PHOENIX, Arizona, December 20. MICHAEL Phelps has been named the Male Athlete of the Year by The Associated Press, continuing a year of accolades that include the titles Greatest Olympian of All Time and Swimming World Magazine World Male Athlete of the Year.
Perhaps the news comes as no great shock to the swimming community at large, given his monumental feats not only in 2012, but over a 12-year elite competitive career. It's his second time he's been honored with Male Athlete of the Year by the AP amidst a legendary group of athletes, having first won the award back in 2008. Though the results of voting in 2008 were likely close to a landslide, given that Phelps had just achieved the miraculous with eight gold medals in Beijing, it was not that easy in 2012.
Phelps, 27, received 40 votes for the award by AP's American editors and broadcasters, just barely beating out basketball star LeBron James, who got 37 votes. Runner Usain Bolt, who jockeyed with Phelps for media attention at the Olympics, was third with 23 votes.
The name of the 2012 female athlete of the year has not yet been announced. Swimming could have a few names in the running with Olympic champions Missy Franklin, Katie Ledecky and Allison Schmitt likely to have impressed AP voters this year.
Carl Lewis was the only other Olympic athlete to win twice. Those who have received the honor more than twice are likely resting easy, knowing that Phelps announced his retirement. Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong received the award four times, while Michael Jordan won three.
“Obviously, it's a big accomplishment,” Phelps told AP's Paul Newberry today. “There's so many amazing male athletes all over the world and all over our country. To be able to win this is something that just sort of tops off my career.”
Below are some of the landmark accomplishments Phelps achieved just this year:
Six medals at the London Olympics, four of which were gold;
Furthered his reign as the most-decorated Olympian with 22 total medals, and secured his spot as the winningest Olympian with 18 golds, equal to the most medals of any color won by anyone in history;
The first male to win the same individual event at the Olympics three consecutive times, doing it twice in the 200 individual medley and 100 butterfly;
The first male to win the same event at three consecutive Olympics, doing it three times in the 200 freestyle, 200 butterfly and 200 individual medley.
Phelps is part of a rich tradition of swimmers to win AP Athlete of the Year. Among the men, Don Schollander was the first after his four gold medals in 1964, followed by Mark Spitz in 1972 after his 7-for-7 haul in Munich. Among the women, Helene Madison was the first recipient of the female honor in 1931, followed by Katherine Rawls in 1937. Gloria Callen in 1942 and Ann Curtis in 1944 kept the tradition going. In 1962, Dawn Fraser won the award and Debbie Meyers earned the honor in 1969. Amy van Dyken was the last swimmer not named “Phelps” to win the award, which she did following her amazing performances at the 1996 Olympics.
Phelps continues to enjoy retirement, according to The Associated Press. He's in Mexico with golf coach Hank Haney, working on his game and filming segments for the upcoming season of “The Haney Project” on the Golf Channel.