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It is rare to witness truly magnificent athletic talent. It is rarer still when that talent fulfills its potential. When it all comes together on a global stage and culminates in wondrous achievements, that signifies a performer of remarkable distinction. The World Sportsman of the Year will be selected from an elite class of nominees who have earned lasting glory from their exploits in 2000.

Tiger Woods (United States), golf: If a mad scientist stole the confidence and determination of Jack Nicklaus, the guile and competitive fire of Arnold Palmer, the flair and charisma of Greg Norman and the brute force of John Daly and mixed it all into one uber-golfer, the result would be Woods.

And how’s this for an accomplishment: He just won his second Masters and is the owner of all of golf’s major tournaments (Masters, U.S. Open, PGA Championship and British Open). In all, Woods captured 12 titles in 2000 and amassed $11.2 million in prize money in posting one of the most astonishing years ever in professional golf.

Michael Schumacher (Germany), motor racing: Thrill-seekers loved watching Schumacher, 32, over the final weeks of last year’s Formula One season. He didn’t just win his third world title. He did so in spine-tingling fashion by taking the checkered flag in each of the last four races of the season, edging out rival Mika Hakkinen by 19 points and enabling Ferrari to secure its first title in 21 years.

The former European kart champion, who began in Formula One in 1990, won nine Grand Prix races last season for a total of 108 points.

Steve Redgrave, (Britain), rowing: Redgrave’s fans and friends could argue that his formidable achievements in his sport aren’t even the most impressive entries on his resume’. He is a motivational speaker and considered one of his country’s finest citizens. But then, of course, there are the gold medals.

He won his fifth consecutive gold in Sydney last year as part of Britain’s coxless fours team, despite being a relative graybeard of 38 as well as a diabetic. That completed a career in which he also won nine golds in rowing’s world championships.

Of course, when it comes to someone who craves challenges as much as Steve Redgrave, it’s never safe to say his career is complete.

Pieter Van Den Hoogenband (the Netherlands), swimming: The need for speed among swimming aficionados was quenched with a double dose of Van Den Hoogenband at Sydney last year. The former European junior star sent shivers down the spines of his opponents by becoming the first man ever to go under 48 seconds in the 100 free, setting a world record of 47.84 seconds in the Olympic semifinals.

Van Den Hoogenband, 23, then rocketed to gold-medal victories in both the men’s 100 meter and 200 meter freestyle. He also won an Olympic bronze at Sydney in both the 50 meter freestyle and the 4 x 200 meter freestyle relay.

Ian Thorpe (Australia), swimming: In addition to crushing the competition, Thorpe’s superior conditioning enabled him to climb up and down medal stands at the World Cup in Sheffield, England, and the Olympics in Sydney without getting winded. Not an inconsiderable feat considering how many medals he won.

After grabbing three golds at the World Cup in February in the 100, 200 and 400 meter freestyles, Thorpe, just 17 at the time, added to his stash of precious medals by snaring three Olympic golds in the 400 meter free, the 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay and the 4 x 200 meter free relay, as well as two silver medals.

Thorpe also assaulted the record book by setting or sharing world marks in the 400 free, the 4 x 100 free relay and the 4 x 200 free relay.