United States marathoner Michael Wardian and Ethiopian marathoner Abebech Bekele were chosen as the United States Sports Academy’s January 2014 Athletes of the Month.


Michael Wardian. Photo Credit: Amy Sangermano. Copyright, 2014 Gameday Photos/Walt Disney World.

In the Men’s Division, the 39-year-old Wardian has established himself as one of best marathoners and ultra-marathoners in the world, having run in numerous marathons over the past decade. In 2006 he won four of the five races in which he participated during a 45-day period. In 2008, 2009 and 2010 he won the US 50 km Championships and in 2008 the US National 100 km Championship. Aside from these accomplishments Wardian won the National Marathon from 2006-2008 and 2010-2012. He is an eight-time USA Track and Field Ultra Runner of the Year. He also won the first ever “Dopey Challenge” at Walt Disney World in January.

Abebech Bekele. Photo Credit: Cody Duty. Copyright 2014, Houston Chronicle.

Abebech Bekele. Photo Credit: Cody Duty. Copyright 2014, Houston Chronicle.

In the Women’s Division, Bekele won her first ever marathon this month with a time of 2 hours, 25 minutes and 52 seconds in the Women’s Chevron Houston Marathon. Her win extended Ethiopia’s women’s streak to eight consecutive.

Finishing second in the Men’s Division was Kevin Durant, the all-star forward for the National Basketball Association’s Oklahoma City Thunder who recorded 12-straight 30-point games in January. The 25-year-old Washington, D.C., native helped lead the Thunder to a 10-game win streak during that span.

The runner-up to Bekele in the Women’s Division was Gracie Gold, the U.S. figure skater, who finished first at the 2014 U.S. Figure Skating Championships with a short program that scored 72.12 points. It was the highest ladies’ score at the U.S. Championships under the current judging system. She also won the free skate program with a record score of 139.57.

Third place winners for January were Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning in the Men’s Division and X Games Medalist American Kelly Clark in the Women’s Division.

Wardian and Bekele are now eligible for the Academy’s male and female 2014 Athlete of the Year Award. For the 30th 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.

The public is invited to participate in the worldwide Athlete of the Month nomination and ballot voting processes. Visit the Academy website at www.ussa.edu 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.

The United States Sports Academy is an independent, non-profit, 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.