A landmark year of swimming in 2003 resulted in one more honor for Michael Phelps, as the 18-year-old from Rodgers Forge won the 74th annual James E. Sullivan Award last night.
The announcement was made at a banquet at the New York Athletic Club. The award is given by the Amateur Athletic Union.
At July's world championships, Phelps became the first swimmer to set five world records in one meet, and the first man to set world records in different events on the same day. He is expected to be the most decorated athlete at the 2004 Olympics.
Phelps became the first male swimmer to win the award since John Naber in 1977. The other finalists were LeBron James, who began 2003 playing basketball for his high school in Akron, Ohio; University of Connecticut women's basketball star Diana Taurasi; Olympic short-track speed skater Apolo Anton Ono; and Philippa Raschker, a masters track and field athlete.
"Just being in a group of athletes of this caliber is an amazing compliment," Phelps said.
The Sullivan Award recognizes leadership, character, sportsmanship and the ideals of amateurism. The Olympics turned professional after 1988, and the AAU changed with the times to make pros like Phelps eligible for its biggest honor.
With Bob Bowman, Phelps' coach, taking over the University of Michigan men's team in September, the best from the North Baltimore Aquatic Club will once again be under the direction of Murray Stephens, who co-founded the NBAC in 1968.
Stephens produced Olympic gold medallists in 1984, 1992 and 1996, then turned his attention to family and business matters. Most recently, he has been working with a younger group of swimmers at the NBAC. He will be assisted by Paul Yetter, who has developed young Olympic hopefuls Katie Hoff and Courtney Kalisz at the NBAC's satellite team in Harford County.
They will move their training base to the Meadowbrook Aquatic Fitness Center, although Stephens said that the NBAC will continue to operate an age-group team in Harford County. He and his wife, Patty, own the Meadowbrook facility in Mount Washington.
Phelps figures to follow Bowman to Ann Arbor. While beginning his college studies, Phelps likely will switch his affiliation to Club Wolverine.
Sullivan Award winners
2003: Michael Phelps, swimming
2002: Sarah Hughes, figure skating
2001: Michelle Kwan, figure skating
2000: Rulon Gardner, wrestling
1999: Kelly and Coco Miller, basketball
1998: Chamique Holdsclaw, basketball
1997: Peyton Manning, football
1996: Michael Johnson, track
1995: Bruce Baumgartner, wrestling
1994: Dan Jansen, speed skating
1993: Charlie Ward, football
1992: Bonnie Blair, speed skating
1991: Mike Powell, track and field
1990: John Smith, wrestling
1989: Janet Evans, swimming
1988: Florence Griffith Joyner, track
1987: Jim Abbott, baseball
1986: Jackie Joyner-Kersee, track and field
1985: Joan Benoit-Samuelsson, marathon
1984: Greg Louganis, diving
1983: Edwin Moses, hurdles
1982: Mary Decker, distance run
1981: Carl Lewis, track and field
1980: Eric Heiden, speed skating
1979: Kurt Thomas, gymnastics
1978: Tracy Caulkins, swimming
1977: John Naber, swimming
1976: Bruce Jenner, decathlon
1975: Tim Shaw, swimming