United States Sports Academy presents the winners for 2004 Athlete of the Year

Following a worldwide vote conducted via the web from 1 through 24 December 2004, the United States Sports Academy is pleased to announce the winners of its 2004 Athlete of the Year competition. The ballot, run in conjunction with USA Today, attracted tens of thousands of votes from sports fans around the globe.

The final results of the 2004 Athlete of the Year competition are as follows:

Outstanding Athlete of the Year

Michael Phelps, Swimming

Outstanding Athlete of the Year - Michael Phelps

Female Athlete of the Year

Carly Patterson, Gymnastics

Female Athlete of the Year - Carly Patterson

Male Athlete of the Year

Lance Armstrong, Cycling

Male Athlete of the Year - Lance Armstrong

As the leading overall vote getter in the male and female categories, swimming sensation Michael Phelps is the 2004 Outstanding Athlete of the Year. Phelps became the first swimmer in history, male or female, to qualify for the Olympic Games in six individual events. In Athens, he won eight medals (six gold and two bronze) in one of the most amazing performances in Olympic swimming history.

Fellow Olympian Carly Patterson received the most votes in the women's category to take home 2004 Female Athlete of the Year honors. The first American since Mary Lou Retton in 1984 to win the women's all-around gold medal in gymnastics, Patterson also won a silver medal in her specialty (balance beam) and helped the U.S. squad capture a silver medal in the team competition, the first Olympic medal for U.S. women in eight years.

Six-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, who has almost single-handedly revitalized the greatest race in cycling, won the men's category and title of 2004 Male Athlete of the Year. A two-time winner of the Academy's Athlete of the Year Award, Armstrong is no stranger to success or this competition.

"The 2004 Athlete of the Year ballot included a wide spectrum of athletes from several different sports and countries. Thanks to modern technology, fans from around the world were able to participate and vote for their favorite male and female athlete, ultimately determining the best of the best," said Gene Policinski, executive director of the First Amendment Center and chairman of the Academy's balloting committee.

"The Academy's long-term goal is to recognize great diversity and achievement in sports, as well as honor the top athletes of each year. As sports groups around the world invite their members to join in the voting, that diversity is encouraged and enriched," Policinski said.

Female Runners-Up

Michelle Kwan - 2nd Place

Michelle Kwan, Figure Skating

Natalie Coughlin - 3rd Place

Natalie Coughlin, Swimming

Lisa Fernandez - 4th Place

Lisa Fernandez, Softball

Diana Taurasi - 5th Place

Diana Taurasi, Basketball

Maria Sharapova - 6th Place

Maria Sharapova, Tennis

Male Runners-Up

Peyton Manning - 2nd Place

Peyton Manning, Football

Vijay Singh - 3rd Place

Vijay Singh, Golf

David Ortiz - 4th Place

David Ortiz, Baseball

Roger Federer - 5th Place

Roger Federer, Tennis

Barry Bonds - 6th Place

Barry Bonds, Baseball

Since 1984, the United States Sports Academy has recognized outstanding athletes in all sports through its Awards of Sport program. The Academy presents awards each year to pay tribute to those who have made significant contributions to sports, in categories as diverse as the artist and the athlete in several different arenas. These awards have expanded over the years to honor exemplary achievement in coaching, all-around athletic performance, courage, humanitarian activity, fitness and media, as well as the top professional athletes of the year.

The United States Sports Academy, "America's Sports University," is an independent, non-profit institution offering sports-specific programs to students, teachers and administrators around the world. The Academy has a special mission to serve the sports industry as a resource in instruction, research and other vital sports-related services. It is the only freestanding institution of higher learning in the United States offering bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in sports science and sports management, in addition to its extensive certification programs.

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The United States Sports Academy accepts students regardless of race, religion, gender, age, disability or national origin.