COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado, December 6. WHEN the United States Sports Academy determined the finalists for its Male and Female Athlete of the Year Awards, two swimmers were named to the nomination list: Aaron Peirsol and Natalie Coughlin. The honors will be distributed based on fan voting through Dec. 24. Fans can vote by visiting the USSA Web site at www.ussa.edu/aoy/index.asp.
Selected as Male Athlete of the Year at the Golden Goggle Awards, Peirsol enjoyed a sterling season in 2005, as he won gold medals at the World Championships in the 100 and 200 backstrokes, along with the 400 medley relay. He also set world records in the 100 and 200 back events during the year. Peirsol has not suffered defeat in the 200 back at the international level since the 2000 Olympics.
As for Coughlin, she collected five medals at the World Champs in Montreal. Coughlin took gold as a member of the 800 free relay, won silver in the 100 back and 400 medley relay and took bronze in the 400 free relay and 100 free. Coughlin owns nine of the 10-fastest times ever produced in the 100 backstroke and is the reigning Olympic champ in the event.
Past winners of the awards include Michael Jordan Annika Sorenstam and Lance Armstrong. Last year, Michael Phelps was the winner on the male side after winning eight medals at the Olympic Games. The other nominees this year include Lance Armstrong, Tom Brady, Reggie Bush, Tim Duncan, Jermaine Dye, Roger Federer, Matt Leinart, Peyton Manning, Bode Miller, Asafa Powell, Tony Stewart and Tiger Woods for the men.
The women’s nominees are Kim Clijsters, Tirunesh Dibaba, Yolanda Griffith, Gao Jun, Deena Kastor, Nastia Liukin, Danica Patrick, Paula Radcliffe, Irina Slutskaya, Annika Sorenstam and Venus Williams.