|Orlando, Fla. – 2001 U.S. National Champion Sean Townsend has been named one of fourteen finalists for the 72nd Annual AAU James E. Sullivan Memorial Award which recognizes the top amateur athlete in the nation.
“I am honored to be named a finalist,” said Townsend. “It’s exciting to have my name listed among so many amazing current and past athletes.”
Townsend earned a gold medal on the parallel bars at the 2001 World Championships, the first gold medal won for the U.S. men since 1979. He also helped the team to an unprecedented silver medal.
Other finalists for the 2001 Sullivan Award include Tony Azevedo (waterpolo), Natalie Coughlin (swimming), Michelle Kwan (figure skating), Matt Lindland (wrestling), Stephen Lopez (taekwondo), Ryan Miller (hockey), Toccara Montgomery (wrestling), Brandon Paulson (wrestling), Mark Prior (baseball), Jason Read (rowing), Allen Webb (track and field), Angela Williams (track and field) and Roy Williams (football).
Narrowed from a field of 30 nominees, the first-round finalists will be reduced to five athletes and their names will be released in mid-March. From the five names, the national winner will be formally recognized in early April.
Kurt Thomas is the only gymnast in history to have won the Sullivan Award when he was honored in 1979. Previous gymnasts to be named finalists are Kristen Maloney in 1998, Blaine Wilson in 1997, Shannon Miller in 1996 and 1995, 1994 and 1993, Dominique Dawes in 1994, Kim Zmeskal in 1991, Brandy Johnson in 1989, Scott Johnson in 1987, Kristie Phillips in 1986, Mary Lou Retton and Bart Conner in 1984, Thomas in 1978, Stephanie Willim in 1977, Kathy Howard in 1975, John Crosby in 1971, Joyce Tanac in 1969, Linda Metheny in 1967, Muriel Davis Grossfeld in 1963, Clara Schroth in 1946 and Alfred Jochim in 1933.
The award, given to the outstanding amateur athlete in the United States, is based on qualities of leadership, character, sportsmanship and the ideals of amateurism. Both athletic accomplishment and strong moral character are considered by a 800 member panel of AAU board of directors, the U.S. Olympic Committee board of directors, the AAU Sullivan Committee, past Sullivan Award winners, and a select members of the sports media.
“These individuals exemplify the best amateur athletes in all of sport with their commitment to sportsmanship, community, and education,” said AAU President Bobby Dodd. “The AAU represents 34 sports from the grass roots to the national level and they are the role models for our athletes to follow.”
Considered the “Oscar” of sports awards, the AAU James E. Sullivan Award has been presented to prominent athletes of our time including last year’s recipient Olympic Golf Medalist, Rulon Gardner. Others include: Chamique Holdsclaw (1998), Peyton Manning (1997), William “Bill” Bradley (1965), Dan Jansen (1994), Janet Evans (1989), Jim Abbott (1987), Jackie Joyner-Kersee (1986), Greg Louganis (1984), and the late Florence Griffith-Joyner (1988).
The AAU James E. Sullivan Memorial Award has been presented annually by the AAU since 1930 as a salute to founder and past president of the AAU, and a pioneer in amateur sports, James E. Sullivan. The winner of the AAU Sullivan Award receives a bronze replica of the original trophy that depicts the figure of a runner carrying a laurel branch mounted on a black pedestal.
The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) is one of the largest, non-profit, volunteer, sports organizations in the United States. A multi-sport organization, the AAU is dedicated exclusively to the promotion and development of amateur sports and physical fitness programs for all ages. Nearly 500,000 participants and over 50,000 volunteers share our philosophy of “Sports for All, Forever. Divided into 57 distinct associations, the AAU sanctions more than 34 sports programs, 250 national championships and over 10,000 local events across the United States annually. For more information on the AAU please visit www.aausports.org.