The United States Sports Academy has named Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps and Olympic gymnast Simone Biles as the winners of its male and female Athlete of the Year awards for 2016.
Phelps, an American swimmer, won a total of six medals – five gold and one silver – in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Phelps won gold in the 200 meter butterfly, 200 meter individual medley, 4×100 meter freestyle relay, 4×100 medley relay and 4×200 freestyle relay, as well as silver in the 100 meter butterfly. Phelps now holds the Olympic medal record with 28 total medals, 23 of which are gold, and is the most decorated Olympian of all time.
Biles, an American gymnast, won four gold medals and one bronze medal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Biles won gold with Team USA in the women’s team all-around and won individual gold in the women’s individual all-around, women’s vault, and the women’s floor exercise. Her bronze medal came in the women’s beam. She also won the gold medal in the all-around competition at the 2016 Pacific Rim Gymnastics Championships in April and won the all-around title at the U.S. Olympic trials in gymnastics with an overall two-day total of 123.25 in July.
The awards are the culmination of the Academy’s yearlong selection process through which outstanding accomplishments of men and women in sports from around the globe are recognized. Each month, the public is invited to participate in the Academy’s worldwide Athlete of the Month program by nominating athletes and then voting online during the first week of every month. The online votes are used to guide the Academy selection committee in choosing the male and female monthly winners, who then become eligible for selection to the prestigious Athlete of the Year ballot. A worldwide public vote on the annual ballot is used to guide the committee in making the final selection.
The men’s runner-up is Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, who retained the title of world’s fastest man by winning the 100 meter dash in 9.81 seconds in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in August. He is the only man to win three consecutive 100 meter dash Olympic titles. Bolt also won his third consecutive Olympic gold in the 200 meters with a time of 19.79 and helped the Jamaican team win gold in the 4×100 relay. He has won nine total Olympic medals.
Third place among the males is Slovenian ski flyer Peter Prevc, who claimed victory at the International Ski Federation (FIS) Ski Jumping World Cup Finals in Planica, Slovenia, in March. He won the ski flying event on his home hill with efforts of 223 meters (731.6 feet) and 232.5 meters (761.2 feet), giving him a winning tally of 426.5 points. Also in 2016, Prevc won the prestigious Four Hills Tournament and captured the title of Ski Flying World Champion.
The women’s runner-up is Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszu. Nicknamed “the Iron Lady,” Hosszu won three gold medals and one silver medal in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. In earning gold, she also broke the world record in the 400-meter individual medley and broke the Olympic record in the 200-meter individual medley. She also earned gold in 100-meter backstroke and silver in 200-meter backstroke.
In third place is American tennis star Serena Williams, who won her 22nd Grand Slam title by beating Angelique Kerber in straight sets in the Wimbledon women’s singles final on 9 July 2016, her seventh Wimbledon singles title.
Williams was previously voted the Academy’s female Athlete of the Year in 2015, 2012 and 2002. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was voted the Academy’s male Athlete of the Year for 2015.
Phelps is a three-time Academy Athlete of the Year, having previously won the honor in 2003 and 2008.
The Athlete of the Year Award is part of the United States Sports Academy’s Awards of Sport program, which each year serves as “A Tribute to the Artist and the Athlete.” The Academy presents the awards to pay tribute to those who have made significant contributions to sport, in categories as diverse as the artist and the athlete in several different arenas of sport.
The awards honor exemplary achievement in coaching, all-around athletic performance, courage, humanitarian activity, fitness, and media, among others. The Academy’s American Sport Art Museum and Archives (ASAMA) annually recognizes these men and women through its Sport Artist of the Year, Honorary Doctorates, Distinguished Service Awards, Medallion Series, Outstanding Athletes, and Alumni of the Year awards. This is the 32nd year of the Academy’s Awards of Sport program.
Based in Daphne, Ala., the United States Sports Academy is an independent, non-profit, accredited, special mission sports university created to serve the nation and world with programs in instruction, research, and service. The role of the Academy is to prepare men and women for careers in the profession of sports. For more information about the Academy, call (251) 626-3303 or visit www.ussa.edu.
Founded in 1984, ASAMA is dedicated to the preservation of sports art, history, and literature. The ASAMA collection is composed of nearly 2,000 works of sport art across a variety of media, including paintings, sculptures, assemblages, prints and photographs. The museum is open free to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. For more information, go to www.asama.org.
By Eric Mann
Eric Mann is the communications assistant at the United States Sports Academy. Reach him at email@example.com.