Abbott Blog: Why voting now and often for Adeline Gray for USOPC Athlete of the Year is so important

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | Oct. 24, 2019, 1:35 p.m. (ET)
There are only four days left for fans to vote for the USOPC Athletes of the Year. Five-time World champion Adeline Gray is a finalist for the Female Olympic Athlete of the Year.

USA Wrestling always reaches out to the wrestling community whenever one of our athletes is a finalist for the USOPC awards, whether it be for the Athlete of the Month or the Athlete of the Year. There is an important part of the selection process for this which includes a fan vote. With the USOPC awards, you can vote as many times as you want, over and over again.

Vote for Adeline Gray for USOPC Athlete of Year

There are many reasons why I think it is vitally important that the wrestling community rally behind Adeline and vote for her over the last four days of this campaign.

1. She deserves it. Becoming the first five-time World champion wrestler (in a sport in which an athlete can only win one gold medal a year) is a huge achievement. Adeline Gray keeps making history, and should be recognized beyond the wrestling community for her achievements. She is one of the biggest stars in the Olympic family.

2. Fan voting accounts for 50% of the selection for this award. The bigger sports with active social media and communication have an advantage in these situations. Wrestling is large enough and active enough online to do well in this format. We just need to get motivated and stay motivated.

3. It seems they pick the same athletes, over and over again. In a lot of cases, these athletes are in sports where an athlete can enter multiple events and winning many medals, not a sport where you can only win one medal. Swimmer Michael Phelps won this four times, swimmer Katie Ledecky won this three times, speedskater Eric Heiden won this three times and track star Michael Johnson won this three times. It is time to put in an athlete who can only win one World or Olympic gold medal a year. There is no margin for error in our sport.

4. No USA women’s wrestler has ever won this award. Men’s freestyle wrestlers who have won include John Smith, Rulon Gardner, Jordan Burroughs and Kyle Snyder. It is time one of our superstar women to get this award. It is Adeline’s turn.

5. Adeline showed great courage, competing only weeks after needing hand surgery. Hands are so important in wrestling, and Adeline was dominant against her opponents in spite of that physical challenge. Great champions overcome adversity, and that is what Adeline Gray has done, time and time again.

Vote for Adeline Gray for USOPC Athlete of Year

Please note that for this award, the finalists must have won a USOPC Athlete of the Month award. So whenever USA Wrestling tries to rally the troops to vote for an Athlete of the Month, we need to win in order for our athletes to make the Athlete of the Year ballot. Adeline was a monthly winner, even though she didn’t win on the month she won her World title. She won earlier in the year. This is a reason why we need to win the Athlete of the Month voting also.

I know some wrestling people are wondering why neither of our World champion men, J’den Cox or Kyle Dake, made the finals. They deserve to be considered. Neither won a USOPC monthly award vote so they were not eligible. USA Wrestling put J’den Cox up for the September award, the month he won the Worlds, and he actually won the fan vote. However, the other 50% of the contest (USOPC organizations and media) picked somebody else and J’den was not the September winner. J’den is deserving too, as we all know. But, based upon how they run this award, Adeline is our only hope for this year.

Many award programs have featured a fan vote element. Most recently, the USOPC included a fan vote as part of the selection for the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. The wrestling nominee, who is truly deserving, was two-time Olympic champion John Smith. For that vote, people could not see the standings for the fan vote, so we don’t know how well the wrestling community did. However, we do know that John Smith was not selected. We only have two wrestlers in the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, Dan Gable and Bruce Baumgartner. That is nowhere near enough, since the wrestling community has won 135 Olympic medals for Team USA, including 54 Olympic gold medals. Only three sports have won more medals for the United States, and all three are sports with multiple medal opportunities.

For sure there is a need to help raise the profile of our wrestlers among the general community and the Olympic family. To win these awards, we need not only the fan vote, but also the vote from the media and the entire Olympic movement. It certainly hurts our athletes when NBC chooses not to put our wrestling heroes on their prime-time network coverage of the Olympics. This is another challenge we must take on.

At this time, Adeline Gray has 10% of the vote and is in fourth place out of five nominees. It could be difficult to expect us to pass gymnast Simone Biles, who leads with 55% of the vote (although we should try to catch her). Even if a concentrated effort by the wrestling community could push Gray into the No. 2 spot before the voting ends on October 28, it will send a signal that wrestling supports our champions.

Starting today and over the weekend, when you are watching TV or taking a break at work, or sitting in traffic, or wherever you are, please take out your computer and/or cell phone and vote multiple times for Adeline Gray. I have been doing it, and plan to do more leading up to the deadline. Ask others to do the same. Let’s rally behind Adeline and do what we can to get one of our heroes a well-deserved award.

Vote for Adeline Gray for USOPC Athlete of Year