COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The 2009 U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) annual awards have a decidedly wintry feel ahead of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. All four individual recipients and both teams hope to ride the momentum from last year right onto the podium in Vancouver and Whistler. Alpine skier Lindsey Vonn (Vail, Colo.) has been named the USOC SportsWoman of the Year, Nordic combined skier Todd Lodwick (Steamboat Springs, Colo.) has been named SportsMan of the Year and Steven Holcomb’s four-man bobsled team has been named Team of the Year.
For the first time ever, Paralympians have three categories in the 2009 USOC Awards. Mono-skier Stephani Victor (Park City, Utah) and sled hockey player Steve Cash (Overland, Mo.) have been named Paralympic SportsWoman and SportsMan of the Year, respectively. The 2009 U.S. National Sled Hockey Team has been awarded the inaugural USOC Paralympic Team of the Year honor.
“Today we recognize and congratulate the best athletes that the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Movement had to offer in 2009, 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,” said Mike English, USOC Chief of Sport Performance. “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.”
Stephani Victor, 2009 Paralympic SportsWoman of the Year
Victor skied away with the Paralympic SportsWoman of the Year award two months into the year. Between Feb. 20-24, the mono-skier won three gold medals and a silver medal while competing in all solo disciplines at the 2009 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships at High 1 Resort, Korea. Victor added a gold medal in the slalom at the U.S. Adaptive Alpine Championships to her World titles in slalom, giant slalom and super combined.
“It is a tremendous honor for me to receive this award as I head into my third Paralympic Winter Games,” Victor said. “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.”
Steve Cash, 2009 Paralympic SportsMan of the Year
Cash led the 2009 U.S. National Sled Hockey Team to winning the first-ever IPC Ice Sledge Hockey A World Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic. The goalkeeper started every game of the 2008-2009 season for Team USA. In five World Championship games, Cash posted a 0.77 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage. He recorded two shutouts in the tournament, including the gold medal final against Norway on May 16.
“I’m tremendously humbled by this honor,” Cash said. “I’m especially happy that my team was also honored, because I owe much of my individual success to my teammates and their support both on and off the ice.”
U.S. National Sled Hockey Team, 2009 Paralympic Team of the Year
Along with international bragging rights, the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team claimed the Paralympic Team of the Year honors after winning the 2009 World Championships. Team USA defeated top-ranked Canada in the semifinals and shut out Norway in the gold medal final. Andy Yohe (Bettendorf, Iowa) scored the championship-winning goal against Norway with just 11 seconds remaining in regulation. The team accumulated an overall record of 9-3-1-5 (W-OTW-OTL-L) for the 2008-2009 season.
Joining Cash and Yohe on the team were Mike Blabac (Buffalo, N.Y.), Taylor Chace (Hampton Falls, N.H.), Jimmy Connelly (Egg Harbor, N.J.), Brad Emmerson (Amherst, N.Y.), Lonnie Hannah (Boerne, Texas), Tim Jones (Mt. Ephraim, N.J.), Taylor Lipsett (Mesquite, Texas), Mike Hallman (Hatboro, Pa.), Chris Manns (Buffalo, N.Y.), Adam Page (Lancaster, N.Y.), Josh Pauls (South Plainfield, N.J.), Alexi Salamone (Grand Island, N.Y.), Greg Shaw (Park City, Utah), Kip St. Germaine (East Falmouth, Mass.) and Bubba Torres (Riverside, N.J.).
“I couldn’t be more proud of our players on winning last year’s world championship and now receiving this honor,” head coach Ray Maluta said. “Our players could not have achieved this level of success without the support of our entire staff, U.S. Paralympics and USA Hockey.”
Lindsey Vonn, 2009 USOC SportsWoman of the Year
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 2008-2009 World Cup season, including overall titles in the 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 off her wonderful year with gold medals in the downhill and super G at the 2009 FIS World Championships in Val d’Isere, France, Feb. 3-15. 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."
Todd Lodwick, 2009 USOC SportsMan of the Year
Lodwick heads into his fifth Olympic Winter Games on the heels of a very successful 2009. The Nordic combined skier returned from a two-year retirement to win two gold medals at the 2009 FIS World Championships in Liberec, Czech Republic, Feb. 20-28. Prior to Worlds, he earned two silver medals in Oberhof, Germany, his first World Cup since March 2006. His rise coincides with the rest of the U.S. Nordic Combined Team, which is stronger than ever heading into Vancouver. Together with teammates Bill Demong (Vermontville, N.Y.) and Lindsey Van (Park City, Utah), Team USA won four medals in its most successful World Championships ever. 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,” Lodwick said. “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 heart warming to know that our sport and my accomplishments, and those of my teammates, are meaningful.”
Steven Holcomb’s Four-Man Bobsled Team, 2009 USOC Team of the Year
Already possessing perhaps the best nickname in Olympic sports, Holcomb’s “Night Train” four-man bobsled team can now add 2009 USOC Team of the Year honors to their resume. Led by pilot Holcomb (Park City, Utah), the team won the 2009 FIBT World Championship in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Feb. 28. The victory ended a 50-year World Championship medal drought for the U.S. The Night Train also placed fourth overall for the 2008-2009 World Cup season, including two gold medals, two silver medals and a bronze. Rounding out the crew is Justin Olsen (San Antonio, Texas), Steve Mesler (Buffalo, N.Y.) and Curt Tomasevicz (Shelby, Neb.).
“It's quite an honor to be named Team of the Year,” Holcomb said. “There are a lot of great athletes and great teams out there and to be seen as the best is a wonderful feeling. I know my team has worked really hard not only in the winter season, but during the summer and this will mean a lot to all of us. Our momentum is growing as we approach the Olympics, and this will only help build on what we have already established.”