The world’s No. 1- ranked men’s tennis player and the women’s world champion figure skater earned the United States Sports Academy’s 2013 Male and Female Athletes of the Year award.
Spain’s Rafael Nadal, who won the French and U.S. Opens, and South Korea’s Yuna Kim, who also won the award three years ago for winning gold at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, earned the awards decisively in online voting conducted worldwide this month.
Despite returning from a seven-month layoff because of a left knee injury, Nadal won two Grand Slam victories, beating Serbia’s Novak Djokovic both times. The wins catapulted him to No. 1 over Djokovic.
Kim returned to the world stage in figure skating after a two year layoff following the 2010 Winter Olympics. The 22-year-old picked up where she left off earning the gold medal in the women’s 2013 World Figure Skating Championships by earning a total of 218.31 points. She won by a 20-point margin, which is the largest victory at worlds since the current scoring system took effect in 2005.
Nadal and Kim dominated the voting in the 29th year of the Academy’s Awards of Sport program. Online voting took place on the Academy’s website at www.ussa.edu. from Dec. 1-20 and was done in conjunction with NBC Sports.
This year’s ballot included 12 men and 12 women who came from 11 different countries, including two athletes each from Jamaica and South Korea. The nominees represented a wide variety of popular winter and summer sports from fútbol to football and figure skating to skiing. Their performances stood out and provided some of the best highlights and stories in sports in 2013.
The Athlete of the Year ballot is the culmination of the Academy’s yearlong Athlete of the Month program, which recognizes the accomplishments of men and women in sports from around the globe. Each month, the public is invited to participate in the worldwide Athlete of the Month program by nominating athletes and then voting online during the first two weeks of every month. The votes, along with an Academy selection committee, choose the male and female winners monthly who then become eligible for the prestigious Athlete of the Year honor. The monthly winners are announced on the Academy’s website and in the online edition of The Sport Update.
In 2012, the Male Athlete of the Year was Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, who successfully repeated as the Olympic gold medalist in the 100 meters and 200 meters at the 2012 London Olympics, and the Female Athlete of the Year was American tennis player Serena Williams, who captured gold in the women’s singles and doubles at the 2012 Games to become the only person to hold a career Golden Grand Slam in Olympic competition.
Finishing second in the Male Athlete of the Year category was Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi. The 26-year-old Barcelona player earned a record third Golden Shoe trophy, after finishing with the most league goals in Europe last season. The Argentine netted 46 goals.
The runner up to Kim in the Female Athlete of the Year voting was No. 1-ranked Williams, who in 2013 added two more majors—the French and U.S. Opens—to become the fourth woman in the Open era after Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert and Steffi Graf to win each Grand Slam title at least twice. Williams, who has 17 Grand Slam titles in her career, won 11 titles total this year.
The third place winner on the men’s ballot was Bolt. He flashed past American Carl Lewis into the world track and field championship record book by completing a triple gold-medal performance in Moscow. Bolt and the legendary Lewis both have won 10 world championship medals total, including eight gold medals. Bolt took gold in the 100 meters (9.77 seconds), 200 meters (19.66) and anchored Jamaica’s victory in the 400-meter relay (37.36).
Meanwhile, Missy Franklin finished third in the voting for Female Athlete of the Year. She claimed a record six gold medals at the world swimming championships in Barcelona. The 18-year-old’s gold medals came in the 200-meter backstroke, 100 backstroke, 200 freestyle, 4×100 freestyle, 4×200 freestyle and the 400 medley relays. She took fourth in the 100 free. Franklin eclipsed the women’s record of five gold that had had been shared by American Tracy Caulkins (1978) and Australian Libby Trickett (2007).
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.