Phelps is decorated by AAU with 74th Sullivan Award

National honor last went to a male swimmer in '77


April 14, 2004|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

A landmark year of swimming in 2003 resulted in one more honor for Michael Phelps, as the 18-year-old from Rodgers Forge won the 74th annual James E. Sullivan Award last night.

The announcement was made at a banquet at the New York Athletic Club. The award is given by the Amateur Athletic Union.

At July's world championships, Phelps became the first swimmer to set five world records in one meet, and the first man to set world records in different events on the same day. He is expected to be the most decorated athlete at the 2004 Olympics.

Phelps became the first male swimmer to win the award since John Naber in 1977. The other finalists were LeBron James, who began 2003 playing basketball for his high school in Akron, Ohio; University of Connecticut women's basketball star Diana Taurasi; Olympic short-track speed skater Apolo Anton Ono; and Philippa Raschker, a masters track and field athlete.

"Just being in a group of athletes of this caliber is an amazing compliment," Phelps said.

The Sullivan Award recognizes leadership, character, sportsmanship and the ideals of amateurism. The Olympics turned professional after 1988, and the AAU changed with the times to make pros like Phelps eligible for its biggest honor.

With Bob Bowman, Phelps' coach, taking over the University of Michigan men's team in September, the best from the North Baltimore Aquatic Club will once again be under the direction of Murray Stephens, who co-founded the NBAC in 1968.

Stephens produced Olympic gold medallists in 1984, 1992 and 1996, then turned his attention to family and business matters. Most recently, he has been working with a younger group of swimmers at the NBAC. He will be assisted by Paul Yetter, who has developed young Olympic hopefuls Katie Hoff and Courtney Kalisz at the NBAC's satellite team in Harford County.

They will move their training base to the Meadowbrook Aquatic Fitness Center, although Stephens said that the NBAC will continue to operate an age-group team in Harford County. He and his wife, Patty, own the Meadowbrook facility in Mount Washington.

Phelps figures to follow Bowman to Ann Arbor. While beginning his college studies, Phelps likely will switch his affiliation to Club Wolverine.

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