Sebastian Vettel was named Sportsman of the Year for the first time at a sombre Laureus Awards ceremony in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur.

In an evening where many of the biggest names in world sport gathered in a place currently dealing with tragic loss of Malaysian Airlines flight HM370, tributes to those onboard the missing Boeing 777 were paid.

The ceremony began with the country's Prime Minister Najin Razak calling on his nation to take strength from the achievements of the global sporting superstars in their own bid to rebuild lives after the dreadful tragedy.

"Sport reflects what is happening in the world," Razak told the audience. "But for millions of people sport is also an escape, from hardship, from poverty, from conflict. In the hardest times we look for heroic feats to inspire us. For Malaysia this is one such time.

"At this difficult moment we draw strength from individual stories of perseverance, of generosity, and endurance. The nominees here tonight display those values."

For Vettel, his achievement of claiming four consecutive F1 championships by the age of 26 is something nobody at least in his sport has ever achieved. The German also won 13 of the 19 races for Red Bull including a record nine straight GP's at the end of the season.

He, along with another former Laureus winner Lewis Hamilton, was in Kuala Lumpur ahead of this weekend's race just down the road in Sepang and was given his trophy by another F1 great Emerson Fittipaldi.

"It's a big honour. It's one of the most special trophies I have received," Vettel said after being selected by the Laureus Academy.

In being named Sportsman of the Year, Vettel beat off such names as, the recently winner of the Ballon D'Or, Christiano Ronaldo and multi-Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt.

In what was a good night for motorsport fans, current MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez was named Breakthrough of the Year after winning the title in his debut season at the age of 21.

Rafael Nadal won his third Laureus award for Comeback of the Year. The Spaniard claimed a record ninth French Open as well as winning the US Open at Flushing Meadows after returning from a seven-month absence thanks to a knee injury.

In a pre-recorded message, Nadal admits he never expected to be as competitive as he was on his return.

"How tough the year before with my injury? I never thought I would have the chance to come back as I did so for that reason this Laureus means more," he said.

American swimmer Missy Franklin was named Sportswomen of the Year. At the age of 18, Franklin won an unprecedented six gold medals at the World Championships in Barcelona, and was given her prize by swimming legend Mark Spitz.

Finally Bayern Munich were named Team of the Year less than 24 hours after claiming their latest Bundesliga title with seven games to spare.

The German giants won a memorable treble in 2013 including the Champions League in an all-German final at Wembley and look on course to achieve a similar feat under new coach Pep Guardiola this season. 

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