Two of the world’s most dominating superstars at the 2012 London Olympic Games earned the United States Sports Academy’s 2012 Male and Female Athletes of the Year award—Usain Bolt and Serena Williams.
Bolt, a Jamaican sprinter, continues to reign as the world’s fastest man by successfully repeating as the Olympic gold medalist in the 100 meters and 200 meters. Bolt is the first man ever to win both events in successive Summer Olympics. In London, he won the 100 in an Olympic record time of 9.63 seconds. He then won the 200 in 19.32—0.13 seconds off his world record. Bolt added a third gold as the anchor of Jamaica’s world record-setting 400-meter relay team that finished in 36.84 seconds.
Williams took gold in the women’s singles and doubles at the 2012 London Olympics, becoming the only person to hold a career Golden Grand Slam in Olympic competition. The American tennis player also won Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. She now possesses 15 Grand Slam titles overall, which is sixth on the all-time list.
The two Olympic standouts dominated the voting in the 28th consecutive year that the Academy has overseen the Athlete of the Year award, which was done in conjunction with NBC Sports. Hundreds of thousands of sports fans worldwide selected the most outstanding male and female athletes in online balloting on the Academy’s website at www.ussa.edu. The ballot included 12 males and 12 females and voting lasted from Dec. 1 to Dec. 21.
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 2011, the Male Athlete of the Year was Serbia’s No. 1-ranked men’s tennis player Novak Djokovic and the Female Athlete of the Year was Taiwan’s No. 1-ranked women’s golfer Yani Tseng. They both dominated the voting that drew up to 50,000 votes a day from across the world.
This year’s ballot includes a mixture of athletes from 11 different countries representing a wide variety of popular sports. Their performances stood out and provided some of the best highlights and stories in sports during the past year.
Finishing second in the male Athlete of the Year category was another Olympian, American swimmer Michael Phelps. He is now the most decorated Olympian of all time with 22 medals, including 18 gold. The 27-year-old also holds the distinction as the first man to win the same event at three successive Olympics when he clinched the men’s 200-meter individual medley gold medal at the 2012 London Games.
The runner up to Williams in the Female Athlete of the Year voting was 17-year-old American Olympic swimmer Missy Franklin, who lived up to her hype. She completed the 200-meter backstroke in a world record of 2 minutes, 4.06 seconds. The first American woman to qualify for seven Olympic events, Franklin ended up taking home four gold medals and one bronze medal. One of her gold medals was earned on the American 4×100-meter medley relay team that set a world record in a time of 3:52.05.
The third place winner on the men’s ballot was Djokovic, last year’s Athlete of the Year, who remained the world’s No. 1 tennis player this season. In one of the greatest matches this year, he outlasted Rafael Nadal in the longest Grand Slam match in history—5 hours and 53 minutes—to win the Australian Open.
Meanwhile, Lindsey Vonn finished third in the voting for Female Athlete of the Year. She clinched her fourth FIS Alpine World Cup overall title, which is the most of any American skier and second only to Austrian Annemarie Moser-Proell, who has won six. Vonn set a women’s record for most points in a World Cup season with 1,980.