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Federer, Kostelic given top awards

Federer picks up his second Sportsman of the Year award in a row.

BARCELONA, Spain -- Roger Federer reasserted his status on top of the sporting world by again winning the Sportsman of the Year title at the Laureus World Sports awards.

Croatian skier Janica Kostelic took the women's prize after an unprecedented fourth Winter Olympic gold.

Meanwhile, Federer's Swiss compatriot Martina Hingis won the Comeback of the Year award -- a day after her first singles title success in over four years.

Spaniard Rafael Nadal, Federer's great rival, was named Newcomer of the Year after 12 months in which the 19-year-old was crowned French Open champion and became unbeatable on clay.

Formula One constructors Renault won the team award, offering some consolation to losing nominee Fernando Alonso, who became the sport's youngest champion.

Along with Alonso, Federer beat off competition from seven-times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, Brazil's Ronaldinho, two-time winner Tiger Woods, and Italian motorcycle champion Valentino Rossi, who picked up a Spirit of Sport award after three fruitless years as a contender.

Federer, who goes to the French Open on Sunday aiming to become the first man since 1969 to hold all four grand slams, also won the Laureus award in Estoril 12 months ago -- when he was the Wimbledon and U.S. Open champion.

With the Australian Open title also in his possession now, the powerful frame of Nadal is likely to be his greatest obstacle to glory at Roland Garros.

Hingis, who quit tennis in 2002 after chronic injuries and a decline hastened by the emergence of power-players like the Williams sisters, has confounded the doubters since her comeback from self-imposed exile in December and on Sunday swept to victory at the Italian Open.

"I'm very impressed. Here she is, (in the) top 15 after five months. She breaks all the records she sets herself. She doesn't just say, she does it too," Federer said before the awards were announced.

South African wheelchair racer Ernst van Dyk, with a fifth straight win at the Boston Marathon, won the disabled sportspersons award.

Angelo d'Arrigo, the Italian hang-glider who was killed in an air crash in March, was posthumously given the alternative sportsperson's award.

The King of Spain and Hollywood celebrities such as Morgan Freeman and Teri Hatcher rubbed shoulders with the likes of Australian cricketer Shane Warne and German tennis great Boris Becker.

In a city still suffering the hangover of Barcelona's Champions League win last Wednesday, former club player and coach Johan Cruyff was presented with a Lifetime Achievement award for his contribution to football.

Kostelic, who won the women's combined event at the Torino Olympics, beat off rivals including Yelena Isinbayeva, the first woman to pole vault over five meters, U.S. Open tennis champion Kim Clijsters and Swedish golfer Annika Sorenstam.

The awards are decided by a jury of 40 of the greatest sportsmen and women of all time, from a shortlist put together by a panel of journalists from around the world.

The awards are twinned with the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, a charitable venture seeking to assist the underprivileged and needy around the world.

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