Filipino Boxer Pacquiao, Russian Pole Vaulter Isinbaeva Win Academy’s 2009 Athlete of the Year Honors

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Boxer Manny Pacquiao (left) and Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbaeva

Two outstanding international athletes, each with strong cases to be considered the best-ever in their respective sports, have been named the 2009 United States Sports Academy’s Male and Female Athletes of the Year.

Boxer Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines and Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbaeva were selected through a worldwide ballot that saw the public cast more than 1.9 million votes thanks to distribution through the websites of NBC Sports and USA Today.

The Academy’s international reach has always been strong, and that was reflected in the final vote results. Each of the top three finishers on the men’s and women’s sides hailed from countries other than the United States.

The Athlete of the Year competition consisted of 12 male and 12 female candidates from around the world, representing a dozen countries. And as the resumes of the runners-up show, the field had plenty of tremendous candidates.

Finishing second in the men’s balloting was Swiss tennis star Roger Federer, who won his record 15th Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, less than a month after completing the career Grand Slam at the French Open. In third place was another amazing 2009 performer, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt. Already the defending Olympic champion in the events, Bolt stunned the sports landscape at the world track and field championships by lowering his already world-record times in the 100 and 200. Bolt won the 100 in 9.58 seconds and the 200 in 19.19, lowering each mark by a stunning .11 seconds.

Still, it’s hard to fault sports fans for choosing Pacquiao in 2009. “Pac-Man” became the first boxer to win titles in seven different weight classes, claiming the light welterweight title over Ricky Hatton in May before winning the welterweight title over Miguel Cotto in November. A highly anticipated match with American Floyd Mayweather looms in early 2010. Pacquiao has a career record of 50-3-2 with 38 knockouts.

Isinbaeva, 27, says goodbye to 2009 with the outdoor (16 feet, 6 inches or 5.06 meters) and indoor (16 feet, 4 inches or 5 meters) world records. That shouldn’t be a surprise, considering she has broken 27 total during her career. But this year she became the first woman to clear 16 feet indoors, an amazing accomplishment. Among her other honors in 2009 were the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year and the Prince of Asturias Award for Sports.

Finishing second in the women’s balloting was Mexican golfer Lorena Ochoa, who won her fourth straight Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Player of the Year crown and fourth straight Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average. Kenyan distance runner Linet Masai placed third after winning the 10,000 meters at the world track and field championships and leading her team to first place in the World Cross Country Championships.

The Athlete of the Year ballot is the culmination of the yearlong Athlete of the Month program, which recognizes the accomplishments of men and women in sports around the globe. The Athlete of the Month is selected by an international voting committee comprised of media members and representatives of sports organizations and governing bodies.

Sport Artist Charles Billich Wins Prestigious Competition in Italy

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“Angels and Demons of Florence” by Charles Billich

Charles Billich of Australia, the 2000 American Sport Art Museum and Archives (ASAMA) Sport Artist of the Year, won an award at the prestigious Florence Biennale in Italy on 16 December 2009.

Billich won the Biennale for his painting “Angels and Demons of Florence.” His career has spanned more than 50 years. Among his honors was being appointed the official artist to the Australian team at the 1996 Atlanta Games. His popular Bing Mah Jong series of Terracotta warriors participating in Olympic sports is on display at the United States Sports Academy.

The Florence Biennale, which began in 1997, is one of the most comprehensive exhibitions of contemporary artists in the world.

Academy Art Presentations Planned for 21-22 January

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The United States Sports Academy has two art events planned in conjunction with the annual Board of Trustees meeting on 21-22 January 2010.

The works of TAFA, the 2010 American Sport Art Museum and Archives (ASAMA) Sport Artist of the Year, will be on display during a public art show at 5 p.m. on Thursday, 21 January.

The Academy will also unveil the first stage of 2009 Sport Artist of the Year Bruce Larsen’s Iron Bowl sculpture, which honors the history of the Alabama-Auburn football rivalry, at 4 p.m. on Friday, 22 January.

Florida’s Foley Presented Academy’s Sports Management Award

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Florida Director of Athletics Jeremy Foley, left, accepts the United States Sports Academy’s Carl Maddox Sports Management Award from Academy Board of Trustees member Jimmy Carnes.

University of Florida Director of Athletics Jeremy Foley was presented with the 2009 United States Sports Academy’s Carl Maddox Sports Management Award on 22 December 2009. Jimmy Carnes, a member of the Academy’s Board of Trustees and member of the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame, made the presentation.

Foley rose from ticket office intern to the leader of one of the most successful college athletic departments in the country. He has steered Florida’s emergence as one of the most successful — and profitable — athletic institutions in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). In rough economic times, when the NCAA estimates that fewer than 25% of all Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools made money in 2007-08, Florida’s $89 million athletic program is alive and well on and off the field of play.

Foley has been Florida’s director of athletics since 1992, and is the longest tenured AD in the Southeastern Conference (SEC). Since he took over in Gainesville, Florida has won three national championships in football, back-to-back titles in basketball and 13 national titles in all. He is the only athletic director in Division I history to supervise a program that has won multiple national titles in football and men’s basketball. Under Foley’s guidance Florida became the first program in collegiate history to own the football and men’s basketball national championships in the same calendar year (2006).

Florida athletes have also been impressive academically under Foley’s watch. Entering the 2008-09 season, Florida has had 72 Academic All-Americans, the fourth-highest among all Division I colleges since 1992. Florida student-athletes also give back to the community, with more than 3,000 hours of community service time logged in 2008-09.

The Carl Maddox Sports Management Award, named in honor of the former athletic director of Louisiana State University and Mississippi State University, Corbet Award and United States Sports Academy trustee member, is given annually to an individual for his or her contributions to the growth and development of sport enterprise through effective management practices. The individual should exhibit master of all the management functions, be well known in the sport arena, and have an abiding belief in the need for ethical behavior in sport management.

Longtime St. Francis Baseball Coach Receives Academy’s Distinguished Service Award

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Linda Moore, a United States Sports Academy Board of Trustee member, presents a Distinguished Service Award to University of St. Francis baseball coach Gordie Gillespie.

University of St. Francis baseball coach Gordie Gillespie, the winningest coach in college baseball history, received a Distinguished Service Award (DSA) from the United States Sports Academy. Academy Board of Trustee member Dr. Linda Moore, the senior director of business administration for ESPN, made the presentation on 21 December 2009.

Gillespie, who turns 84 in April 2010, will begin his 58th season of coaching baseball next year. He has compiled a career record of 1,816 wins and 922 losses. More than half his victories have come at St. Francis, where he coached from 1977 through 1995 and again from 2006 until the present.

Gillespie has been inducted into 16 halls of fame, including the College Baseball Hall of Fame this past summer, and is a four-time National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Coach of the Year. Gillespie’s 1993 team won the first national championship in St. Francis school history, regardless of sport.

The DSA is given annually to those individuals who have made outstanding contributions to national or international sports through instruction, research or service. The DSA is separate from the Academy’s Awards of Sport and each recipient also receives the coveted Order of the Eagle Exemplar for their achievements.

Each nominee must possess an extensive background in sports. This means that the individual must have had significant dealings in either instruction, research or service in sports for more than 10 years.

‘The Biggest Loser’ Co-hosts Presented With Academy’s Fitness Award

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Dr. Gary Cunningham, left, a member of the United States Sports Academy’s Board of Trustees, presents the Dwight D. Eisenhower Fitness Award to “The Biggest Loser” co-hosts Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels.

Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper, the trainers on the hit NBC show “The Biggest Loser,” were presented with the 2009 United States Sports Academy’s Dwight David Eisenhower Fitness Award. Dr. Gary Cunningham, a member of the Academy’s Board of Trustees and a former UCLA basketball standout and coach, made the presentation to the hosts of the successful show on 17 December on “The Biggest Loser” set in Calabasas, Calif.

Since debuting in 2004, “The Biggest Loser” has become a worldwide phenomenon. It is shown in over 90 countries and produced in 25 countries. “The Biggest Loser” has grown to become a standalone health and lifestyle brand by developing tools and products inspired by the show and approved by its doctors and experts. Products include The New York Times best-selling books series, best-selling fitness DVD series, a line of appliances, fitness equipment, protein supplements and countless other health and lifestyle based products.

The first reality series where everybody “loses,” “The Biggest Loser” challenges and encourages overweight contestants to shed pounds in a safe and recommended manner through comprehensive diet and exercise as they compete for a grand prize of $250,000. Hosted by Alison Sweeney (Days of our Lives), the series provides the contestants with challenges, temptations, weigh-ins and eliminations until the final contestant remains to claim the title of “The Biggest Loser.” Contestants work out under the supervision of Michaels and Harper. The show is based in southern California.

The Dwight David Eisenhower Fitness Award is presented to a person who has shown outstanding individual or cumulative achievement in fitness and has contributed to the growth and development of sport fitness through outstanding leadership activity.

Spanish Fort Middle School Students Boost Academy Toy Drive

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Spanish Fort Middle School teachers, from left, Beverly Floyd and Cheramie Jordan gather in front of the Christmas Tree at the United States Sports Academy this past week after dropping off toys donated by their school.

Students at Spanish Fort Middle School have embraced the true spirit of Christmas by helping other children who may not be as fortunate at this time of year.

Students from the school donated more than 350 toys to the United States Sports Academy during this past week, including one individual who donated more than 120 toys by herself.

The toys will be forwarded to Salvation Army and distributed to area children this holiday season. The Spanish Fort Beta Club organized the toy drive for the school. The Beta Club promotes high academic achievement and encourages service to others while developing character and leadership skills.

The Academy will continue to accept toys from the public through Christmas Eve from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Academy’s Toys for Tots Drive a Success

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Faculty and staff of the United States Sports Academy gathered with Col. John DeWitt and Toys for Tots regional coordinator Shinora Redmond on Friday, 11 December at the Academy.

The Academy donated more than 2,000 toys to the cause. The toys will be redistributed to needy children in Baldwin County.

People can still drop off toys at the Academy, One Academy Drive in Daphne, throughout the holiday season. The Academy is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Actor, Activist and Veteran J.R. Martinez Named Academy’s Courage Winner

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J.R. Martinez

When Dalton (Ga.) High School Athletic Director Ronnie McClurg first saw 17-year-old J.R. Martinez practice with his football team, he knew he had something special.

“I told him after the first practice that he made the team,” said McClurg, who was Dalton’s head football coach at the time. “It was not because of his ability. It was because of his attitude and the morale he generated around him. He did not know a single person there, but you would have thought he was the captain by the way he communicated with his teammates on the first day.”

Now, millions of people know who he is. Martinez, the United States Sports Academy’s 2009 winner of the Mildred “Babe” Didrikson-Zaharias Courage Award, is now a regular on the television soap opera “All My Children” despite the visible facial scars given to him by a roadside bomb in Iraq – ones that 32 surgeries could not take away. The Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran tirelessly tours the country giving motivational speeches, charming far more people now than he did as a handsome teenager in Georgia eight years ago.

Martinez moved from Hope, Arkansas to Dalton the summer before his senior year in high school because of a job opportunity his mother had. Though he was in position to start on defense in Hope before the move, he was determined to find a position on the new team in Dalton.

“I thought he was a delightful person to work with and very entertaining on the field,” said Hope High School head coach Johnny Turner.

Martinez called McClurg when he first arrived in Dalton and asked about trying out for the team. McClurg said he usually doesn’t keep seniors on the team unless they are starters or on special teams, but there was something about Martinez. He played running back as well as special teams for Dalton, contributing strongly to his team making the state finals.

The Catamounts’ opponent in the finals, Statesboro, was also their final opponent in the regular season. Statesboro ran a wishbone offense, a tricky, run-oriented formation made famous in college by Alabama, Texas and Oklahoma. It involves three running backs in the backfield, two halfbacks and a fullback, with the fullback slightly closer to the quarterback than the halfbacks.

“After we watched the game films J.R. volunteered to work on scout teams, playing the role of their (Statesboro’s) fullback,” McClurg said. “He took a real pounding that week. But that was his attitude. He wanted to do whatever was best for his team, just like he wanted to do whatever was best for his country.”

Both McClurg and Turner referred to Martinez as a “hard-nosed player.”

“He was very physical for his size,” Turner said. “He was very energetic about his team. Everyone on the team liked him. He led by example.”

The impact he had on the Dalton community in just one year was more than evident when he returned from Iraq.

The player “who would never quit” nearly quit life as well as the game after a land-mine planted in Karbala, Iraq trapped him inside the Humvee he was driving leaving him severely burned one year after he graduated Dalton and joined the Army. Upon his first look in the mirror he stopped eating and refused to speak to anyone as he contemplated his injuries and future. The explosion left 40 percent of his body burned, including the entire left side of his face. After 32 surgeries – the longest lasting 15 hours – over 34 months, Martinez decided to use the scars to “get people’s attention” and have his voice heard and more importantly, his positive message of life and faith heard.

“He had an opportunity to just quit,” McClurg said. “He could have quit when he came to us, but J.R. had no quit in him and certainly has not quit since he was wounded.”

Martinez leads the way, working and speaking with our wounded warriors, helping them visualize the possibilities in life. But he doesn’t stop there. He continues to create a world where his message of courage, faith and perseverance is heard by troops and civilians alike, using his role as Brot on “All My Children,” where he plays a veteran who is re-establishing his life in the civilian world. Currently, his storyline finds him falling in love with a beautiful character, but because of his disfigurement, he is unsure if his romantic attention will be accepted.

The Mildred “Babe” Didrikson-Zaharias Courage Award is presented annually as part of the American Sport Art Museum and Archives (ASAMA) Academy Awards of Sport program, honoring the artist and the athlete. It is presented to an individual who demonstrates courageous action in overcoming adversity to excel in sport and exhibits grace and perseverance in doing so.

Expert on Concussions Named Sports Medicine Award Winner

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Dr. Robert Cantu

Dr. Robert Cantu, considered a pioneer in the diagnosis and treatment of concussions, has been named the 2009 United States Sports Academy Ernst Jokl Sports Medicine Award winner.

Dr. Cantu is known throughout the world for his work on catastrophic head and neck injuries, concussions and post concussive syndrome. He was the first doctor to establish a grading scale for concussions (Grades 1, 2 and 3), based on symptoms at the time of injury. His background on the subject has provided medical professionals with much-needed guidelines where previously none had existed.

Cantu is a clinical professor of neurosurgery at Boston University School of Medicine and co-director of the Neurological Sports Injury Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He has become a voice for newspaper reporters seeking information on the National Football League (NFL) and the continuing debate on the league’s policies on concussions and studies that link head injuries on the football field with brain disease.

The Dr. Ernst Jokl Sports Medicine Award is named in honor of a former Olympic athlete, international sports medicine scholar and Director of the University of Kentucky Rehabilitation Center. It is given annually to an individual for his or her contributions to the growth and development of sports medicine through practice and/or scholarly activity. The individual should exhibit a mastery of some aspect of sports medicine through practice or research, be well known in the sports medicine field and have an abiding belief in and practice of ethical behavior in pursuit of knowledge.

Florida’s Tebow Youngest to win Academy’s Humanitarian Award

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There is no better praise than the kind that comes from a rival player, team or coach. Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, the youngest winner in the history of the United States Sports Academy’s Jackie Robinson Humanitarian Award, receives plenty of praise from coaches all over the Southeastern Conference.

“Football. Athleticism. Leadership. Charity work. His faith. You name it. I’ve never seen anybody who had all that in one package,” said Hall of Fame coach Vince Dooley, who guided Florida’s main rival for 25 years.

Alabama coach Nick Saban, whose team ended the Gators’ 22-game winning streak and reign as national champions during the SEC championship game on 5 December, said following the contest that he used Tebow’s character as an example of how he wanted his players to conduct themselves.

Tebow’s skill on the football field — two national championships and a Heisman Trophy — has made him one of the most celebrated college football players in the history of the sport. His actions away from the gridiron have vaulted him into a stratosphere athletes rarely visit.

Raised in a family with missionaries as parents, Tebow has followed in their footsteps. He frequently participates in overseas missions to countries such as the Philippines, Thailand and Croatia. He speaks to and prays with prison inmates and has visited orphanages and leper colonies and volunteers at hospitals. Tebow and his teammates also take part in an event called the Gator Charity Challenge which benefits local charities.

With one more game remaining in his college career, Tebow has compiled a 34-6 career record as a starting quarterback. He is the SEC’s all-time touchdown leader (141) and all-time rushing touchdown leader (56).

The Jackie Robinson Humanitarian Award is presented to an individual who has demonstrated a concern for mankind. The winner should exhibit the qualities of dedication, grace under pressure, personal sacrifice, compassion, hope, and dignity that characterize the promotion of human welfare and social reform.

Jack Roosevelt Robinson broke the baseball color barrier by displaying his skills while at the same time subjugating his pride, to prove an awareness of our failings as well as his abilities. Had he lacked the discipline, not to mention the dedication, America and sport would be spiritually and athletically poorer.

TAFA Named Academy’s Sport Artist of the Year

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Ghana native TAFA was named the American Sport Art Museum and Archives (ASAMA) Sport Artist of the Year for 2010.

Painter TAFA has been named the American Sport Art Museum and Archives (ASAMA) Sport Artist of the Year for 2010.

TAFA competed against seventy-five (75) other sport artists from around the world for the honor. He was nominated by Paul Goodnight, who was the 1997 Sport Artist of the Year. TAFA is a native of Ghana, located in West Africa. He is the first native of Africa to be honored by ASAMA, located on the campus of the United States Sports Academy. He now calls Harlem, New York home.

The artist’s work will be on display at the Academy during a public art show at 5 p.m. Thursday, 21 January 2010.

“I have known TAFA personally and exhibited with him on numerous occasions for the past fourteen (14) years,” said Goodnight. “TAFA is a wonderful human being, an award-winning artist and is very well respected by his peers, the art community in New York and internationally.”

TAFA’s style has been described as a blending of musical rhythms, textured strokes, lush hues and spirituality. He says his paintings are “my drum song, my dance of the soul. I am like the divine drummer.” He obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the College of Art, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana.

ASAMA Curator Robert Zimlich said: “TAFA’s use of a pallete knife is the best I’ve seen in a while. He isn’t merely copying the ’60s pallete knife art rage. He effectively uses it to create energy, and sport art without energy is just a still life.”

TAFA gained international recognition with his painting “Turning Swords into Swatches.” It won first place in the Swiss Painting Competition in 1989.

He has been exhibited in a number of galleries and institutions in the United States, Japan,
Europe and Africa. His works are part of numerous private and public collections in the Superior
Court in Washington D.C., Fort Frederik Museum, The Smithsonian, Sparrow Hospital in Michigan, Ghana’s national museum, Carver Federal Bank and by former New York mayor David Dinkins.

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