Jessica Hardy Earns Long Beach’s Athlete of the Year For Third Time

LONG BEACH, California, January 7. LONG Beach native Jessica Hardy, who earned three medals at the 2013 FINA World Championships last summer, has been named Athlete of the Year by the Long Beach Aquatic Capital of America Foundation for the third time.

The organization today announced the winners of its fifth annual Aquatic Capital Awards, which recognize individuals and organizations that made the biggest impact to the Long Beach aquatics community during the previous year. This year’s honorees are:

* Jessica Hardy, swimming — 2013 Athlete of the Year
* Ricardo Azevedo, Men’s National Water Polo team, China — 2013 Coach of the Year
* Gary DeLong, Long Beach City Councilman — 2013 Citizen of the Year
* Long Beach City Council — 2013 Organization of the Year
* John Sangmeister, sailing — 2013 Outstanding Achievement Award

Special honorees include Long Beach lifeguard Kelsey O’Donnell; and five Long Beach residents who help organize beach clean-ups throughout the city, Kim Masoner, Stefanie Matthews, Robert Palmer, Justin Rudd and Laurel Terreri. The organization also will award scholarships to the California Aquatic Therapy and Wellness Center and to the Long Beach Junior Lifeguard program to help benefit community members of their choosing.

The Aquatic Capital Award winners will be honored at a dinner and reception on January 22, 2014, at Keesal, Young & Logan.

Hardy, the 2013 Athlete of the Year, was previously honored by the Aquatic Capital Foundation in 2009 and 2011. This past year she reasserted herself as the nation’s premier breaststroker earning three medals during the 2013 FINA World Championships in Barcelona. The current American record holder (and former world record holder) in the 50m and 100m breaststroke, Hardy earned gold as part of the U.S. 4x100m medley relay team and two individual bronze medals. She is a former CIF champion from Wilson High School (2005) and resides in Naples.

Azevedo, a Long Beach State alumnus and former water polo coach, led the Chinese Men’s National Team to their first-ever FINA Men’s World League Super Final and FINA World Aquatic Championships in 2013. As a player, Azevedo was on Brazil’s national team from 1974-1980, and was twice voted as that nation’s Player of the Year. He is the father of U.S. water polo great and former Wilson High School star Tony Azevedo.

Councilman DeLong, the 2013 Citizen of the Year, was selected for leading the effort to improve water quality along our beaches as well as in Alamitos Bay and the Colorado Lagoon. During his term in office, water quality measurements have improved from mostly Ds and Fs to consistently As and Bs. DeLong has also championed the rebuild of the Alamitos Bay Marina, ensuring the project continues to move forward without delay and within budget. A third generation Southern California native, DeLong also serves on the Board of Trustees for the Aquarium of the Pacific, the Board of Governors for the Long Beach City College Foundation, and recently joined the Board of Directors of the Long Beach Ronald McDonald House.

The Aquatic Capital Foundation selected the Long Beach City Council as its Organization of the Year for the council’s commitment to rebuilding the Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool. The council voted in February 2013 to rebuild the historic natatorium and include a full diving well in the new complex. A temporary pool opened in the Belmont Pool parking lot on December 19.

Sangmeister brought acclaim to Long Beach in summer 2013 after he skippered the 73-foot offshore trimaran, “Tritium Racing/Lending Club,” to “First-to-Finish” and “First-in-Class” honors in the 2013 Transpac race from Los Angeles to Honolulu. “Tritium Racing/Lending Club” missed breaking the elapsed record by a mere two hours due to sudden, unexpected impacts with Japanese tsunami debris. Sangmeister, who trained and competed with Dennis Conner in the 1987 and 1992 America’s Cup Challenges aboard Stars & Stripes, owns Gladstone’s Long Beach and has served as a trustee of Miller’s Children’s Hospital.

O’Donnell, who represents Long Beach in United States Lifesaving Association (USLA) competitions, won the national paddle racing title at the 2013 USLA Nationals in Manhattan Beach. A onetime instructor in the city’s Junior Lifeguard program, O’Donnell competed in the International Surf Rescue Challenge in Onjuku Beach, Japan, this past year and has been training with surf clubs in Australia.

The Aquatic Capital Foundation also is honoring five individuals whose organizations conduct or support clean-ups across the city’s beaches year-round. Terreri’s One Piece at a Time clean-ups occurs near Veteran’s Pier at Termino Ave. Matthews’ group, Clean LB, hosts a monthly clean-up that originates at Junipero Beach. Rudd’s CAT (Community Action Team) hosts a 30-Minute Clean-Up monthly at Granada Beach. Masoner’s Save Our Beach organization conducts monthly beach and wetlands cleanups in Seal Beach and Long Beach. Palmer represents the Long Beach chapter of the Surfrider Foundation and is involved in clean-ups throughout the city.

“Once again in 2013 there were a number of individuals and organizations who helped raise the profile of Long Beach as the Aquatic Capital of America,” said Tom Shadden, president, Aquatic Capital of America Foundation. “We are fortunate to call Olympian Jessica Hardy a member of our local aquatics community and are pleased to recognize her as the most outstanding Long Beach aquatics athlete of the past year. The city also provided a major boost to the aquatics community with the approval of the new Belmont Plaza Pool and diving well, new world-class facilities for our community and the region. We congratulate all of this year’s winners for their achievements.”

The Aquatic Capital of America Foundation was established to communicate and promote Long Beach as an aquatic destination for business, education and sports. Previous winners of the Aquatic Athlete of the Year include beach volleyball great Misty May-Treanor (2012), and USA Water Polo Women’s National Team members Lauren Wenger (also in 2012) and Lauren (Lolo) Silver (2010). Previous Citizen of the Year winners are Dr. Jerry Schubel of the Aquarium of the Pacific (2012) and Long Beach city manager Pat West (2011).

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