Argentine soccer player Lionel Messi and American skier Mikaela Shiffrin were chosen as the United States Sports Academy’s December Athletes of the Month.


The 25-year-old Messi has established himself as one of the greatest soccer players in history by breaking the all-time calendar-year scoring record. Messi surpassed the 39-year-old record when he made his 86th goal of the season in 66 matches in FC Barcelona’s 2-1 win at Real Betis. The previous record of 85 goals was set by Germany’s Gerd Muller in 1982. Throughout the season, Messi completed six hat-tricks, 20 doubles and four goals in the same game twice.

Shiffrin, who is 17-years-old and in her second season on the FIS Alpine World Cup tour, became the third-youngest American woman to win a World Cup ski race on Dec. 20 in Are, Sweden. The Vail, Colo., skier won the World Cup night slalom. It was the first World Cup victory for Shiffrin, who last season was named Rookie of the Year by her peers.

The public is invited to participate in the worldwide Athlete of the Month nomination and ballot voting processes. Visit the Academy website at to submit your nominations each month, and then return to the website during the first two weeks of each month to vote for the male and female Athletes of the Month. The votes along with an Academy committee 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 the sports university’s online edition of The Sport Update.

Finishing second in the men’s category was Johnny Manziel. The Texas A&M redshirt freshman quarterback was named the winner of the 78th Heisman Trophy, making him the first freshman to win the coveted award as college football’s top player. Manziel became first Southeastern Conference player and fifth player overall to pass for 3,000 yards and run for 1,000 in a season.


The runner-up to Shiffrin on the women’s ballot was Bailey Webster. She was named the Most Outstanding Player as she led the Texas women’s volleyball team to a national championship over Oregon. The 6-foot-3 outside hitter had 14 kills and four blocks in the NCAA title game and led the Texas team in kills in every match during tournament play.

Third place winners for December were Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who became the seventh NFL running back in history to top 2,000 yards with 2,097; and American speedskater Heather Richardson, who won three speedskating titles in American record times in three days at the U.S. Long Track Championships.

Messi and Shiffrin are now eligible for the Academy’s male and female 2013 Athlete of the Year Award. For the 29th consecutive year, the Academy will oversee the worldwide online voting that will take place in December. This prestigious award is currently done in conjunction with NBC Sports.

In 2012, the male Athlete of the Year was Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, who became the first man ever to win both the 100- and 200-meter races in successive Olympics. The female Athlete of the Year was American tennis player Serena Williams, who became the singles champion at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Olympics. Both Olympians dominated 2012’s online ballot last month, which drew tens of thousands of votes a day from across the world.