Former Chinese tennis player Li Na attends a press conference ahead of the Laureus World Sports Awards in Shanghai on April 14, 2015. Photo: AFP
Li Na, who won the Australian Open for her second Grand Slam title and had a career-best world No. 2 ranking before she retired in late 2014, is gunning for the women's crown in the Laureus World Sports Awards slated to be announced Wednesday evening.
It is the second time Li Na was nominated for the award since 2012.
"It is hard to predict who will win this year," said former Olympic athletics champion Michael Johnson Tuesday morning. "Every candidate has chance to win."
Earlier, basketball star Yao Ming and Olympic hurdler Liu Xiang won the newcomer award in 2003 and 2005 respectively and the Chinese Olympic team had the team award in 2009.
Li Na is favored by Laureus Academy member Yang Yang, China's first winter Olympic gold medalist and an International Olympic Committee member.
"As a academy member, it is very hard for me to choose the best from the best," said Yang. "But I think Li Na has a chance, she is a strong candidate."
"I am very happy to be nominated," said Li Na on Tuesday. "All nominees are top class athletes."
Among other five candidates for the sportswoman of the year award, Serena Williams is also a strong contender, having won three times - sportswoman's award (2003 and 2010) and comeback award (2007).
The American returned to top form by winning the 2014 U.S. Open, her 18th Grand Slam victory, which put her level in the all-time list with Chris Evert and Martina Martina Navatilova.
Other candidates for the sportswoman's award includes Olympic shot put champion Valerie Adams of New Zealand, Nordic skiing Olympic champion Marit Bjorgen of Norway, 1,500m indoor world record holder Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia and Alping skiing Olympic gold medalist Tina Maze of Slovenia.
Valerie, for the fourth year in succession, ended the season undefeated, having won 14 competitions in which she competed, bringing her unbeaten steak to 56. She was named IAAF women's athlete of year after she won all seven Diamond League events and gold medals in the world indoor championships and the Commonwealth Games.
Both Bjorgen and Maze had their great performance in Sochi winter Olympic Games where Bjorgen became the most decorated female winter Olympian in history by winning three gold medals in the 15km skiathlon, team sprint and 30km freestyle events at 33.
Slovenian Maze had a memorable year when she won two gold medals, taking the downhill gold, shared with Swiss Dominique Gisin, and the giant slalom. These were the first Olympic gold medals ever won by Slovenia.
The sportsman's award will be decided among Novak Djokovic of Serbia, Lewis Hamilton, Rory Mcilroy of Britain, Renaud Lavillenie of France, Marc Marquez of Spain and Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal.
Djokovic, winner of Laureus Sportsman of the Year Award in 2012, won the Wimbledon for the second time, defeating Roger Federer of Switzerland in the final in five sets in 2014. It was his seventh career Grand Slam title and his victory meant he replaced Rafael Nadal of Spain as world No. 1.
Marc, who was awarded the Laureus Breakthrough Award last year, won his second straight World MotoGP title, at the age of 21 in 2014. He opened the year with 10 straight Grand Prix wins, then added three more to reach a season total of 13, beating the record of Australian Mick Doohan, who won 12 in 1997.
Cristiano, winner of the Ballon d'Or as World Player of the Year, was also named UEFA Player of the Year at the end of last season after scoring a record 17 goals for Real Madrid as they won the Champions League for the 10th time.
Lewis won his second Formula One World Championships with 11 Grand Prix victories in 2014 while his countryman Rory became the No.1 golfer in the world with victories in two Major Championships in 2014 - the Open and the USPGA.
Renaud jumped 6.16 meters in Donetsk in 2014 to break Ukrainian Sergey Bubka's pole vault world record of 6.15 meters, which had stood for almost 21 years. With 21 victories out of 22 competitions during the year, he was named IAAF men's athlete of year.
The Laureus World Sports Awards is the premier honors event on the international sporting calendar. The winners are selected by the votes of the Laureus World Sports Academy, the ultimate sports jury, made up of 50 of the greatest sportsmen and sportswomen of all time including Chinese table tennis legend Deng Yaping, Chinese gymnast Li Xiaopeng and Yang Yang.