Jan. 13, 2003
BERKELEY- - Natalie Coughlin, a junior swimmer at the University of California, was named one of 11 first-round finalists for the 73rd Annual AAU James E. Sullivan Memorial Award, the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) announced today. The award recognizes the top amateur athlete in the nation.
The first round finalists are: Nick Collison (Men's Basketball); Natalie Coughlin (Swimming); Sarah Hughes (Skating); LeBron James (Men's Basketball); George Kotaka (Karate); Stacey Nuveman (Softball); Nicole Ohlde (Women's Basketball); Apolo Anton Ohno (Speedskating); Derek Parra (Speedskating); Cael Sanderson (Wrestling); and Chris Waddell (Paralympic Alpine Skiing and Track and Field).
Last year, Coughlin was one of five finalists for the award, but the honor went to figure skater Michelle Kwan. In Coughlin's brief career she has broken six world records, four of which were shattered in 2002, and 33 American records. Recently named the Female World Swimmer of the Year by Swimming World magazine, Coughlin is the only woman to ever break the one-minute barrier in the 100m backstroke. She is a two-time defending national champion in the 100 and 200 back and 100 fly, and was named the NCAA Swimmer of the Year in both her freshman and sophomore seasons.
The AAU Sullivan Award recognizes athletes who have achieved athletic excellence, exhibit leadership, character, sportsmanship and the ideals of amateurism. It has been presented annually by the AAU since 1930 as a salute to founder and past president of the AAU, and a pioneer in amateur sports, James E. Sullivan.
A 10-member AAU Sullivan Committee selected the 11 finalists from an initial group of 50 nominations. Ballots to select the top five and the 2002 winner were mailed today to an 800-member voting body consisting of AAU Board of Directors, United States Olympic Committee (USOC) Board of Directors, Select Media, and 2001 AAU Sullivan Award Event Attendees. The top five finalists and the National recipient will be formally recognized and announced March 18th, 2003 at the New York Athletic Club in New York City.
"This year's selection of award finalists represents a diverse group of athletes participating in both individual and team sports," said AAU President Bobby Dodd. "The common thread that links our finalists is that they are not only first-class athletes, but first-class individuals as well. We hope that they will continue to serve as positive role models for the youth of America."
Considered the "Oscar" of sports awards, the AAU James E. Sullivan Award has been presented to prominent athletes of our time including last year's recipient Michelle Kwan. Others include: Peyton Manning (1997), William "Bill" Bradley (1965), Dan Jansen (1994), Janet Evans (1989), Jim Abbott (1987), Jackie Joyner-Kersee (1986), Greg Louganis (1984), and the late Florence Griffith-Joyner (1988).
"For the past 73 years, the Sullivan Award has recognized athletes that epitomize sportsmanship and integrity," noted AAU president Bobby Dodd. "We at the AAU are committed to continuing this time-honored tradition, and even helping it to grow in prominence."
The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) is one of the largest, non-profit, volunteer, sports organizations in the United States. A multi-sport organization, the AAU is dedicated exclusively to the promotion and development of amateur sports and physical fitness programs for all ages. Our philosophy of "Sports for All, Forever," is shared by nearly 500,000 participants and over 50,000 volunteers. Divided into 57 associations, the AAU sanctions more than 34 sports programs, 250 national championships, and over 10,000 local events across the United States annually. For more information on the AAU please visit our website at www.aausports.org.