INDIANAPOLIS – In winning the 2004 Olympic All-Around title, Carly Patterson became just the second U.S. gymnast in history to be crowned Olympic champion.
On Tuesday, Patterson was named the United States Olympic Committee’s 2004 USOC SportsWoman of the Year, again becoming just the second U.S. woman gymnast in history to win the honor, following in the footsteps of 1991 World All-Around champion Kim Zmeskal.
Patterson, 16, was voted first among 49 women nominees in balloting among national media, the USOC Board of Directors, and the Athletes’ Advisory Council. The SportsMan of the Year award went to eight-time Olympic medalist Michael Phelps, with the 9-0 Women’s Softball Olympic Team earning the Team of the Year honor. Olympic All-Around champion Paul Hamm finished second in men’s balloting.
“I am truly honored to be selected for this award considering all the great accomplishments of the women’s athletes and the entire U.S. delegation in Athens ,” Patterson said. “I am proud to have been a part of this record-breaking period in USA Gymnastics history and hope that our efforts will inspire a whole new level of competitive fire among future generations of athletes.”
In 2004, Patterson won 11 gold and four silver medals, 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.
Following are highlights of Patterson’s 2004 season:
• Visa American Cup: Patterson swept all four events en route to winning her second consecutive All-Around title at the Visa American Cup at Madison Square Garden – the world’s most prestigious international invitational.
• Pacific Alliance Gymnastics Championships: Patterson added three golds and a silver to her collection at the Pacific Alliance Championships – team, beam, and floor gold, and all-around silver.
• Visa U.S. Gymnastics Championships: Patterson won a share of her first national All-Around title, plus a silver on balance beam and gold on the floor exercise at the 2004 Visa U.S. Gymnastics Championships.
• Olympic Games: Patterson won three Olympic medals – All-Around gold, balance beam and team silver – in her first Olympic Games. Patterson became the first American Olympic All-Around champion since Mary Lou Retton in 1984, and the first-ever AA champ in a non-boycotted Games for the U.S.
Olympic All-Around champion Paul Hamm, cyclist Lance Armstrong ( Austin , Texas ), track and field athlete Justin Gatlin ( Raleigh , N.C. ) and taekwondo’s Steven Lopez ( Sugar Land , Texas ) followed Phelps in the SportsMan of the Year voting.
Hamm 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 Olympic performance is one of the greatest victories in Olympic history, as he surged back from a nasty fall on vault, climbing from 12 th to 1 st in just two rotations for the gold by the slimmest of margins – just 0.012. Earlier in the season, Hamm won his third consecutive Visa Championships all-around title, finished third all-around at the Visa American Cup, and won a record seven medals at the Pacific Alliance Championships. Hamm was awarded the USOC’s Spirit of the Flame Award in January for his sportsmanship and “never-say-die” effort.
Two swimmers – Olympian Natalie Coughlin ( Concord , Calif. ) and Paralympian Erin Popovich ( Silverbow , Mont. ) – tied for the runner-up spot in the SportsWoman of the Year voting. Other top finishers were fencer Mariel Zaguinis ( Beaverton , Ore. ) and softball veteran Lisa Fernandez ( Long Beach , Calif.).
The USOC SportsMan and SportsWoman of the Year awards have been presented annually since 1974 to the top overall male and female athlete from within the USOC member organizations. The team award was added in 1996. Voters for the awards include national media, the USOC Board of Directors and the USOC Athletes’ Advisory Council. Winners are selected from the individual female and male Athlete of the Year and Team of the Year nominations of the National Governing Bodies for the Olympic, Pan American, Affiliated and Disabled Sports Organizations within the U.S. Olympic Movement.