By John Lohn
NEW YORK, April 14. ON paper, Michael Phelps looked like a strong bet to win a second consecutive Sullivan Award as the nation's premier amateur athlete. After all, Phelps' 2004 campaign was highlighted by an eight-medal haul at the Athens Olympics.
Wednesday night, however, Phelps couldn't beat gymnast Paul Hamm, who was awarded the Sullivan Award, celebrating its 75th anniversary. Phelps, who won last year, was trying to become the first individual to repeat.
Hamm was honored for his victory in the all-around competition at the Olympics. He was in 12th place with two events remaining, but rallied for gold. Hamm also withstood a challenge by South Korea claiming that the gold medal should be awarded to Yang Tae-Young after it was discovered he was incorrectly scored during the all-around final.
Phelps seemed to have a strong case for a repeat, as he won individual Olympic gold in the 100 and 200 butterfly events and the 200 and 400 individual medleys. He also took bronze in the 200 free and won three relay medals, including a pair of gold.
Natalie Coughlin was the other swimmer nominated, based on her five medals from Athens. Coughlin won the 100 backstroke and was part of the American world-record setting 800 freestyle relay.