United States Swimmer Ryan Lochte, who won five gold medals and set a world record at the men’s World Swimming Championships in Shanghai, and Yani Tseng, the youngest professional golfer, man or woman, to claim five major championships, have earned the United States Sports Academy’s Male and Female July Athlete of the Month Awards.
Lochte emerged as the top male swimmer at the World Championships and the one to watch at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. The 27-year-old broke his own world record in the 200-meter individual medley, winning in 1 minute, 54.00 seconds. It was the first long course world record since the controversial polyurethane swimsuits were banned in 2010. Lochte, who beat his teammate Michael Phelps in two finals, easily won the 400-meter individual medley in 4:07.13. His other gold medals came in the 200-meter freestyle, the 200-meter backstroke and the 4×200 freestyle relay.
Meanwhile, Tseng recently won her second successive Women’s British Open making the 22-year-old sensation the youngest golfer to capture five major titles. When Se Ri Pak (LPGA) and Tiger Woods (PGA) won their fourth major titles, they were both 24. Her victory at Carnoustie, Scotland was also Tseng’s fourth major victory out of the last five women’s major tournaments played. She shot a final round 69 to complete a 16-under 272 total for the tournament to win by four strokes.
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 between the first and second Tuesdays of each month to vote on the Athlete of the Month. The votes along with the Academy’s selection committee choose the winners and they are announced on the Academy’s website and in the online edition of The Sport Update.
Finishing second in the male athlete category was Novak Djokovic. He won his first ever Wimbledon title, which also vaulted him to the No. 1 ranking in the world. The victory ran the young Serbian’s record on the year to 48-1. Djokovic, who has won three Grand Slams in his career, dominated defending champion Rafael Nadal, winning 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3.
The runner up to Tseng in the Female July Athlete of the Month voting was another American swimmer—16-year-old Missy Franklin. She broke onto the world stage at the World Swimming Championships in Shanghai by winning five medals, including three golds, and setting two American records. She won her first world title in the 200-meter backstroke, anchored the women’s gold-medal-winning 4×100 medley relay and led off the gold-medal-winning 4×200 freestyle relay with a split that would have won the 200 free individual event. The 6-foot-1 Franklin, of Centennial, Colo., won the 200 backstroke in a time of 2:05.10, lopping nearly a second off the American record she set earlier in the championships. Her 52.79-second freestyle split helped the U.S. women set a new American record of 3:55.61 and win their first medley relay world title since 1998. She earned a silver-medal in the 4×100 free relay and a bronze in the 50 backstroke.
Third place winners were Derek Jeter, who became the first New York Yankee to surpass 3,000 hits in his career, and Federica Pellegrini, an Italian swimmer who became the first woman to win both the 200- and 400-meter freestyle at the world swimming championships twice. Jeter hit a home run to become one of only 28 major league players to get 3,000 career hits and the Yankees shortstop went 5-for-5 against the Tampa Bay Rays in the July 9 game. The 22-year-old Pellegrini earned a 200-400 double in the championships at Shanghai—an achievement done only four previous times—for the second time after winning both titles at the 2009 championships in Rome.
The winners will be considered as a candidate for the 2011 Athlete of the Year ballot. In December 2011, the Academy will name the Male and Female Athlete of the Year for the 27th consecutive year. The recipients of these prestigious awards are selected annually through worldwide balloting hosted by the Academy in conjunction with USA Today and NBC Sports.
In 2010, the Male Athlete of the Year was Spain’s star football (soccer) player David Villa and the Female Athlete of the Year was South Korea’s No. 1 figure skater Yuna Kim. Both of these individuals dominated 2010’s ballot, receiving more than 12 votes per second from across the world.