Michael Phelps named this year’s top sportsman by Sports Illustrated

December 2, 2008

NEW YORK (ChattahBox) – Michael Phelps has stopped competing for now but still achieved another unprecedented feat in his sport: the first swimmer honored as Sports Illustrated’s sportsman of the year.

Olympians in other sports (six) have earned the award before in its 54-year history, but never a swimmer.Phelps broke Mark Spitz’s iconic record with eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics in August. In addition, Phelps was a part of seven world records and became the winningest Olympian ever with 14 gold medals. In 1972, the year Spitz won his medals, UCLA basketball coach John Wooden and tennis great Billie Jean King were honored by the magazine. The 23-year-old Phelps captivated Americans during his record chase, driving up NBC’s television ratings and inspiring conversations about swimming among people who had never followed the sport before. He returned to the U.S. to the ultimate validation of pop culture relevance: He hosted the season premiere of “Saturday Night Live.”

Sports Illustrated Group editor Terry McDonell called the selection of Phelps “the easiest choice I have made.”

“It is so obvious that he changed not only swimming, but the entire Olympic landscape,” McDonell said.


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