Eight-time Olympic swimming medalist Michael Phelps and gymnast Carly Patterson have been selected the U.S. Olympic Committee's Sportsman and SportsWoman of the Year. Also, the U.S. women's softball team was voted Team of the Year for 2004.
Michael Phelps won six golds and two bronzes in Athens last August, the first American to accomplish that medal haul. He also matched the record for most medals at a single Olympics.
The Towson, Maryland native is now a freshman at the University of Michigan and he says he is still adjusting to the change from the Olympics to college life.
“It's a new atmosphere both in the classroom and in the pool,” he said. “I'm just getting used to training with a bunch of new guys and just trying to get back into the scheme of things. I guess things are on the right track, and I am just enjoying myself getting back into the normal routine.”
Carly Patterson was the first American woman to win the all-around gymnastics title since Mary Lou Retton in 1984. She says that she is pleased to win the award and is just getting back to the gym for serious training.
“Just being selected from so many great athletes, from Winter and Summer Olympics, and I had such a great time representing the U.S. at the Olympics and getting to fulfill my dream of winning an all-around gold medal, it was just a dream come true,” she said.
Patterson has spent recent months making appearances and performing in exhibitions. Patterson recently resumed training and does not have any competitions for which to prepare so she said she is taking it slow. She has a new challenge ahead of her, she is currently in the recording studio making her first album.
The women's softball team was chosen after winning its third straight gold medal and outscoring opponents, 51-1 in the Athens Olympic tournament. Coach Mike Candrea said his team was amazing to coach and to watch as a fan.
“You know this team was just really remarkable for a lot of different reasons,” he said. “As a coach, obviously, your goal is to have your team playing their best when it counts. And there was no doubt that this team was hitting on all cylinders and I am very proud of them.”
The award has been presented annually since 1974 to the top overall male and female athletes from USOC member organizations. The team award was added in 1996.
Last year's winners were cyclist Lance Armstrong, figure skater Michelle Kwan and the U.S. Women's Gymnastics team.