Year in Review 2023: Yahoo Singapore readers' top 10 most-searched athletes

As athletes continue to return to their competitions after the pandemic, who are the most searched sportspeople in Singapore? Find out

(From left) Football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, World Cup winner Lionel Messi and Singapore's sprint queen Shanti Pereira. (PHOTOS: Getty Images/SNOC)
(From left) Football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, World Cup winner Lionel Messi and Singapore's sprint queen Shanti Pereira. (PHOTOS: Getty Images/SNOC)

SINGAPORE — Sports continued to return to normalcy after the COVID-19 pandemic in 2023, with most global sporting events resumed in their pre-pandemic formats and professional athletes going back to their competition circuits.

Here are the top 10 athletes most searched by Yahoo! Singapore users during this sporting year:

Check out Yahoo readers' most-searched stories of 2023.
Check out Yahoo readers' most-searched stories of 2023.

10. Emma Raducanu

Emma Raducanu shot into instant stardom in 2021, when the Briton became in the first qualifier in tennis' Open era to win a Grand Slam tournament, clinching the US Open at age 18. Born to a Romanian father and a Chinese mother, the youngster was seen as a symbol of the next generation of tennis talents eager to take over the likes of Serena Williams and Simona Halep.

However, since the giddy high of the 2021 US Open, Raducanu has struggled to regain the scintillating form that had stunned the tennis world. Poor form and numerous injuries have curtailed the 21-year-old's career, so much so that she had to put a halt to competing in the middle of this year to recover from her injuries. Once ranked as high as world No.10, Raducanu has dropped way down to No.296 as she takes tentative steps back to regain her former glories.

9. Neymar

The symbol of Brazilian football - good and bad - for much of the past decade, 31-year-old Neymar has polarised opinions on whether he should be remembered as a great player. On the one hand, he has represented his nation and clubs with pride, scoring goals aplenty and thrilling fans with his flamboyant style. On the other hand, he has infuriated many others with his partying lifestyle and devil-may-care attitude.

Neymar's 2023 was also in equal parts memorable and forgettable. He became Brazil's all-time leading scorer in September, overtaking the legendary Pele with 79 goals in total. A month later, however, he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, ruling him out for the rest of the year and spoiling his million-dollar move to Saudi club Al Hillal, where he played only five games before his serious injury.

LA Lakers star LeBron James slams the ball against the Orlando Magic.
LA Lakers star LeBron James slams the ball against the Orlando Magic. (PHOTO: Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

8. LeBron James

The transcendent basketballer of this generation, LeBron James has been the face of the National Basketball Association (NBA) since he burst onto the professional league in 2003. Twenty years and four NBA titles later, the 38-year-old is still going strong, outsmarting defenders with his all-around brilliance with the Los Angeles Lakers.

On 7 February this year, James smashed an NBA record that was once believed to be unbreakable: Kareem Abdul Jabbar's all-time scoring record of 38,387 points. It was a record that encapsulated his enduring excellence, and further fuelled the debate whether he or Michael Jordan should be recognised as the greatest basketballer. James is still going strong this new NBA season, crossing the 39,000-point mark in November and helping the Lakers win the inaugural NBA in-season tournament a month later.

7. Nick Faldo

One of the greatest golfers of all time, Nick Faldo won six Major championships between 1987 and 1996, and was renowned for his remarkable cool under pressure. The Briton retired from professional golf in 2015 having amassed 43 titles all over the world, and became a leading broadcast analyst for golf Majors.

Now 66, Faldo had originally announced his retirement from broadcasting in 2022, but has since reappeared at the commentary booths in this year's US Masters and British Open. He is also a vocal critic of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf League, claiming that no one is interested in its team format and believing it would fade away.

Singapore shuttler Loh Kean Yew in action at the 2023 China Badminton Masters in Shenzhen.
Singapore shuttler Loh Kean Yew in action at the 2023 China Badminton Masters in Shenzhen. (PHOTO: by Fred Lee/Getty Images)

6. Loh Kean Yew

Singapore's top men's shuttler Loh Kean Yew reached the top of the badminton world in 2021, ascending to global prominence with his monumental Badminton World Championship men's singles triumph in Huelva, Spain. With his powerful smashes and easy-going nature, he quickly became a popular figure among badminton fans around the world.

While Loh has been consistently among the top-10-ranked men's players for most of the last two years, title wins have eluded the 26-year-old since the world title triumph. While he has reached the finals of the Badminton Asia Championships and Korean Open this year, he was still unable to end his title drought. Expect Loh to continue building towards Olympic qualification next year.

5. Novak Djokovic

With the retirement of Roger Federer and the injury absence of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic has become the next in line to be considered the greatest tennis player of all time. While the Serbian's behaviour and beliefs off-court have polarised fans, what is undeniable is that the 36-year-old is peerless on court, fending off all comers with his brilliant defence and staggering consistency.

At the start of the year, Djokovic still trailed Nadal in total Grand Slams won, with 21 titles to the Spaniard's 22. He promptly drew level with his long-time rival in January's Australian Open, and then overtook the inactive Nadal at the French Open, defeating Casper Ruud for his 23rd Grand Slam title. He extended his record with his fourth US Open triumph in September, making it near unreachable for a long time to come.

4. Shanti Pereira

Hailed as Singapore athletics' brightest talent since she burst onto the scene in 2013, it took Shanti Pereira 10 long years to reach the staggering heights she achieved in 2023. Injuries and poor form had threatened to derail her career, but the 27-year-old persisted through the lows to begin her road to greatness with a 200m sprint gold at the 2022 SEA Games in Hanoi.

Pereira's decision to train full-time last December paid off, as she began smashing the national 100m and 200m records with regularity since the start of the year. Two SEA Games golds in Phnom Penh followed, as did another two golds at the Asian Championships in Bangkok.

Her biggest moment, however, came at the Hangzhou Asian Games in early October. After ending Singapore athletics' 49-year medal drought with a silver in the 100m, Pereira swept past all rivals to clinch the 200m gold - Singapore's first Asian Games athletics gold medal since 1974. Her place in the pantheon of greatest Singapore athletes is secured beyond doubt.

Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah in action during the English Premier League match against Fulham at Anfield.
Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah in action during the English Premier League match against Fulham at Anfield. (PHOTO: Nick Taylor/Liverpool FC/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

3. Mohamed Salah

Eyebrows were raised among Liverpool fans when the football club signed Mohamed Salah in 2017. The Egyptian already had a failed stint with Chelsea in the English Premier League (EPL) - why are the Reds signing a player who could not cut it in the ultra-competitive league?

Seven trophy-laden seasons later, and it is safe to say that Salah is far from being a failure at Anfield, with 200 goals scored for the Reds with remarkable consistency. Now a revered figure at the Merseyside club, the 31-year-old has continued to provide goals aplenty, even after the departures of his former strike partners Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.

And he could very well have joined the duo in the Saudi Premier League, with Al-Ittihad offering a staggering £150 million two-year contract to entice him to make the switch this year. However, Liverpool refused to sell their talismanic forward, and to Salah's credit, he has not demanded to move and has continued to plunder goals in the current EPL season.

2. Lionel Messi

In many's eyes, Lionel Messi is the greatest footballer of all time. A diminutive whirlwind with wizardry in his boots, the Argentinian has brought smiles to every football fan on the planet with his jaw-dropping skills and knack for great goals for 20 glorious years.

While Messi has won everything under the sun with his long-time club Barcelona, there were naysayers who say he can only be considered "the greatest footballer" if he has led his country to World Cup triumph. Those sceptics were finally silenced in 2022, when Messi dragged Argentina to their third World Cup win after an extraordinary penalty shoot-out over France in the final.

After his ascension to World Cup-winner status in Qatar, Messi continued to be vital this year, helping Paris Saint-Germain win their 11th French Ligue 1 title. However, the 36-year-old decided not to renew his contract with the French giants, and while Saudi Arabia expressed strong interest to bring him to its Premier League, Messi opted to sign for Major League Soccer's Inter Miami.

Within a month of making his debut in the United States league, he helped his new club win the Leagues Cup final. A truly remarkable, once-in-a-lifetime footballer.

1. Cristiano Ronaldo

While Messi is reserved in nature, Cristiano Ronaldo is all about shouting out his undoubted greatness to the whole world. Messi does not have an Instagram or Facebook account, while Ronaldo is the most-followed person on Instagram and Facebook. Such is the fascinating contrast between two of the greatest footballers of all time.

A skilful if lightweight winger in his younger days, the 38-year-old Portuguese transformed himself into a muscular, unstoppable scorer through his prodigious work ethic. And with his good looks and astute business sense, he became the most bankable football superstar as social media exploded.

After winning trophies after trophies with Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus - as well as leading Portugal to triumph at Euro 2016 - Ronaldo thought he had come full circle in his career by returning the Man United in 2021 to try return the Red Devils to their dominant title-winning heyday.

However, the return soured badly as he clashed with manager Erik ten Hag, criticising him and the club in an interview just before the 2022 World Cup. Man United eventually let Ronaldo leave and sign for Saudi club Al Nassr for a staggering €200 million a year - the highest football salary in history.

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