Five accomplished athletes are up for Female Olympic Athlete of the Year, presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods. Fan voting at TeamUSA.org/Awards accounts for 50 percent of the final tally.
So who to vote for? How can one possibly decide?
We get it.
That’s why we’ve dug into the archives to find six facts you probably didn’t know about each nominee. Take a look, and make sure to tune into the Team USA Awards, presented by Dow, on NBCSN on Dec. 27. The Female Olympic Athlete of the Year, presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, is one of six fan-voted honors that will be presented at the awards show in Philadelphia.
Simone Biles (gymnastics) won her third consecutive all-around title at the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships — a first for a woman — and became the most winningest female gymnast in world championships history. Vote for Biles.
Six things you might not know about Biles:
- Biles found her BFF on social media. U.S. gymnast Alec Yoder — also a Rio aspirant — followed Biles on Twitter, she followed him back, and they’ve been tight ever since.
- A big fan of social media, Biles has 36,000 followers on Twitter and 271,000 on Instagram. But it wasn’t until she won her third world all-around title that Twitter verified her account.
- Though fearless during her 2014 world championships routines, Biles freaked at the awards ceremony when she discovered a bee in her bouquet. “I ended up running around the podium like a psycho,” she said.
- In gymnastics, you know you’re good when they name a skill after you. A complex flip Biles used in her floor routine during the 2013 world championships is now known as the “Biles.” It is a double layout half out.
- Rarely do gymnasts from different countries exchange words during competition, much less get buddy-buddy. But so close is the bond between Biles and Romanian rival Larisa Iordache that they joked and even cheered for one other at the 2014 world championships — a winning display of camaraderie.
- Biles and her parents are budding entrepreneurs. In the Houston area, work continues on the World Champions Centre, a 50,000-square-foot, multimillion-dollar gym and training center that is owned by the Biles family.
Adeline Gray (wrestling), who also won world championships gold medals in 2012 and 2014, won her third title in dominating fashion at the 2015 world championships in Las Vegas. Her last defeat? July 27, 2014. Vote for Gray.
Six things you might not know about Gray:
- Gray was the captain of the high school boys’ wrestling team at Chatfield High School in suburban Denver.
- Gray still trains with the male wrestlers, including those competing in Greco-Roman.
- Adeline’s father George introduced her to the support at 6. A Denver police detective in the gang unit, George later surprised his daughter by popping up in Uzbekistan for her gold-medal performance at the 2014 world championships.
- At her first U.S. Olympic Training Center youth camp, the 13-year-old Gray found herself getting tossed around by an opponent. “I was like, ‘Dad! Save me! She’s beating me up!’” Gray recalled in Stack.com. “I was so upset that I didn’t come back to the training center for a month."
- To lose 30 pounds in 2012, Gray relied on an app that logged every bit of food entering her mouth.
- Though Gray didn’t qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games, she went to London anyway to provide training competition for her U.S. teammates. She watched the Opening Ceremony in a pub.
Gwen Jorgensen (triathlon) continued her dominance in the sport by winning her second consecutive world title and completing the first undefeated season in ITU World Triathlon Series history. Jorgensen has won 12 WTS races in a row since May 2014. Vote for Jorgensen.
Six things you might not know about Jorgensen:
- Jorgensen is a big-time foodie. She often shares pictures of her meals on Twitter, and she plans vacations — aka eat-cations — around eating.
- What’s that about Jorgensen and water? “I love to drink it, I love to swim, I love the ocean,” she told ESPN.com. “There is something peaceful and refreshing about swimming that I love.”
- Jorgensen was working as an accountant at Ernst & Young in Milwaukee when USA Triathlon officials called to recruit her to the sport.
- Before starting triathlon, Jorgensen swam and ran track at Wisconsin, but she never medaled in either sport at the NCAA championships. Today her blazing runs often separate her from the pack in triathlons.
- What’s cycling? Before starting triathlon, Jorgensen had no cycling experience. Her biggest fear? Clipless pedals.
- Oops! In her second triathlon ever, Jorgensen couldn’t get her feet into her running shoes at the second transition because she’d stuffed socks in them to save room while packing.
Katie Ledecky (swimming) finished with five gold medals at the 2015 FINA World Championships, becoming the first swimmer to win the 200-, 400-, 800-, and 1,500-meter freestyles in a major competition. Vote for Ledecky.
Six things you might not know about Ledecky:
- A workaholic, Ledecky’s in-season training regimen is legendary among swimmers: nine sessions per week of between 5,500 and 8,000 meters, plus several dry-land workouts.
- Don't go bashing the Washington Capitals around Ledecky. She's a big fan.
- Ledecky is already faster than Mark Spitz ever was in distances over the 400. Spitz, if you recall, won a then-record seven gold medals at the Munich 1972 Olympic Games.
- At the Arena Pro Swim Series in April, Ledecky matched Michael Phelps’ prelim time in the 400-meter freestyle. When she stepped out of the pool, Phelps, who had finished 35 minutes earlier, challenged her to a race. “Want to go in an hour?” Ledecky shot back, laughing. Phelps might have been only half-joking. “Really, she swims almost like a guy,” the Olympic legend said.
- Got a time machine? If you did, and you sent Ledecky back to 1961, she would be the fastest person — man or woman — in swimming history ... over any of her five distances, according to fivethirtyeight.com.
- And she’s sweet, too. After winning the 800-meter freestyle in one the biggest upsets of the 2012 Games, Ledecky found USA Swimming coach Jon Urbanchek’s favorite breakfast spot in Newport Beach, California, near where he lives, and arranged for him to receive a gift card to the restaurant.
Serena Williams (tennis) won all four Grand Slams from the 2014 U.S. Open to 2015 Wimbledon, becoming the second woman ever to win four or more consecutive Grand Slam titles twice and the oldest to win a Grand Slam in the Open Era. Vote for Williams.
Six things you might not know about Williams:
- Williams owns a small stake in the Miami Dolphins franchise. Jimmy Buffett, Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez and Stephen Ross are among the other owners.
- Williams voiced a character on the Playhouse Disney show “Higglytown Heroes.”
- When Williams was dining at a Chinese restaurant earlier this month, her so-called “superhero sense” told her something wasn’t right and she realized her cell phone was stolen. Williams jumped up, chased a man out of the restaurant and down the street, and secured her cell phone.
- For workout mojo, Williams cranks David Bowie’s “Fame.”
- Williams has appeared in the ABC comedy improv television series “Trust Us With Your Life” and as a lawyer on the Lifetime television series “Drop Dead Diva.”
- She is a certified nail technician.
Clay Latimer is a Denver-based writer who covered four Olympic Games, in addition to other sports, over 28 years with the Rocky Mountain News. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.