Laura Kenny has been named on the shortlist for Sportswoman of the Year in the 2017 Laureus World Sports Awards, with mountain biker and fellow Briton Rachel Atherton nominated in the Action Sportsperson of the Year category.
Kenny won two gold medals at the Olympic Games in Rio last summer, triumphing in the omnium and team pursuit - as she had done four years previously in London - to take her Olympic tally to four golds and become Britain’s most decorated female Olympian. Earlier in the year she won two World Championships titles, in the omnium and scratch race.
“Honoured to be a nominee for the @LaureusSport Sportswomen of the year award,” she wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.
Atherton enjoyed a perfect 2016, winning all seven rounds of the downhill World Cup series – taking her streak to 13 – and becoming world champion for a fourth time.
“Absolutely huge honour to be nominated for the Laureus Action Sportsperson amongst some personal heroes, John John Florence & Chloe Kim!! Wow!" said the 29-year-old.
Kenny, 24, will face stiff competition in a shortlist of six where gold medals are hardly in short supply. The favourite would seem to be Simone Biles, the 19-year-old American gymnast who became a sensation in Rio by winning four of a possible five gold medals.
The other nominees are Latie Ledecky, the 19-year-old American swimmer who won four golds in Rio and broke two world records, Allyson Felix, the American sprinter who won two golds to take her medal tally to nine, Angelique Kerber, the German tennis number one who won two majors, and Elaine Thompson, the 24-year-old Jamaican sprinter who did the 100m and 200m double in Rio.
Atherton will be up against surfing world champions John John Florence and Tyler Wright, snowboarder Chloe Kim, skateboarder Pedro Barros, and 14-year-old freestyle skier Kelly Sildaru, who became the youngest ever winner of a gold medal at the Winter X-Games.
“You always know in an Olympic year you are going to see a strong group of nominees and this year has certainly proved that,” said Laureus Academy chairman Sean Fitzpatrick. “What delights me is that we have an amazing mix of some of the greatest names in sport who have been performing at the highest level for as long as a decade, combined with some of the most exciting new faces we have seen for many years. It really is going to be an exceptional Laureus Awards next month.”
No cyclist has ever officially won one of the headline awards – sportsman or sportswoman. Lance Armstrong won in 2003 after claiming his fourth Tour de France but, like his yellow jerseys, the award was later rescinded after he admitted to doping. The American was also stripped of the Laureus Comeback of the Year award he claimed in 2000 after recovering from testicular cancer and winning the Tour de France.
The only cyclist to win a Laureus award was BMX rider Jamie Bestwick in the Action Sportsperson category in 2014.
The results of the 2017 awards, as voted for by members of the Laureus World Sports Academy, will be revealed in Monaco on February 14.