When it comes to winning, September’s top honorees for the United States Sports Academy’s Athlete of the Month are no strangers to it. Displaying expertise in golf and basketball for years, respectively, Jordan Spieth and Elena Delle Donne succeeded again, this time gaining favor with those making selections on the online public ballot.
Golf star Spieth won the Tour Championship and clinched the FedEx Cup on 27 September. He led by one stroke going into Sunday’s round and ended up winning by four strokes. This was his fifth win on the PGA Tour this year, including the Master’s and U.S. Open. The 22-year-old Texan became golf’s first $22 million man, a PGA Tour record, with just over $12 million in prize money and the $10 million bonus for the FedEx Cup.
Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic, the world’s top-ranked player, was second in the voting, after beating world number two Roger Federer for the U.S. Open title at Flushing Meadows on 13 September. This left him with the year-end No. 1 ranking for the fourth time following his 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Federer in the final.
Tying for third place for the men were United States football star Leonard Fournette and Polish soccer star Robert Lewandowski. Louisiana State University running back Fournette helped defeat the Auburn Tigers on 19 September with 228 rushing yards placing him at the top of the national rushing statistics, with 193.5 yards per game. Bayern Munich striker Lewandowski stepped off the bench at half-time against Wolfsburg to score five goals in nine minutes during a 5-1 comeback win. Lewandowski scored the quickest ever Bundesliga hat-trick (four minutes) and then set a new record with four goals in the same match.
On the women’s side, United States WNBA star Elena Delle Donne came was first in the balloting. The WNBA announced that Delle Donne was named Most Valuable Player for 2015 after leading the Chicago Sky to a 21-13 record. She averaged a league high 23.4 points per game in 31 games, scoring at least 40 points twice, 30 points five times, and 20 points 21 times. She also shot a WNBA-best 95.0% (207-for-218) from the free throw line and finished third in the league in rebounding with 8.4 rebounds per game and third in blocked shots with 2.06 blocks per game.
Coming in second in the worldwide voting was Italian tennis star Flavia Pennetta. The 26th seed beat fellow Italian Roberta Vinci to win her first Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open in New York City. An error in the eighth game did bring Vinci level at 4-4, but Pennetta stepped up her play to win the decisive tie break 7-4. She then raced to a 4-0 lead in the second-set, withstanding a late rally from her opponent and childhood friend to win it 6-2.
Tying for third on the women’s side were New Zealand golf star Lydia Ko and Dafne Schippers, a sprinter from the Netherlands. Ko became the youngest winner of a major after scoring a stunning final round to win the Evian Championship in France on 13 September with her 16-under-par finish.. The 18-year-old, ranked number two in the world, fought back when the pressure ramped up – as she has done for most of her previous 12 professional tournament wins – to win the fifth and final major of 2015 by six shots on the shores of Lake Geneva. World champion Schippers edged Olympic champion Allyson Felix to win a highly anticipated 200 meter race at the Van Damme Diamond League meeting on 11 September. Felix held a slight advantage entering the home straight, but Schippers passed her down the stretch to secure her victory. Schippers crossed the finish line in 22.12 second, beating Felix by a tenth of a second.
The public is invited to participate in the worldwide Athlete of the Month nomination and voting process. Visit the Academy website at www.ussa.edu to submit your nominations each month. Return to the website during the first two weeks of each month to vote for the Athletes of the Month. Your votes choose the winners who become candidates for the Athlete of the Year. The monthly and yearly winners are announced on the Academy’s website and in its online publication, The Sport Update.
The United States Sports Academy is an independent, non-profit, regionally 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.