The Generational Talents - Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year

Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year Nominees
There may be a spread of ages among the Nominees for the Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year Award, but they share an undeniable winning mentality. 
The road to greatness can be a fast track – or chart a more scenic route. An age gap of almost seven-and-a-half years separates the youngest and oldest of our Nominees for the Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year Award.

Josh Kerr’s journey to the top of the mountain led him to Budapest in August, where the then 25-year-old claimed an unlikely 1,500 metres gold medal at the World Athletics Championships. Colombian wunderkind Linda Caicedo was just 18 when she lit up the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. 

The precocity of youth burned brightly in 2023, with tennis star Coco Gauff winning her first Grand Slam – the US Open – at the age of 19; Salma Paralluelo lifted the World Cup with Spain at the same age, while Jude Bellingham made an unforgettable start to his La Liga career after a big-money move from Borussia Dortmund to Real Madrid just before his 20th birthday in June. 

Meanwhile, Chinese swimmer Qin Haiyang’s domination of the swimming World Championships, aged 24, had more in common with Kerr’s gradual ascension. All six are united by their incredible achievements in 2023. 
In 2023, Linda Caicedo and Jude Bellingham both switched to Real Madrid, moves that proved to be the platform for major breakthroughs. Bellingham’s €103 million price tag would have encumbered lesser talents, but the young Englishman has the mentality as well as the skills. He managed 17 goals and five assists in 21 appearances for Los Blancos in 2023. His collection of the Golden Boy Award for Europe’s best under-21 player was a deserved recognition of his duck-to-water immersion at one of Europe’s footballing giants.

Bellingham’s club-mate, Caicedo, meanwhile, has a story to match her talent. In the span of 12 months across 2022 and 2023, the Colombian teenager played in the Under-17 Women’s World Cup in India, the Under-20 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica and the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. It was in the latter that she marked her arrival on the world stage, with two goals in the group stages, including an individual strike against Germany which was later voted the goal of the tournament. Caicedo grew up in the Colombian village of Villa Gorgona, where she played football with the local boys in her neighbourhood. At 14, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. “Mentally, it was a very difficult moment in my life,” she said. “What happened made me grow. I feel thankful to be here.”
Salma Paralluelo - Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year Nominee
While Caicedo’s World Cup journey ended at the quarter-final stage – where Colombia lost 2-1 to England’s Lionesses – it was Salma Paralluelo’s Spain who would go all the way.

The winger scored an extra-time winner against the Netherlands in the quarter-final and struck again in Spain’s 2-1 semi-final win over Sweden. In lifting the trophy – after Spain’s 1-0 victory over England in the final – she became the only footballer to win the World Cup at Under-17, Under-20 and senior levels. She also picked up the FIFA Young Player Award for the tournament’s best under-21 footballer.

Paralluelo’s abilities could have taken her down another route, had she decided to pursue a career in athletics rather than football in 2022.  “If she had chosen athletics and injuries had respected her, she would have ended up in an athletics final at the Olympic Games for sure,” said Felix Laguna, her former coach. “And with a medal. I don’t know which of the three, but she would have finished on the podium.”
Josh Kerr - Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year Nominee
Medals were on Josh Kerr’s mind as he stood on the line in the men’s 1500m World Championships in Budapest in August 2023. He had competed in four major championship finals and had only one bronze medal (at the Tokyo Olympics) to show for it.

Twelve months previously, his GB teammate Jake Wightman had beaten Norwegian favourite Jakob Ingebrigtsen to the line at the 2022 World Championships. So, Kerr knew what was possible, but he also knew that the Olympic champion was the man in form. Kerr seized his moment, outsprinting Ingebrigtsen in a dramatic finish. “It’s a long, long road to get here and it’s just so surreal to be in this position,” he said afterwards. 
Qin Haiyang - Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year Nominee
Patience also proved to be Qin Haiyang’s greatest virtue in 2023. The 24-year-old Chinese swimmer became the first in history to win all three breaststroke events at the World Championships – a 50 / 100 / 200 metres treble in Fukuoka. His 200 metres victory also saw him break the world record held by Australia’s Zac Stubblety-Cook, who finished second.

After winning the 200 metres, he said: “People have two sides. They are a little bit of angel and a little bit of devil inside. So, this afternoon, it was kind of a struggle between those two. I told myself, maybe I can lose this race – I’ve already got two gold medals. But before the race, I said, ‘why go in the pool to be a loser? I don’t want to be a loser – I have to win’. That’s why I used my speed and confidence to win the race.”
Coco Gauff - Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year Nominee
Coco Gauff’s rise to Grand Slam winner may have been long-predicted in the tennis world, but her first title at Flushing Meadows was a statement win which encapsulated her character as much as her talent.

After conceding the first set 6-2 to Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, Gauff clawed her way back into the match and closed out her first Slam 2-6, 6-3, 6-2. Gauff’s only previous Grand Slam final appearance came at the French Open in 2022, when she was comprehensively beaten by Iga Świątek.

Of those who questioned whether she would ever make the breakthrough at a Grand Slam, she said: “Thank you to the people who didn’t believe in me. A month ago, I won a 500 title and people said I would stop at that. Two weeks ago, I won a 1000 title and people were saying that was the biggest I was going to get. So, three weeks later, I’m here with this trophy right now.”

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