American men’s figure skater Max Aaron and Belarus women’s tennis player Victoria Azarenka were chosen as the United States Sports Academy’s January Athletes of the Month.
Aaron won his first title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships by defeating three-time champion Jeremy Abbott. With two quadruple salchow jumps in the opening of his free skate and an arsenal of other tricks, the little known, 20-year-old upstart announced his arrival on the national stage in a bold fashion. The 2011 junior champion won the gold with 255 points total.
Meanwhile, No. 1-ranked Azarenka won her second consecutive Australian Open singles title in Melbourne Australia. Despite a hostile crowd, the 23-year-old beat Chinese star Li Na, 4-6, 6-4, and 6-3.This victory allowed Azarenka to become the fifth active women’s player with more than one Grand Slam singles title.
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.
Finishing second in the men’s category was Shaun White, the 26-year-old American snowboarder. He brought X Games Aspen to a close with his sixth consecutive victory in the superpipe competition. White earned a 98 on his second run. He began his second run with a record-setting 24-foot, 1-inch backside air above the walls of the pipe, breaking his own mark by a foot.
The runner-up to Azarenka on the women’s ballot was Missy Franklin, who was the only swimmer to earn four gold medals at the Austin Grand Prix in Austin, Texas. At the three-day event, Franklin won the 100-meter backstroke, 200-meter backstroke and 100 and 200 freestyle. Franklin set a pool record in the 200 backstroke with a time of 2:07.31.
Third place winners for January were Argentine soccer player Lionel Messi for winning FIFA’s Golden Boot award for the fourth time; and American snowboarder Arielle Gold, a 16-year-old who captured gold in the woman’s half pipe at the World Snowboarding Championship in Stoneham, Quebec.
Aaron and Azarenka are now eligible for the Academy’s male and female 2013 Athlete of the Year Award. For the 29th consecutive year, the Academy will oversee the worldwide online voting that will take place in December. This prestigious award is currently done in conjunction with NBC Sports.
In 2012, the male Athlete of the Year was Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, who became the first man ever to win both the 100- and 200-meter races in successive Olympics. The female Athlete of the Year was American tennis player Serena Williams, who became the singles champion at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Olympics. Both Olympians dominated 2012’s online ballot in December, which drew tens of thousands of votes a day from across the world.
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, call 251-626-3303 or visit www.ussa.edu.