INDIANAPOLIS – Olympic All-Around champions Carly Patterson and Paul Hamm added to their long list of accolades on Wednesday when the gymnastics champions were named one of 10 finalists for the 2004 AAU James E. Sullivan Memorial Award, honoring the nation’s best amateur athlete.
For the first time in the award’s history, the public will have a chance to vote for their favorite athlete. Gymnastics fans can access the on-line ballot at www.usa-gymnastics.org or directly at USA Today.
“It’s obviously an honor to be considered one of the nation’s best athletes,” Patterson said. “Awards such as the Sullivan Award draw attention to the efforts of Olympic and amateur athletics, attention that is much needed and deserved.”
“The list of finalists this year is as impressive as always, and I’m proud to be included among this list of finalists,” Hamm said. “2004 was a great year for U.S. gymnastics and it will only get better from here.”
Patterson, a resident of Allen, Texas, was named the U.S. Olympic Committee SportsWoman of the Year in January. Patterson won 12 gold, four silver and one bronze medal in 2004, marking a successful comeback from a broken elbow which sidelined her for half of 2003. The honor is the second recognition in two years for Patterson, who earned a share of the USOC Team of the Year award in 2003 when the Women’s Gymnastics Team was recognized for its first-ever women’s team title at the 2003 World Championships.
Hamm, a native of Waukesha, Wis., became the first-ever Olympic All-Around champion for the United States, winning in stunning fashion, and taking home team and high bar silver as well. Hamm ‘s performance is one of the greatest victories in Olympic history, as he surged back from 12th to 1st in just two rotations for the gold by the slimmest of margins – just 0.012. Hamm was a finalist for the Sullivan Award in 2003 after winning the first-ever World All-Around title for the U.S. men, and was awarded the USOC’s Spirit of the Flame Award in January for his sportsmanship and “never-say-die” effort.
Balloting will be conducted through March 25 from among nearly 1,000 members of the U.S. Olympic Committee Board of Directors, National Governing Body representatives, college Sports Information Directors and AAU representatives. The public vote will count as one-third of an athlete’s total.
The AAU Sullivan Award annually recognizes the nation’s best amateur athlete, and has been presented every year since 1930. The only gymnast ever to win the award was Kurt Thomas in 1979 following his two gold, three silver, and one bronze medal performance at the 1979 World Championships.
Other AAU Sullivan Award finalists include Jeremy Wariner (track & field), Andre Ward (boxing), Steven Lopez (taekwondo), Elisha Au (karate), Cael Sanderson (wrestling), Natalie Coughlin (swimming), Michael Phelps (swimming), and Matt Leinart (football).
For more information and complete bios, log on to www.usa-gymnastics.org. Click here for more information on the Sullivan Award.