The youngest world champion in U.S. wrestling history won another world title and a biathlete became the first American ever to win a world title in his sport as U.S. men of all ages enjoyed dominant seasons this past year.
Lowell Bailey, Caeleb Dressel, Sam Kendricks, Kyle Snyder and McRae Williams were nominated for Male Olympic Athlete of the Year.
Winners will be announced at the Team USA Awards, presented by Dow Best of Year, which takes place on Nov. 29 in Los Angeles and will be broadcast on Dec. 23< on NBC.
Fan voting opens on Oct. 16 and runs through Oct. 30. The fan vote will account for 50 percent of the final tally, with members of the Olympic and Paralympic family accounting for the other 50 percent.
Here is a closer look at the five 2017 nominees for Male Olympic Athlete of the Year:
Hometown: Lake Placid, New York
What He Did This Year: A three-time Olympian who had never finished higher than fifth in major international competition before this season, Bailey won the men’s individual 20-kilometer world title in February. He also scored four top-six finishes at worlds.
Why It Mattered: Not only is he the first American — male or female — to win a biathlon world title, Bailey is also the oldest person to win an individual gold medal at the world championships (35 years, 216 days).
Fun Fact: Bailey plays the guitar and mandolin in a band, and he played guitar at his team manager’s wedding.
What’s Next: Despite nearly retiring at the end of 2016, Bailey was the first U.S. athlete to qualify for the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.
Hometown: Green Cove Springs, Florida
What He Did This Year: A two-time gold medalist at the Olympic Games Rio 2016, Dressel drew worldwide attention by winning seven gold medals at the 2017 world championships — three in individual races, four in relays. He is the only swimmer in history to win three world championship gold medals in a single day, doing so in a 98-minute span.
Why It Mattered: He is the only person other than Michael Phelps (2007) to win seven gold medals at a single world championships, and the first U.S. man since 2011 to win three individual world titles at the same world championships.
Fun Fact: Dressel originally chose soccer as the sport he wanted to play, but his parents signed him up for swimming anyway.
What’s Next: Dressel returns to Florida for his senior season, where he will try to build on the six individual NCAA titles he has already won.
Sport: Track and field
Hometown: Oxford, Mississippi
What He Did This Year: Kendricks won the pole vault world title in August to better his bronze-medal performance at the Olympic Games Rio 2016. Kendricks also won the U.S. title and Diamond League titles, set seven of the year’s top 13 vaults and went undefeated in the 2017 season.
Why It Mattered: He became the first American man to win the pole vault world title since Brad Walker won in 2007.
Fun Fact: A first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve, Kendricks is remembered for stopping mid-run during the playing of the U.S national anthem to stand at attention at the Rio Games.
What’s Next: Kendricks is nominated for the IAAF’s World Athlete of the Year men’s award, which will be announced on Nov. 24.
Hometown: Woodbine, Maryland
What He Did This Year: Snyder came from behind in the closing 24 seconds to beat Olympic and two-time world champion Abdulrashid Sadulaev of Russia 6-5 for the world championship at 97 kg. in what was dubbed “The Match of the Century.”
Why It Mattered: His win over Sadulaev also clinched the first world team title in 22 years for the U.S. men’s freestyle team.
Fun Fact: Snyder became the youngest U.S. wrestler to win a world title in 2015 and in 2016 became the youngest to win an Olympic gold medal. Then he became the first Olympic gold medalist wrestler to return to college and win an NCAA championship.
What’s Next: Snyder is looking to win his third straight NCAA title in folkstyle at Ohio State before focusing entirely on freestyle heading into the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
Sport: Freestyle Skiing
Hometown: Park City, Utah
What He Did This Year: Williams won the 2017 world championship in slopestyle to conclude his best season to date. He also won his a silver medal at the Winter X Games and his first world cup crystal globe.
Why It Mattered: Williams just missed a spot on the 2014 Olympic team. After struggling in 2016, he has been on a tear since reading “The Mindful Athlete” and changing his approach to life and skiing.
Fun Fact: Williams loves to rock climb, mountain bike and wakeboard.
What’s Next: Should he make it through the grueling U.S. Olympic qualifying process, Williams would be a gold-medal favorite in PyeongChang.
Gary R. Blockus is a journalist from Allentown, Pennsylvania who has covered multiple Olympic Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.