NEW YORK, April 15, 2009 – 2008 Olympic balance beam gold-medalist Shawn Johnson of West Des Moines, Iowa, was named the recipient of the 79th Annual AAU Sullivan Award at a dinner at the New York Athletic Club. She was chosen by votes cast by AAU officials, U.S. Olympic Committee members and college sports information directors, with fan votes cast online counting one-third toward the final tally. Johnson is the third gymnast to win the AAU Sullivan Award, joining Kurt Thomas (1979) and Paul Hamm (2004). 2008 Olympic all-around champion Nastia Liukin of Parker, Texas, was a finalist for this year’s award.
" It’s an honor to be recognized with this award," Johnson said. " Everybody deserves it. Any athlete out there who puts that much work into it deserves to be recognized. This has been the craziest year of my life and I’ve loved every second of it. I couldn’t have gotten here without all the athletics and the people involved – my parents and coaches. I’m so happy and honored to represent the sport of gymnastics."
“This is an incredible honor for Shawn and it recognizes her outstanding gymnastics accomplishments, as well as her character both on and off the field of play,” said Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics. “We also congratulate the other Sullivan Award finalists, especially Nastia, who achieved great success and is also a wonderful ambassador for gymnastics.”
In addition to Johnson and Liukin, the other three finalists were: U.S. Olympic men’s 4x100m free relay team, swimming; Cynthia Barboza of Stanford University, volleyball; and Tyler Hansbrough of the University of North Carolina, basketball.
Johnson won four medals at the 2008 Olympic Games: one gold (balance beam) and three silver (team, all-around and floor exercise). She is only the second U.S. gymnast to win an Olympic gold medal on the balance beam, joining Shannon Miller (1996). Earlier in 2008, Johnson won the all-around at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Gymnastics, as well as claimed the U.S. all-around and floor exercise titles for the second straight year at the Visa Championships. She also won the all-around and team gold medals at the 2008 Italy-Spain-Poland-USA competition and placed second at the 2008 Tyson American Cup, a prestigious international all-around competition. She has three career world medals to join her four Olympic medals. Johnson trains at Chow’s Gymnastics in West Des Moines, Iowa.
Known as the "Oscar" of sports awards and older than The Heisman, the AAU Sullivan Award honors the outstanding amateur athlete in the United States. It has been presented annually by the AAU since 1930 as a salute to founder and past president of the Amateur Athletic Union, and a pioneer in amateur sports, James E. Sullivan. Based on the qualities of leadership, character, sportsmanship, and the ideals of amateurism, the AAU Sullivan Award goes far beyond athletic accomplishments and honors those who have shown strong moral character.
The five finalists: Cynthia Barboza, Tyler Hansbrough, Shawn Johnson, Nastia Liukin, and Garrett Weber-Gale (member of the U.S. Olympic men’s 4x100m free relay team)