COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The United States Olympic Committee announced today that 2004 U.S. Olympic gold and two-time silver medal gymnast Paul Hamm (Waukesha, Wis.) and the 2004 Olympic gold medal U.S. Women’s Beach Volleyball Team of Misty May (Newport Beach, Calif.) and Kerri Walsh (Saratoga, Calif.) have been named the winners of the 2004 U.S. Olympic Spirit Award, presented by Nu Skin Enterprises.
“It’s an honor for the U.S. Olympic Committee to recognize these athletes. We are grateful to our sponsor, Nu Skin Enterprises for their ongoing support,” said Jim Scherr, Chief Executive and Chief of Sport Performance for the United States Olympic Committee. “The accomplishments of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Teams, and all of the athletes who competed in Athens, reflect the true meaning of the Olympic spirit. It is through their efforts that the ideals of the Olympic Movement are demonstrated and furthered.”
“From the moment we stepped off the plane in Athens to the moment we heard our Anthem being played on the podium, we had an overwhelming sense of Olympic spirit and what it meant to be an Olympian and represent our country on the world stage,” expressed Kerri Walsh from her home in California.
Nu Skin Enterprises is the official sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Spirit Award for the years 2000, 2002 and 2004. The company will donate $2,000 to each male and female winner/team, which will then be given to an Olympic-related charity of their choice. In addition, Nu Skin Enterprises has provided ongoing support of Olympic-related charities through the sale of their Olympic-licensed Epoch products.
The U.S. Olympic Spirit Award
The U.S. Olympic Spirit Award, sponsored by the Nu Skin and Pharmanex divisions of Nu Skin Enterprises, celebrates more than gold-medal winning performances. It recognizes athletes who have struggled to overcome adversity in their quest for an Olympic title and who best exemplify the Olympic spirit through courage, commitment, perseverance and vision. The award was created in 1968.
Winners for the 2004 U.S. Olympic Spirit Award were selected by the public via online voting at www.usolympicteam.com and NuSkin Enterprises internal voting at www.nuskinenterprises.com. More than 20,000 U.S. Olympic Team fans submitted online votes for the U.S. Olympians they believed best represented the ideals reflected in the U.S. Olympic Spirit Award.
About the Recipients/Honorees
Ranking a disappointing 12th after four rotations in the men’s gymnastics all-around competition at the 2004 Olympic Games, Paul Hamm stormed back to post consecutive 9.837 scores on the parallel bars and horizontal bar to capture the USA’s first ever all-around gold medal. The win was the first Olympic medal for the U.S. in the all-around since Peter Vidmar took the silver at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Just five days later, Hamm executed a near flawless routine to earn the silver in the high bar final, but missed capturing a third medal in the parallel bars by just .05 points. Hamm was also awarded the silver medal in the team competition.
“I was really surprised when I found out I won the Spirit Award,” said Paul Hamm. “I am really honored to have been nominated with athletes who have a ton of Olympic Spirit, like Michael Phelps. People on the street have been telling me ‘congratulations, you made us all proud and represented us well.’ It is great to see that so many Americans felt that I had enough Olympic spirit to earn this award.”
Misty May and Kerri Walsh had been sitting on top of the international beach volleyball rankings prior to arriving in Athens. In June 2004, May was sidelined due to an abdominal strain, making it questionable whether or not she would play with her long-time partner Walsh in the Olympic Games. Cleared to compete, the duo moved through the brackets undefeated in their seven matches before heading into and dominating the gold medal match to earn the first-ever Olympic medal for America in women’s beach volleyball.
“Winning the U.S. Olympic Spirit Award is a huge honor for Misty and I,” Walsh explained. “We had a blast.”
Following Hamm for the men’s honorees were Rulon Gardner (Afton, Wyo.) and Michael Phelps (Towson, Md.). Gardner, the 2000 Olympic Champion in the Greco-Roman wrestling 120 kg/264.5 lbs weightclass, overcame a near death snowmobile accident to return to the Olympic spotlight and capture the bronze in Athens. Swimmer Phelps earned eight Olympic medals, including six gold, to finish third in the online voting.
Barb Lindquist (Victor, Idaho) and Deena Kastor (Mammoth Lakes, Calif.) were second and third, respectively, in the women’s category. Before finishing ninth in Athens, Lindquist won one of the biggest triathlons in history when she took home $250,000 from the 2003 Life Time Fitness Triathlon in Minneapolis, Minn. Kastor captured Olympic bronze in the women’s marathon, earning the U.S. its first marathon medal 20 years after Joan Benoit Samuelson won the first women’s marathon at the 1984 Olympic Games.
Past U.S. Olympic Spirit Award Winners
First awarded in 1968 to Billy Kidd (skiing) and Bob Beamon (athletics), Hamm, May and Walsh join an impressive list of U.S. Olympic Spirit Award recipients including Scott Hamilton (1984/figure skating), Dan Jansen (1988, 1994/speedskating), Gail Devers (1992/athletics) and Kerri Strug (1996/gymnastics).
Following the 2000 Olympic Games, Olympic gold medal diver, Laura Wilkinson, and Olympic gold medal wrestler, Rulon Gardner, were honored, and after the 2002 Olympic Winter Games the award was presented to bronze medalist Chris Klug (skiing/parallel giant slalom) and the 2002 gold medal winning U.S. Women’s Bobsled Team of Jill Bakken and Vonetta Flowers.
Past U.S. Olympic Spirit Award winners:
1968 – Billy Kidd, skiing // Bob Beamon, athletics
1972 – Mike Curran, ice hockey // Dave Wottle, athleti