The United States Sports Academy has named Japanese figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu and American gymnast Simone Biles as the winners of its male and female Athlete of the Year awards for 2018.
Hanyu became the first man since 1952 to defend a Winter Olympics singles figure skating gold medal at the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics in South Korea in February. Hanyu won with a total score of 317.85 to take gold in the event. Hanyu later set a men’s short program world record with a score of 106.69 at the International Skating Union Figure Skating Grand Prix in Helsinki and took gold in the Rostelecom Cup event in Moscow in November. Hanyu also won gold at the Autumn Classic event in September in Canada.
This is the second time in the last three years that Biles earned the Academy’s Athlete of the Year Award. She became the first woman to win five U.S. all-around titles and swept the top spot in all four events at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships in Boston, Mass., in August. Biles is the first U.S. gymnast to win gold in all four events and the all-around title since Dominique Dawes in 1994. Biles also won the all-around title at the U.S. Classic in Columbus, Ohio, in July. Later in the year Biles won six medals – including four gold – at the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Qatar in November. Biles equaled the women’s record total World Championship medals with 20, tying Russia’s Svetlana Khorkina.
The Athlete of the Year awards are the culmination of the Academy’s yearlong selection process through which outstanding accomplishments of men and women in sports from around the globe are recognized. 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 men’s runner up is Croatian soccer player Luka Modric and third place went to American football player Patrick Mahomes.
Modric won the Golden Ball Award as the most outstanding player of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Modric scored two goals and an assist and was considered dominant in the midfield, setting the tempo and dictating the pace of play as Croatia reached the World Cup final. Modric also earned the Best FIFA Men’s Player award for the year after also starring for Real Madrid in the team’s UEFA Champions League championship season.
Mahomes took the NFL by storm in 2018. In his first year as a starter for the Chiefs, Mahomes has passed for 5,097 yards, becoming just the second player in NFL history to throw for more than 5,000 yards and have 50 touchdown passes in a single season. He also joined an elite group of quarterbacks to throw for more than 5,000 yards in a season, including Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Dan Marino and Matthew Stafford.
The women’s runner up is Thai golfer Ariya Jutanugarn and third place went to Romanian tennis player Simona Halep.
Jutanugarn was named the LPGA Tour’s 2018 Rolex Player of the Year for the second time in the last three years. Jutanugarn won the U.S. Women’s Open, the Race to the CME Globe, the Kingsmill Championship and the Ladies Scottish Open in 2018. She also recorded 17 top-10 finishes on the season. She also won the LPGA Vare Trophy for best scoring average at 69.415 and set single-season records in rounds in the 60s (57) and birdies (470). She finished the season as the world’s top ranked women’s golfer.
Halep was named the WTA Player of the Year for 2018 after winning her first Grand Slam title at the French Open and finishing the season as the world’s top-ranked player for the second consecutive time. Halep defeated American Sloane Stephens to capture the French Open title in June and also won the Porsche Race to Singapore, the Shenzhen Open, and the Canadian Open.
The 2017 Athletes of the Year were American football player Tom Brady and South Korean golfer Sung Hyun Park.
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.