INDIANAPOLIS – The accolades keep rolling in for World Champions Paul Hamm and Chellsie Memmel, who on Monday were named finalists for the 74th Annual AAU James E. Sullivan Memorial Award, which recognizes the top amateur athlete in the nation.
Hamm and Memmel are two of the 12 finalists included on the final ballot which was mailed to the award’s more than 800 voters today. The recipient will be honored during a formal presentation at the New York Athletic Club, tentatively scheduled for April 13.
Memmel was the surprise performer of 2003. Memmel captured gold medals in the team, all-around and uneven bars, plus balance beam bronze, at the 2003 Pan American Games. At the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships, the alternate-turned-starter was cast into the line-up just days before the event, yet she shined like a veteran. Memmel led all competitors with the highest all-around marks in the team finals to help the United States to its first-ever team gold medal at a World Championships. Memmel later shared an uneven bars gold with teammate Hollie Vise, helping the United States take home seven medals in all, including five gold.
Hamm is the only U.S. male to have earned the title of World All-Around Champion by coming from behind in the last rotation to capture the gold at the 2003 World Championships. Hamm also nabbed floor exercise gold and team silver at Worlds. Hamm secured his spot on the team by winning his second consecutive U.S. All-Around title at the U.S. Championships in June plus four individual medals, including gold on the high bar and pommel horse, and silver on the floor exercise and parallel bars.
Hamm and Memmel are also nominees for the 2003 U.S. Olympic Committee SportsMan and SportsWoman of the Year awards.
The only gymnast ever to win the Sullivan Award was Kurt Thomas in 1979 after earning two gold, three silver and one bronze medal at the 1979 World Championships in Fort Worth, Texas.
A 10-member AAU Sullivan Committee selected the 12 finalists after reviewing each of the athletes qualifications from over 30 who were nominated. The first round finalists are: Hamm, Memmel, John Fonseca (Karate); Lebron James (Basketball); Barbara Lindquist (Triathlon); Steven Lopez (Taekwondo); Apolo Anton Ohno (Speedskating); Michael Phelps (Swimming); Philippa “Phil” Raschker (Master Circuit – Track and Field); Diana Taurasi (Basketball); Rickie Weeks (Baseball); and Jason White (Football).
Considered the “Oscar” of sports awards, the AAU James E. Sullivan Award has been presented to several prominent athletes, including Olympic gold medalist Sarah Hughes (2002), Michelle Kwan (2001), Rulon Gardner (2000), Chamique Holdsclaw (1998), Peyton Manning (1997), Dan Jansen (1994), Janet Evans (1989), Jackie Joyner-Kersee (1986), and Greg Louganis (1984).
The AAU James E. Sullivan Memorial Award has been presented annually by the AAU since 1930 as a salute to the founder of the AAU, James E. Sullivan. An 800-member group including the AAU board of directors, the U.S. Olympic Committee board of directors, the AAU Sullivan Committee, past Sullivan Award winners, and select members of the sports media vote on the winner. The AAU James E. Sullivan Memorial Award is housed permanently in the Hall of Fame of the New York Athletic Club.