DAPHNE, Ala. – 2008 Olympic all-around champion Nastia Liukin of Parker, Texas, was named the 2008 United States Sports Academy Female Athlete of the Year, which was announced on Dec. 25 after fans around the world voted online at the Academy’s Web site. Swimmer Michael Phelps, who won a record eight gold medals at the 2008 Olympic Games, won the Male Athlete of the Year award. The top three finishers in both the men’s and women’s categories are 2008 Olympic gold medalists.
Finishing second in the female category behind Liukin, who earned five medals in Beijing, was China’s Guo Jinjing, a diver who won two gold medals at the 2008 Olympic Games. Tennis player Serena Williams, who won a gold medal in women’s doubles in Beijing, placed third.
Tennis player Roger Federer of Switzerland and sprinter Usain Bolt of Jamaica finished second and third, respectively, in the male category. Federer won the Olympic gold medal in men’s doubles, as well as the U.S. Open singles championship. Bolt earned three Olympic gold medals and set world records in the 100 meters, 200 meters and 4X100-meter relay in Beijing.
In addition to Liukin, Guo and Williams, the other female nominees were: Rebecca Adlington, United Kingdom, swimming; Kirsty Coventry, Zimbabwe, swimming; Tirunesh Dibaba, Ethiopia, track and field; Yelena Isinbayeva, Russia, track and field; Lorena Ochoa, Mexico, golf; Candace Parker, USA, basketball; Paula Radcliffe, United Kingdom, track and field (marathon); Lindsey Vonn, USA, skiing; and Chrissie Wellington, USA, triathlon.
Along with Phelps, Federer and Bolt, the other male nominees were: Kobe Bryant, USA, basketball; Brian Clay, USA, track and field (decathlon); Haile Gebrselassie, Ethiopia, track and field (marathon); Ryan Howard, USA, baseball; Jimmie Johnson, USA, auto racing (NASCAR); Eli Manning, USA, football (NFL); Rafael Nadal, Spain, tennis; Tim Tebow, USA, football (NCAA); and Tiger Woods, USA, golf.
At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Liukin won a total of five medals, the most by any female gymnast in 2008, to tie the U.S. gymnastics record for most medals in one Olympics, currently held by Mary Lou Retton (1984) and Shannon Miller (1992). Liukin’s medals are: gold – all-around; silver – team, balance beam and uneven bars; and bronze – floor exercise. Liukin is just the third U.S. woman to win the Olympic all-around crown. Earlier in 2008, Liukin won the all-around title at both the Tyson American Cup and the Pacific Rim Championships presented by Gillette Venus. Liukin is coached by her father, Valeri, who has four Olympic medals from 1988, including two gold. She trains at WOGA.
Presented by USATODAY.com and NBCSports.com, the United States Sports Academy Athlete of the Year award is the culmination of the Academy’s yearlong Athlete of the Month program, which recognizes the accomplishments of men and women in sports around the world. The Academy’s Athlete of the Month is selected by an international voting committee of former athletes, media, sports organizations and governing bodies.