LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida, March 11. WORLD and Olympic champions David Boudia and Katie Ledecky, as well as star water polo player Rachel Fattal, are nominated for the Amateur Athletic Union’s prestigious James E. Sullivan Award, which is given annually to, according to the AAU, “the nation’s outstanding amateur athlete.”
In recent years, the term “amateur” has been redefined greatly, as many sports now allow their top athletes who are not NCAA eligible to receive compensation and sponsorship while performing at a high level. Boudia is one of those athletes, having turned pro after winning gold in platform diving at the 2012 Olympics and forgoing his senior year of eligibility at Purdue.
The nominations for Boudia, Fattal and Ledecky continues a long tradition of aquatic sport athletes nominated for this award. If one of their names is announced at the awards ceremony on April 11, it will be the second straight year that an aquatic sport athlete has won the award. Missy Franklin was last year’s winner after her successful Olympic debut in 2012.
Boudia won the silver medal in platform diving at the 2013 world championships, which made him the first American to win medals in successive world championships in that event since Greg Louganis did it in 1986. As for Ledecky, she two world records at the world championships in the 800 and 1500 freestyles and was just the second female to break four minutes in the 400 freestyle en route to winning that gold medal. Fattal had a busy year, helping UCLA place third at the NCAA championships while winning Rookie of the Year. She was also at the world championships, where the USA placed fifth overall. She was also voted MVP at the junior world championships where she finally captured a gold medal.
A list of three finalists will be announced later this month, with the winner named at a gala in Orlando, Fla., on April 11. The public is invited to vote for their favorite athlete at the AAU website through March 23. Public voting accounts for one-third of the final tally.
Other nominees for the Sullivan Award this year are: baton twirler Ashley Bishop, Central Florida football player Blake Bortles, Oregon multi-sport athlete Liz Brenner, inline hockey player Joy Woog-Garvey, Connecticut basketball player Bria Hartley, powerlifter Robert Herbst, Miami volleyball player Alex Johnson, Auburn football player Tre Mason, Alabama football player AJ McCarron, Florida runner Cory Ann McGee, taekwondo player John Michael Nagel, Nebraska volleyball player Kelsey Robinson, Louisville basketball players Jude and Shoni Schimmel, Penn State football player John Urschel and Saint Francis basketball player Alli Williams.
Fifteen aquatic sport athletes have won the Sullivan Award since its debut in 1930, all of which were swimmers and divers. Ann Curtis was the first swimmer to win it in 1944, and Sammy Lee became the first diver to win the Sullivan Award, doing so in 1953. Below is a full list of swimmers and divers who have won the Sullivan Award:
Ann Curtis (swimming), 1944
Sammy Lee (diving), 1953
Pat McCormick (diving), 1956
Don Schollander (swimming), 1964
Debbie Meyer (swimming), 1968
John Kinsella (swimming), 1970
Mark Spitz (swimming), 1971
Tim Shaw (swimming), 1975
John Naber (swimming), 1977
Tracy Caulkins (swimming), 1978
Greg Louganis (diving), 1984
Janet Evans (swimming), 1989
Michael Phelps (swimming), 2003
Jessica Long (swimming), 2006
Missy Franklin (swimming), 2012