INDIANAPOLIS – Boston Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi and USATF Outdoor champion and Diamond League winner Jenny Simpson have been named the 2014 USATF Jesse Owens and Jackie Joyner-Kersee Athletes of the Year, respectively.
Keflezighi (San Diego, California) and Simpson (Boulder, Colorado) will be honored on Thursday, December 4, at the Jesse Owens Awards and Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Anaheim, California. The event is held in conjunction with USATF’s Annual Meeting. Tickets for the event are available at the Hilton Anaheim beginning on Monday, December 1 until the ceremony is sold out.
Keflezighi inspired the nation in April, capturing victory at the 2014 Boston Marathon just a year after the tragedy on Boylston Street. Keflezighi defeated the fastest men’s field in Boston Marathon history to become the first American man in 31 years to win Boston and the oldest man to win Boston since 1931.
Keflezighi looked comfortable throughout the race, breaking away from the pack at mile 11 and never looking back. He celebrated with all of Boston and the nation as a whole, pumping his fists to the crowd and celebrating with those at the finish line after crossing in 2:08:37, a new personal best.
“I’d like to thank USATF and all of the voters for selecting me as this year’s USATF Jesse Owens Athlete of the Year award recipient,” Keflezighi said. “It is such an amazing honor to receive an award named after such a great athlete and sportsman. This recognition as the best athlete on the world’s best track & field team, especially at the age of 39, means a lot to me, and is a tribute to all who have supported me unconditionally throughout the years.”
For his efforts in Boston, Keflezighi was named the USATF Athlete of the Week and the USOC Male Athlete of the Month.
Earlier in the year, Keflezighi won the USATF Half Marathon Championships in 1:01:23. Keflezighi went wire-to-wire in Houston, leading a pack of a dozen men through the first 10 miles before making his move to break away. In all, Keflezighi paced six other men to sub-1:02 finishes.
Simpson had a dream season in 2014, capturing the Diamond League title in the women’s 1,500 meters. One of Simpson’s most memorable races was the Diamond League-clinching race in Zürich when she engaged in a signature battle with compatriot Shannon Rowbury. Simpson dove across the finish line to edge Rowbury by .01 seconds and take home the Diamond League crown.
That tenacity was indicative of the way Simpson approached every race she entered. Simpson was the USATF Champion in the women’s 1,500 meters, going toe-to-toe with Rowbury once again for the USATF title. Simpson was victorious, turning in a time of 4:04.96 in Sacramento to win her eighth overall national title.
“I feel so honored to have been selected as the 2014 USATF Jackie Joyner-Kersee Athlete of the Year,” Simpson said. “Twenty years ago, I was a normal kid running around PE class when my gym coach suggested I join the cross country team. I never could have imagined where that suggestion would lead. I think of all of my different teammates over the years and I’m humbled to represent all of our hard work through this award and look forward to my best years still straight ahead.”
Simpson was the third-fastest woman in the world this year over 1,500 meters with her time of 3:57.22 in Paris. In addition to her big wins in Sacramento, Stockholm and Zürich, Simpson also won the New York Road Runners Fifth Avenue Mile, finishing in 4:19.4.
The 2014 Jesse Owens Award and Jackie Joyner-Kersee award winners were selected in balloting of members of the U.S. track and field media, and a fan vote was held on social media that comprised 10% of the total vote. More than 8,000 fan votes were received. Other men’s finalists included Justin Gatlin, Evan Jager, Christo Landry, Galen Rupp and Christian Taylor. Finalists for the women’s award were Tori Bowie, Emma Coburn, Allyson Felix, Dawn Harper-Nelson, Molly Huddle, Gia Lewis-Smallwood and Francena McCorory.
About the Jesse Owens Award
Established in 1981, the Jesse Owens Award is USA Track & Field’s highest accolade, presented annually to the outstanding U.S. male and female track and field performers. The award is named after National Track & Field Hall of Famer and worldwide icon Jesse Owens, who won gold medals in the 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay and long jump at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany, while conducting himself with grace and dignity. With his remarkable performances, Owens forever destroyed Adolf Hitler’s notions of Aryan supremacy. The USATF Female Athlete of the Year was re-named the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Award in 2013.
The permanent commemorative Jesse Owens and Jackie Joyner-Kersee Awards are maintained at the USATF national headquarters and a replica is provided to each of the winners. Previous winners may be viewed here.
Source: US Track & Field