we are going to beat you guys’ and they’re like ‘no, we’re going to smash you’.

“I was like ‘you don’t understand, South Africans are not rattled by the big occasion. And we are not emotional.

“You beat the All Blacks because you played the perfect game and if you had played that game against us you would have probably won but we neutralised your strengths right from the off. I knew right away, the first five minutes the game was over.”

Regan Smith of the United States of America (USA) celebrates a New World Record after competing in the women’s 200m Backstroke Semifinal during the Swimming events at the Gwangju 2019 FINA World Championships, Gwangju, South Korea, 26 July 2019.

Regan Smith reacts to her new World Record (2:03.35) posted during semifinals of the women’s 200 back at the 2019 World Championships – Photo Courtesy: Patrick B. Kraemer

Regan Smith was nominated for Breakthrough Of The Year following her own venture into uncharted waters at the World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, where she set world records in the 100m (57.75) and the 200m backstroke,  an astonishing 2:03.35 and claimed two gold medals.

The category was won by cyclist Egan Bernal who became the youngest winner of the Tour de France in 100 years aged 22.

Five-time Olympic champion Nathan Adrian made the shortlist for the Comeback of the Year after he won two relay golds and one silver in Gwangju, only seven months after he was diagnosed with testicular cancer for which he underwent surgery.



Nathan Adrian: Photo Courtesy: Taylor Brien

Sophia Florsch of Germany won the award following her return to Formula 3 motor-racing after a 170mph crash in Macau which required spinal surgery.

Great Britain’s Alice Tai was nominated for the Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability Award. Tai won seven gold medals – five of them individual – at the Para-Swimming World Championships in London which included a world record in the S8 100m backstroke. She also won the overall WPS World Series. Now 21, Tai was born with a foot condition for which she needed 13 operations before the age of 12.



Alice Tai: Photo Courtesy: British Swimming / Georgie Kerr Photography

Cross-country skier Oksana Masters, of the United States, won the award after claiming five gold medals and a silver at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships, plus the cross-country overall World Cup title.

She also won silver medals in the road race and time trial H5 at the Para Cycling Road World Championships.

Masters was born with deformities caused by radiation from Chernobyl and was adopted at seven from an orphanage in Ukraine.




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