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Breaking Down The 5 Unstoppable Nominees For Female Olympic Athlete Of The Year

By Karen Price | Oct. 23, 2017, 4:47 p.m. (ET)

U.S. women in Olympic sports once again dominated in 2016-17. Five stood above the rest.

Heather Bergsma, Lindsey Jacobellis, Katie Ledecky, Helen Maroulis and Mikaela Shiffrin were nominated for the title of Female Olympic Athlete of the Year, presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.

Which woman earns the title is up to you. Vote now at TeamUSA.org/Awards.

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.

Fans can vote as many times as they’d like 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 Female Olympic Athlete of the Year:

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Heather Bergsma

Sport: Long Track Speedskating
Hometown: High Point, North Carolina
Age: 28
What She Did This Year: Bergsma made history this year when she won world titles in both the 1,500- and 1,000-meter races. Combined with her gold in the 500 from 2015, she became the first skater, man or woman, to win world titles in all three of those distances. She also won 12 world cup medals and the overall grand world cup champion title, as well as mass start bronze at world championships. Mass start makes its Olympic debut in PyeongChang.
Why It Mattered: Bergsma could race in as many as five events in PyeongChang and be a medal favorite in three of them. The last U.S. long track skater to win three events at a Winter Games was Eric Heiden, who won five in 1980.
Fun Fact: Bergsma is married to Dutch speedskater and fellow Olympian Jorrit Bergsma. The couple skate together on the same professional team in the Netherlands, where speedskating is the second-most popular sport behind soccer. 
What’s Next: Everything now will be about preparing for her third trip to the Olympics. Bergsma was shut out from the podium in 2014 and is looking forward to a chance at redemption. 


Lindsey Jacobellis

Sport: Snowboarding
Hometown: Stratton Mountain, Vermont
Age: 32
What She Did This Year: Jacobellis won a remarkable fifth world title in snowboardcross, while also reaching the world cup podium five times.
Why It Mattered: Jacobellis is the first snowboarder or freestyle skier to win the world title in one event more than three times. She has won the title every time she competed.
Fun Fact: Jacobellis and retired NFL linebacker Kamerion Wimbley were the runners-up on this summer’s “The Challenge: Champs vs. Pros” on MTV, raising $5,000 for the ASPCA.
What’s Next: While Jacobellis has experienced unprecedented international success, she’s medaled just once in her three Olympics, and that was a silver in 2006, when the event made its Olympic debut. This winter she’ll have another opportunity to win the one thing she’s missing from her illustrious career: Olympic gold.


Katie Ledecky

Sport: Swimming
Hometown: Bethesda, Maryland
Age: 20
What She Did This Year: With five gold medals and one silver medal, Ledecky won more medals at this year’s world championships than at any other major international meet of her career. She now has 14 world titles, more than any other female swimmer and trailing only Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte.
Why It Mattered: Ledecky’s times were a bit slower than she’s clocked in the past and she was beaten in the 200 free, but she still was the most dominant overall swimmer by far during the first year of the new Olympic quad.
Fun Fact: She may be an Olympian, but Ledecky is also a college athlete and recently led the Pac-12 team to a victory over USA Swimming at the USA Swimming College Challenge.
What’s Next: Ledecky is now a sophomore at Stanford and getting ready for her second season swimming for the Cardinal. As a freshman, she won five NCAA titles and helped Stanford to its first team title since 1998.


Helen Maroulis

Sport: Wrestling
Hometown: Rockville, Maryland
Age: 26
What She Did This Year: The defending Olympic gold medalist could not be stopped in the 58 kg. division of the world wrestling championships and even held her opponents scoreless in the tournament (52-0). She’s now 78-1 since winning the bronze medal at the 2014 world championships.
Why It Mattered: This was the third different weight class in which Maroulis won a world title (55 kg. at 2015 world championships, 53 kg. at 2016 Olympics). 
Fun Fact: For the fifth year in a row, Maroulis participated in the Beat the Streets, wrestling in Times Square to help promote the sport and support youth participation. 
What’s Next: With the world championships not until late August, Maroulis will have some time before jumping back into major international competition. 


Mikaela Shiffrin

Sport: Alpine Skiing
Hometown: Eagle-Vail, Colorado
Age: 22 
What She Did This Year: At the world championships, Shiffrin won her third consecutive slalom title, becoming the first woman in 78 years to three-peat in the event. She also won a silver medal in the giant slalom, becoming the first American to medal in that event at the world championships in 12 years. Plus, she also collected 11 world cup victories to capture her first overall crystal globe.
Why It Mattered: Shiffrin has become the world’s most dominant skier since the last Olympics, particularly in slalom, while expanding from the technical to the speed events. 
Fun Fact: She’s not afraid of hurtling down a mountain at warp speed, but Shiffrin has said she fears spiders, clowns and the idea of drowning.
What’s Next: Shiffrin is planning to compete in three or four events — slalom, giant slalom, combined and possibly super-G — in PyeongChang depending on how the early part of the season goes.

Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

Related Athletes

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Heather Bergsma

Long Track Speedskating
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Lindsey Jacobellis

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Katie Ledecky

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Mikaela Shiffrin

Alpine Skiing