DAPHNE, Ala. – Considering how cold it’s been in most of the Northern Hemisphere, perhaps it’s only fitting that 2015’s first edition of the United States Sports Academy Athlete of the Month would see male and female winners hail from a classic wintertime endeavor. Our voters certainly thought so.
Despite the presence of big-name athletes from the worlds of pro football and tennis, it was a pair of skiers who raced to victory for January’s honors, with American Lindsey Vonn and Austrian Marcel Hirscher taking the proverbial gold among women and men, respectively.
Vonn was brilliant throughout the month, showing no ill effects from recurring knee issues. In a two-week span covering January 12 through 25, she rattled off four World Cup victories to set a new standard of excellence in women’s WC action. With downhill victories at Val d’Isere, France, and Cortina d’Apezzo, Italy, and super-G crowns at Cortina d’Apezzo and St. Moritz, Switzerland, the 30-year-old now holds 64 WC titles.
Only the legendary Swede, Ingemar Stenmark, can claim more WC wins, having posted 86 in men’s competition.
Hirscher, meanwhile, started off the month red hot, ripping off victories in the slalom at Zagreb, Croatia, on January 6 and the giant slalom at Adelboden, Switzerland, on January 10, upping his career win total to 29. Though he didn’t win again, the 25-year-old, two-time world champion did reach the podium three more times in the month.
The runner-up to Hirscher in the men’s voting was Aaron Rodgers, with Ezekial Elliott third. Rodgers, who captured his second NFL MVP award for his regular-season efforts, guided the Green Bay Packers to the NFC Championship Game, throwing for 494 yards and four touchdowns in the process. Elliot, a sophomore running back for Ohio State University, spearheaded the Buckeyes’ postseason run to a national title by posting a 230-yard, two-TD effort against No. 1 Alabama in the semifinals and then a 246-yard, four-TD game versus second-ranked Oregon in the final.
On the women’s side, Mikaela Shiffrin came in second and Serena Williams third. A 19-year-old American, Shiffrin won the slalom in Zagreb early in the month and then placed in it at Flachau, Austria, midway through the month. Williams won her 19th grand slam event, capturing the Australian Open for the sixth time January 31 with a straight-set win against Maria Sharapova.
Vonn and Hirscher are now eligible for the Academy’s male and female 2015 Athlete of the Year Award. For the 31st consecutive year, the Academy will oversee the worldwide online voting that will take place in December.
The public is invited to participate in the worldwide Athlete of the Month nomination and ballot voting processes. Visit the Academy website at www.ussa.edu to submit your nominations each month, and then return to the website during the first two weeks of each month to vote for the male and female Athletes of the Month. The votes along with an Academy committee choose the winners who become candidates for the Athlete of the Year. The monthly and yearly winners are announced on the Academy’s website and in the sports university’s online edition of the Sport Update.
The United States Sports Academy is an independent, non-profit, accredited, special mission Sports University created to serve the nation and world with programs in instruction, research, and service. The role of the Academy is to prepare men and women for careers in the profession of sports. For more information about the Academy visit www.ussa.edu.