NEW YORK, October 22. ERIN Popovich, from Silverbow, Montana, was chosen from a group of eight of the best female athletes in the world as the winner of the Women’s Sports Foundation’s Individual Sportswoman of the Year on Oct. 17. Popovich, who won seven gold medals (out of seven events) at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens, received the honor at the 26th Annual Salute to Women in Sports Awards Gala and Auction at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City.
The only Paralympian among the finalists, Popovich was the most decorated athlete of the Paralympic Games. In addition to her medals, she set 12 records in her five individual events, including three world records (50 freestyle, 50 butterfly and 200 individual medley), four Paralympic records (50 free, 100 free, 50 fly and 200 IM) and a Pan American record in every race (200 IM, 100 free, 100 breaststroke, 50 fly and 50 free).
The other finalists for the award were hurdler Joanna Hayes, snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis, race car driver Danica Patrick, skeleton athlete Noelle Pikus-Pace, speedskater Jennifer Rodriguez, figure skater Irina Slutskaya and golfer Annika Sorenstam.
Making her entrance onto the stage with some of sports’ finest athletes, Angela Duckworth, 15, was presented with the SportsGirl of the Year award. As a nationally ranked swimmer, Duckworth’s dedication to her sport is reflected in the time she commits to her community. She has volunteered for the Special Olympics, participated in the City of Hope’s Walk, American Cancer Society’s “Climb for the Cure” and the Paradise Heights Adult Care Home for elderly people,; and acted as a team leader for the American Cancer Society’s “Relay for Life,” raising more than $2,000 for cancer research and education.