A pair of American winter sports superstars were named the United States Sports Academy’s male and female Athletes of the Month for January. Figure skater Nathan Chen and alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin took home the Academy’s top honors after stellar performances in the month.
The Academy’s reigning 2019 Male Athlete of the Year, Chen won his fourth consecutive U.S. Figure Skating Championship after totaling 330.17 points and landing six quadruple jumps between two programs in Greensboro, N.C., on 26 January 2020. Chen is the first man to win four consecutive U.S. titles since Brian Boitano in 1988.
Shiffrin recorded four World Cup podium finishes – two gold medals and two bronze medals – in January, winning the super-G and downhill races in Bulgaria and taking third place in slalom and giant slalom events in Italy and Austria.
The second place finisher on the men’s side was American football player Joe Burrow and third place went to Greek basketball player Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Burrow was named the MVP of the 2020 College Football Playoff National Championship Game after passing for 463 yards and accounting for six total touchdowns as his Louisiana State University (LSU) Tigers defeated Clemson 42-25 in New Orleans on 13 January 2020.
Antetokounmpo was named NBA Eastern Conference Player of the Month after averaging 29.2 points, 13.4 rebounds and 5.7 assists in January for the Milwaukee Bucks. He has won three consecutive NBA Player of the Month awards this season.
The second place finisher on the women’s side was Estonian freestyle skier Kelly Sildaru and third place went to American cyclist Jennifer Valente.
The Academy’s reigning 2019 Female Athlete of the Year, Sildaru won the women’s ski slopestyle gold medal for the fourth time at the Winter X Games in Aspen on 26 January 2020. Sildaru also captured gold in the women’s ski super pipe event in Aspen and won slopestyle gold at the Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne earlier in the month.
Valente won gold in the omnium (track cycling) event and was part of the women’s pursuit team gold medal at the World Cup in Ontario in January. She also clinched the World Cup series overall omnium title with the win. The omnium is one of cycling’s toughest tests, with riders competing in four racing events in the same day.
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 36th year of the Academy’s Awards of Sport program.