PHOENIX, Arizona, March 5. VOTING is officially open for the 2012 Sullivan Award. The general public can now cast their votes online for athletes to progress from the semi-finals round.
Several aquatic athletes are on this year's ballot: Missy Franklin (swimming), David Boudia (diving) and Maggie Steffens (water polo).
The American Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) presents the Sullivan Award to "the outstanding amateur athlete in the United States." The general public nominates athletes who are then reviewed by the Sullivan Award Executive Committee. The Committee subsequently narrows the field to approximately ten semi-finalists.
The award is presented every April to the athlete that best demonstrates characteristics of leadership, character, sportsmanship, and the ideals of amateurism on top of their athletic accomplishments.
The first Sullivan Award was presented in 1930 to golfer Bobby Jones, but numerous swimmers have since received the award:
Ann Curtis (1944) Curtis was both the first swimmer and first female to win the award. She won two gold medals, in the 400 freestyle and 4x100 freestyle relay, at the 1948 London Olympics. She passed away on June 26, 2012, weeks before the 2012 London Games.
Don Schollander (1964) Schollander won four gold medals at the 1964 Olympics, making him the most successful athlete to compete in that year's Games.
Debbie Meyer (1968) Meyer won gold in the 200, 400 and 800 freestyle events at the 1968 Olympic Games and was the first woman to have ever won three individual freestyle swimming gold medals in a single Olympics.
John Kinsella (1970) Kinsella was awarded the Sullivan Award as a high school senior, after winning silver in the 1500 at the 1968 Olympics. He is also the first person to break 16 minutes in the 1500 meter freestyle.
Mark Spitz (1971) Spitz received the Sullivan Award prior to his historic seven gold medals at the 1972 Olympics. He was also named Swimming World Magazine World Swimmer of the Year in 1969, 71 and 72.
Tim Shaw (1975) Shaw set three world records in 1974 in the 200, 400 and 1500 meter freestyles, and was named Swimming World Magazine World Swimmer of the Year in 1974 and 75.
John Naber (1977) Naber won four gold medals at the 1976 Olympic Games, and was the first person to swim a 200 meter backstroke under two minutes.
Tracy Caulkins (1978) Caulkins won five gold medals and one silver at the 1978 World Championships as a 15-year-old.
Janet Evans (1989) Evans won three individual gold medals at the 1988 Olympic Games, and held some of the longest-standing world records in distance freestyle events. She was Swimming World Magazine's female World Swimmer of the Year in 1987, 89 and 1990.
Michael Phelps (2003) It is hard to think of a concise introduction for the best Olympic athlete of all time. However, Phelps did win the Sullivan Award prior to earning his first Olympic medal at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
Jessica Long (2006) Long was the first Paralympic athlete to win the Sullivan Award. She has competed in the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Paralympic Games and currently holds 13 Paralympic world records.
Divers that have previously won the Sullivan Award are:
Sammy Lee (1953) Lee is the first Asian American to win an Olympic medal for the United States. He won the Sullivan Award while serving in active duty in Korea as part of the U.S. Army Medical Corps.
Patricia McCormick (1956) McCormick, the first female diver to win the Sullivan Award, won gold medals in both diving events at the consecutive 1952 and 56 Olympic Games.
Greg Louganis (1984) Louganis won two gold medals at the 1984 Olympic Games, and then successfully defended his diving titles at the 1988 Games.
A female water polo player has never won the Sullivan Award, although two-time Olympian Betsey Armstrong was a semi-finalist for last year's award (2011). Tim Shaw, the 1975 Sullivan Award winner, won the award based off of his early accomplishments in swimming, but later played on the USA men's water polo team at the 1984 Olympic Games.