Jenny Thompson added to her impressive list of accolades with one of the year’s most prestigious awards as she was named the USOC SportsWoman of the Year today. Thompson is the seventh swimmer in history to win this honor, following in the steps of swimming greats Shirley Babashoff (1974), Kathy Heddy (1975), Tracy Caulkins (1978, 1984), Cynthia Woodhead (1979), Janet Evans (1989) and Amy Van Dyken (1996).
“I was really surprised to receive this honor over such high profile athletes as Serena Williams and Michelle Akers,” Thompson said. “I expected good things of 1999. Looking back, I did accomplish a lot and I’m proud of myself, but I’m looking for even better things next year.”
Thompson was arguably the most dominant female swimmer in the world this year. At the 1999 Pan Pacific Championships, she grabbed six gold medals while breaking one of the oldest world records in the books with her 100m butterfly performance. That swim earned her USA Swimming Performance of the Year honors. Thompson also broke three short course world records in 1999 and was named Performer of the Meet at the Short Course World Championships, where she won three gold medals. She claimed three titles at the 1999 Summer Nationals, giving her 23 career titles, the most of any active swimmer. At year’s end, Thompson was named Swimming World’s female “American Swimmer of the Year” for the second straight year.
In her career, Thompson has won five Olympic gold medals, including three in 1996. She also won four gold medals at the 1998 World Championships and has been a member of USA Swimming’s National A team for 13 consecutive years — since she was 13 years old. She is a native of Dover, N.H., and now resides in Menlo Park, Calif., where she trains at Stanford University. Thompson is a 1995 graduate of Stanford and plans to attend medical school after the 2000 Olympics.
The other two finalists for this year’s SportsWoman of the Year award were tennis great Serena Williams and soccer standout Michelle Akers.