COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The United States Olympic Committee today announced the recipients of six annual awards, which will be presented at a celebratory dinner during the 2017 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Assembly that begins here on Thursday, Oct. 12, at The Broadmoor Hotel. The Friday awards dinner will conclude the Assembly – and celebrate the upcoming Winter Games and the successful 2028 Olympic and Paralympic bid – and will feature LA 2028 Chairman Casey Wasserman as the keynote speaker and eight-time Olympic speedskating medalist Apolo Ohno as host.
Michael Lenard, former USOC vice president and 1984 Olympian (team handball) was named the Olympic Torch Award honoree, while 2016 Olympian Abbey D’Agostino (track and field) was selected to receive the Jack Kelly Fair Play Award presented by BP. Additionally, Fred Zimny of USA Luge was chosen as the individual Rings of Gold honoree, while BlazeSports America was selected as the program recipient for its Paralympic veteran programs.
Two National Governing Bodies will also be recognized for achievement in the areas of diversity and inclusion. USA Triathlon was named the recipient of the Advancing D&I Award, while USA Archery was selected by its NGB peers as the D&I Choice Award winner for its Adaptive Archery Manual.
Established in 1965, the Olympic Torch Award annually recognizes an individual who has positively impacted the U.S. Olympic Movement by promoting the Olympic Ideals. Propelled by his passion for sport and fairness, Lenard has been a champion and advocate for Olympic athletes, effecting change at every level of the Movement through decades of work as an athlete, coach and administrator. As a former officer and vice chair on the USOC Athletes’ Advisory Council, he helped redefine the athlete’s role in Olympic sport governance, and later founded the Athlete Performance Group during his time as USOC vice president. He currently serves as vice president of the International Council of Arbitration for Sport, managing the international tribunal that adjudicates international sports disputes, while ensuring that athletes’ interests are always protected.
The Jack Kelly Fair Play Award presented by BP recognizes an athlete, coach or official for an outstanding act of fair play and sportsmanship. D’Agostino became a shining example of the Olympic spirit after a mishap in the 5,000-meter heats at the Olympic Games Rio 2016. On the eighth lap of the race, Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand fell and accidently brought D’Agostino down with 2,000 meters remaining. Instead of carrying on with her race, the 24-year old D’Agostino stopped to help the stricken Hamblin to her feet, encouraging her to finish the race. However, during the collision, D’Agostino suffered a torn ACL and meniscus, slowing her down in the final meters. In a return act of selflessness, Hamblin hung back as the two crossed the finish line together. For their noble act of sportsmanship, both D’Agostino and Hamblin received the Rio 2016 Fair Play Award.
The Rings of Gold awards annually recognize an individual and a program dedicated to helping children develop their Olympic or Paralympic dreams, and reach their highest athletic and personal potential. In nearly 30 years with USA Luge, Zimny has played a key role in growing the sport while expanding the pipeline of elite lugers in the U.S. As a leading driver of the USA Luge Slider Search program, the U.S. junior national team coach has introduced luge to more than 20,000 youth, helping produce 19 Olympians and two Olympic medalists, including Erin Hamlin (2014) and Brian Martin (1998, 2002).
For eight years, BlazeSports America has been at the forefront of advancing the lives of injured veterans through adaptive sport and recreation. A legacy of the 1996 Paralympic Games, BlazeSports America focuses not only on enhancing athletic development and Paralympic potential, but also provides opportunities for athletes to gain independence, self-confidence and leadership skills. Originally focused on youth adaptive sport programing, BlazeSports America expanded to include veteran programming in 2009. Since then, participation has grown to include more than 450 veterans participating in 10 Paralympic sport programs – a 150 percent increase since 2013. Equally impressive, the organization has seen a 100 percent suicide prevention rate since launching its veteran program, demonstrating its impact both on and off the field of play.
The Advancing D&I Award recognizes the NGB with the highest annual growth percentage of underrepresented individuals based on diversity data for women, and racial and ethnic minorities. USA Triathlon led all NGBs and High Performance Management Organizations with a 6.23 percent increase in membership for women and persons of color from 2015-16. Percentage increases were evaluated based on overall NGB numbers, which includes board members, employees, NGB membership, and national team athletes and coaches.
Celebrating its fourth year, the D&I Choice Award recognizes an NGB for best practices in advancing diversity and inclusion, as determined by a vote of NGB peers. USA Archery partnered with Disabled Sports USA to create the Adaptive Archery Manual, a free downloadable resource to educate coaches on how to instruct prospective archers with adaptive needs. The manual aims to standardize methods for teaching adaptive archery, while serving as a valuable resource to Paralympic Sport Clubs and Veterans Affairs programs to encourage opportunities for adaptive archers worldwide.
A three-time Olympian in short track speedskating, Ohno is the most decorated U.S. Olympic winter athlete of all time with eight medals, including two golds. Since retiring from competition following the Olympic Winter Games Vancouver 2010, he has served in a variety of roles, including as an Olympic analyst for NBC, television host and a Special Olympics global ambassador. His book, Zero Regrets, details the inspiring story behind his enduring success as an elite athlete and was a New York Times bestseller.
Delivering the keynote address, Wasserman is chairman of LA 2028, and chairman and CEO of Wasserman, a leading sports, entertainment and lifestyle marketing and management agency that represents brands, properties and talent on a global basis. Under his leadership and vision for a low-risk, fiscally responsible, innovative and sustainable Games, LA 2028 succeeded in returning the Summer Games to the United States for the first time in 32 years.
2017 Award Winners
Olympic Torch Award: Michael Lenard
Jack Kelly Fair Play Award presented by BP: Abbey D’Agostino, 2016 Olympian (track and field)
Rings of Gold – Individual: Fred Zimny, USA Luge
Rings of Gold – Program: BlazeSports America Paralympic Veteran Programs
Advancing D&I: USA Triathlon
D&I Choice Award: USA Archery
About the Assembly
The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Assembly was initiated in 2005 to give a voice to the various member organizations of the USOC; to keep dialogue open between members, staff and volunteer leadership; and to help further the Olympic and Paralympic movements in the United States. The two-day event welcomes more than 250 participants, representing Olympic, Paralympic and Pan American National Governing Bodies; U.S. Olympians and Paralympians; Multi-Sport Organizations; the Athletes' Advisory Council; the Paralympic Advisory Committee; and USOC board members and staff.