COLORADO SPRINGS, CO (Jan. 22) – The U.S. Olympic Committee Friday bestowed its highest honors on three U.S. Ski Team athletes on the eve of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Alpine skier Lindsey Vonn (Vail, CO) was named the 2009 USOC SportsWoman of the Year, nordic combined skier Todd Lodwick (Steamboat Springs, CO) was honored as SportsMan of the Year and monoskier Stephani Victor (Park City, UT) earned Paralympic SportsWoman of the Year.
"Today we recognize and congratulate the best athletes that the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Movement had to offer in 2009," said USOC Chief of Sport Performance Mike English. "And it’s only fitting that the biggest stars over the past year will now help lead Team USA into competition in Vancouver beginning three weeks from today. These award recipients stood apart from a distinguished list of nominees both on and off the field of play and their accomplishments provide inspiration and excitement for all Americans."
Todd Lodwick was named USOC 2009 SportsMan of the Year. (Getty Images)
SportsWoman of the Year Lindsey Vonn dominated in 2009 en route to becoming one of the most successful female skiers in U.S. history. The alpine skier was crowned overall champion of the 2009 Audi FIS World Cup, including titles in downhill and super G. The two-time Olympian recorded a U.S. record nine World Cup wins in a single season. She surpassed Tamara McKinney’s records for the most World Cup victories (19) and World Cup podium finishes (45). She capped her year with gold medals in the downhill and super G at the 2009 FIS World Championships in Val d’Isere, France. Friday she won her 29th career World Cup in Italy.
Vonn becomes the first U.S. Ski Team athlete to win SportsWoman of the Year since Picabo Street in 1998.
"This is a huge honor, especially with the Olympics just a few weeks away,” Vonn said. “This past year has been amazing and because of that, it's been so cool to see how many people are getting excited about alpine skiing. Regardless of whether I win a race or crash, I get so many notes of encouragement from fans. That says something special about the Olympic spirit. It isn't something that lives in just the athletes; it also lives in everyone who supports what we love."
"Not only is Lindsey an accomplished World Champion athlete, but she is an amazing role model and motivator for youth," said U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association President and CEO Bill Marolt. "She is a great representative of our sport, our country and the Olympic movement."
SportsMan of the Year Todd Lodwick heads into his fifth Olympic Games on the heels of a very successful 2009. The nordic combined skier returned from a two-year retirement to win a pair of gold medals at the 2009 FIS World Championships in Liberec, Czech Republic, becoming only the second American to win a nordic combined world title. His rise coincides with the rest of the U.S. Nordic Combined Team, which is stronger than ever heading into Vancouver.
Lodwick becomes the first Nordic combined skier ever to win SportsMan of the Year and the first U.S. Ski Team athlete to win the award since Jonny Moseley in 1998.
"It's humbling to be recognized amongst my Olympic peers," said Lodwick. "I'm especially proud to receive this honor on behalf of my sport. So many people have supported us for so many years that it's heartwarming to know that our sport and my accomplishments, and those of my teammates, are meaningful."
"Todd's return from retirement to win two World Championship gold medals is a story of personal dedication towards a goal," said Marolt. "But along with his individual accomplishments, he has worked together with his teammates to build a strong nordic combined team for today and the future."
Paralympic SportsWoman of the Year Stephani Victor skied away with the award, winning three gold medals and a silver at the 2009 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships in High 1 Resort, Korea. Victor added a gold medal in the slalom at the U.S. Adaptive Alpine Ski Championships to her World titles in slalom, giant slalom and super combined.
World champion Stephani Victor was named Paralympic SportsWoman of the Year. (Getty Images-Harry How)
Teammate Laurie Stephens won the award in 2005.
"It is a tremendous honor for me to receive this award as I head into my third Paralympic Winter Games," said Victor. "I'm especially proud to be recognized by the U.S. Olympic Committee, which has also given me the opportunity to be a part of Team for Tomorrow. For me, winning is not just what happens in a race but how you live your life on and off the hill."
"An accident changed Stephani Victor's life," said Marolt. "But she has taken advantage of a new direction in ski racing to achieve high athletic goals and become best in the world in her sport, dominating World Championships last season."
The awards were announced by the USOC just three weeks before opening ceremonies in Vancouver. The USSA announced Olympic Teams in cross country, ski jumping and nordic combined in the last few days, with snowboarding, freestyle and alpine set for next week.
Other honorees included Steven Holcomb’s four-man bobsled team, named Team of the Year. Sled hockey player Steve Cash (Overland, MO) was named Paralympic SportsMan of the Year while the 2009 U.S. National Sled Hockey Team was awarded the inaugural USOC Paralympic Team of the Year honor.
The USOC SportsMan and SportsWoman of the Year awards have been presented annually since 1974 to the top overall male and female athlete from within the USOC member organizations. The team award was added in 1996 and the Paralympian of the Year was awarded for the first time in 2004. Winners are selected from the individual female and male athlete of the year and team of the year nominations of the USOC and National Governing Bodies for the Olympic, Pan American, Affiliated and Disabled Sports Organizations within the U.S. Olympic Movement.