COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Top performances throughout December earned speedskater Heather Richardson (High Point, N.C.) and alpine skier Ted Ligety (Park City, Utah) Athlete of the Month recognition, while the snowboardcross pair of Seth Wescott (Sugarloaf, Maine) and Nate Holland (Squaw Valley, Calif.) received Team of the Month honors, the United States Olympic Committee announced today.
From world cups to national championships, Richardson frequented the podium in December. She began the month with a gold-medal performance in the 1,000-meter race on day one of the ISU Long Track World Cup, which ran from Dec. 8-9 in Nagano, Japan. A day later she captured silver and bronze in the 1,000 and 500 races. Richardson set a new world cup circuit track record of 151.670 in the combined sprint total points. She then closed the year with victories in the 500, 1,000 and 1,500 races at the U.S. Long Track Championships, which ran from Dec. 27-31 in Salt Lake City. Richardson set new national records in all three races and captured the overall sprint champion title. To learn how Richardson got her start in speedskating, click here.
Ligety had a massive 1.76-second victory over Austria's Marcel Hirscher at the Audi Birds of Prey giant slalom on Dec. 2 in Beaver Creek, Colo. He then backed it up with a third-place world cup finish on the notoriously steep Face de Belvarde in Val d'Isere, France, on Dec. 9. Ligety's second giant slalom win of the month was an enormous 2.09-second victory on Dec. 16 in Alta Badia, Italy, marking his 14th career win. The historic month left Ligety in a solid position to seek his first world cup overall title.
Wescott, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, and Holland, a seven-time X Games champion, won every heat en route to the Dec. 15 team snowboardcross victory at the Paul Mitchell Progression Session World Cup in Telluride, Colo. The thrilling final featured a brilliant mid-run pass by Holland in the first leg to move the team into second and set up Wescott for a gutsy finish jump pass to clinch the split-second victory. A day earlier, Wescott won the individual event at the USANA Snowboardcross Cup.
Freestyle skiing standout Heather McPhie (Bozeman, Mont.) and skeleton's Kimber Gabryszak (Park City, Utah) earned second and third place in the female vote. On the men's side, bobsled pilot Codie Bascue (Whitehall, N.Y.) finished runner-up, while biathlon's Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, N.Y.) took third. The figure skating duo of Meryl Davis (West Bloomfield, Mich.) and Charlie White (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) earned second in the team competition, while the Pete Fenson curling team featuring Fenson (Bemidji, Minn.), Shawn Rojeski (Chisholm, Minn.), Joe Polo (Bemidji, Minn.) and Ryan Brunt (Portage, Wis.) rounded out the voting in third.
Each National Governing Body may nominate one female, one male and one team per discipline. A voting panel selects the winners from the pool of nominees with online fan voting via Twitter accounting for 10 percent of the total vote.
1. Heather Richardson, Speedskating
2. Heather McPhie, Freestyle Skiing
3. Kimber Gabryszak, Skeleton
1. Ted Ligety, Alpine Skiing
2. Codie Bascue, Bobsled
3. Tim Burke, Biathlon
1. Seth Wescott and Nate Holland, Snowboarding
2. Meryl Davis and Charlie White, Figure Skating
3. Pete Fenson Team, Curling