When the United States Olympic Committee named its SportsMan, SportWoman, Paralympian and Team of the Year on Thursday, some of the drama was missing.
Thanks, Michael Phelps, for making SportsMan of the Year a foregone conclusion. Just as he was in Beijing’s Water Cube, Phelps was unbeatable.
Thursday’s other winners weren’t shabby, either, chosen for excellence in and away from sports.
Swimmer Natalie Coughlin and gymnast Nastia Liukin are co-winners of SportsWoman of the Year.
Swimmer Erin Popovich is Paralympian of the Year.
And the U.S. Men’s National Volleyball squad is Team of the Year.
Phelps set an Olympic record by going 8-for-8 at Beijing, setting seven world records, as well as American and Olympic records in all eight events. The eight golds brought his career total to 16 Olympic medals (14 gold), a record for a male Olympian. He also was USOC SportsMan of the Year in 2004.
Earlier, Phelps set two world, American and U.S. Open records at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Liukin won five medals at Beijing, where she became the third American to win Olympic gold in the women’s all-around. Five medals at one Olympics ties the U.S. gymnastics record set by Mary Lou Retton at the 1984 Los Angeles Games and match by Shannon Miller in 1992 at Barcelona.
Besides a gold, Liukin took silvers on balance beam, uneven bars and in team competition, with a bronze in floor exercise.
Coughlin became the first American woman in any sport to win six medals at one Olympiad. Along the way, she set five American records and one Olympic record, increasing her career total to 11 Olympic medals.
At Beijing, Coughlin won the 100-meter backstroke, took second as part of the 400 freestyle relay and 400 medley relay, and third in the 200 individual medley, 100 freestyle and on the 800 freestyle relay.
Popovich, who also won USOC Paralympian of the Year in 2004, earned four gold medals and two silvers at Beijing. She won the 100-meter freestyle (S7), 400 free (S7), 100 breaststroke (SB7) and 200 individual medley (SM7), and placed second in the (S7) 50 butterfly and 50 free. Her Paralympics medal career total is 14 golds and five silvers.
The men’s volleyball team (Lloy Ball, Gabe Gardner, Kevin Hansen, Tom Hoff, Rich Lambourne, David Lee, Ryan Miller, Reid Priddy, Sean Rooney, Riley Salmon, Clay Stanley and Scott Touzinsky) had an undefeated run en route to winning gold at Beijing, although ranked No. 3 heading into the Games. Team USA whipped No. 1 Brazil, No. 2 Russia, No. 4 Bulgaria and No. 5 Serbia. The gold served as an emotional tribute to Todd Bachman, the father-in-law of Coach Hugh McCutcheon, who was murdered while sight-seeing in Beijing shortly after the Games opened.
Earlier, Team USA qualified for Beijing by winning the NORCECA Continental Qualifier last January in Puerto Rico.