A pair of freestyle skiers have swept the United States Sports Academy’s contest for February Male and Female Athlete of the Month. American skier Aaron Blunck won the men’s award while Estonian Kelly Sildaru won the women’s award for the second consecutive month.

Blunck defended his world halfpipe title at the International Ski Federation (FIS) Snowboard, Freestyle Ski and Freeski World Championships in Utah on 9 February 2019. Blunck scored 94.20 on his final run and successfully held off French veteran Kevin Rolland for the title.

Sildaru, 16, became the youngest freestyle skiing halfpipe world champion of all time when she won gold in the event at the International Ski Federation (FIS) Snowboard, Freestyle and Freeski World Championships in Utah on 10 February 2019. Sildaru completed the first-ever switch 1080 performed by a female skier and won with a high score of 95.00 points. She was previously named the Academy’s Female Athlete of the Month for January.

The second place finisher on the men’s side was Swiss athlete Julien Wanders and third place went to Greek basketball player Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Wanders broke two records in February 2019. He set the world 5km record with a time of 13:29 in Monaco on 17 February after breaking British athlete Mo Farah’s European half-marathon record with a time of 59:13 in the United Arab Emirates earlier in the month.

Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks was named the NBA’s Eastern Conference Player of the Month for February after averaging 30.6 points, 12.6 rebounds and 6 assists per game. He also shot 62.1 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range while leading the Bucks to a 9-0 record in games in which he played in the month.

The second place finisher on the women’s side was American alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin and third place went to American speed skater Brittany Bowe.

Shiffrin won three medals, including gold in super-G and slalom, and became the first skier in history to win four consecutive International Ski Federation (FIS) World Cup titles in the same event (slalom) at the championship event in Switzerland. She added an additional three World Cup medals in the month.

Bowe won the 1000-meter title at the International Skating Union (ISU) Speed Skating World Championships in Germany on 9 February 2019 after winning the 1,000 and 1,5000 events the previous weekend in Norway. She finished the month with bronze-medal finish in the ISU World Sprint Speed Skating Championships in the Netherlands.

Each month, the public is invited to participate in the Academy’s worldwide Athlete of the Month program by nominating athletes and then voting online during the first week of every month. The online votes are used to guide the Academy selection committee in choosing the male and female monthly winners, who then become eligible for selection to the prestigious Athlete of the Year ballot. A worldwide public vote on the annual ballot is used to guide the committee in making the final selection.

The Athlete of the Year Award is part of the United States Sports Academy’s Awards of Sport program, which each year serves as “A Tribute to the Artist and the Athlete.” The Academy presents the awards to pay tribute to those who have made significant contributions to sport, in categories as diverse as the artist and the athlete in several different arenas of sport.
The awards honor exemplary achievement in coaching, all-around athletic performance, courage, humanitarian activity, fitness and media, among others. The Academy’s American Sport Art Museum and Archives (ASAMA) annually recognizes these men and women through its Sport Artist of the Year, Honorary Doctorates, Medallion Series, Distinguished Service Awards, Outstanding Athletes, and Alumni of the Year awards. This is the 34th year of the Academy’s Awards of Sport program.